The royal decree enabling Saudi women to drive is in effect, and has led to a wave of optimism across the country. Several companies, brands and institutions have introduced schemes and steps to support women drivers. As government officials and public officers cheer the drivers on, Saudi leaders are also reiterating why this development spells transformation for the kingdom, and paves way for unprecedented growth.
Officers & Roses
In the week preceding June 24, that marks the day when the ban was lifted, social media platforms had already recorded over 56,000 mentions globally. According to Meltwater, even as the topic gained traction globally, Arabic remained the top language used on social media around the ‘#SaudiWomenDriving’ hashtag (65%+). This is not surprising, as majority of conversations were generated in Saudi Arabia (79%).
Some of the trending keywords on social media around the topic of Saudi women driving included ‘police officers’ and ‘rose’. As the news broke that Saudi policemen were handing roses to female drivers around the Kingdom, social media users shared, liked and retweeted photos of the moment in action.
As for the sentiment analysis, ‘neutral’ posts, which included light humor, are the most prominent (60%) as a large number of social posts are sharing the ‘breaking news’ and headlines.
Some of the posts that received the most engagement include a tweet from Saudi prince AlWaleed bin Talal, who shared a video of his daughter’s first drive in KSA at 12:01 AM (the video had over 1 million views).
Automotive brands such as Nissan and Lexus also took to social media to congratulate Saudi women for the new milestone. Nissan has also recently been awarded gold at Cannes Lions for its #SheDrives campaign which has gained the public’s attention.
Lexus also partnered with Saudi media personality and influencer Muna Abu Sulayman for their #تستحقينها (‘you deserve it’) campaign.
Discussions regarding the topic are still gaining traction online, as Saudi women take the streets of the kingdom.
A young Saudi rapper has composed a rap song ‘We Are Driving’ to celebrate the lifting of the ban on women driving in the kingdom. In her Hijazi rap song, in reference to the western part of Saudi Arabia, Leesa celebrated the glory of the historic 10/10 date. The date refers the 10th day of the 10th month of the lunar-based Islamic calendar, Shawwal, and corresponds to June 24.
Companies at individual levels are also providing support to female team members. Hilton for instance, is helping its female staffers to get in the driver’s seat. It will provide paid time-off for women to attend driving lessons, as well as reimbursement for a standard set of driving lessons and the license issuance fee. For female Team Members who already hold driving licenses from other countries, Hilton will also assist with the license conversion cost. The support package will be available to Hilton’s female Team Members until the end of December 2019.
“We welcome the move to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia. In line with Vision 2030, this is another step to open up the country that will encourage more women to join the workforce,” said Julia Miller, Director of Compensation & Benefits, Middle East & Africa, Hilton.
The Right Move
In a conversation with CNN’s Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour, Princess Reema bint Bandar, the Deputy of Planning and Development for the Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority (GSA) explains that women driving in Saudi Arabia is a significant moment in the economic plan of the kingdom.
“This is the future; this isn’t something you go back from. This is about job creation and allows a woman to behave as a professional. She can get to work on time and she can operate independently. I am excited for everybody who stayed up and got in the car at midnight to drive. We are taking control, but doing so collectively,” said Ms bint Bandar.
Amid driving celebrations on social media, she emphasized driving represented the continuing evolution taking place in Saudi, including social inclusion, entertainment options and greater job opportunities.
“The strategy is pure economics. The economics say you can’t have 50 percent of the community not participating. The economics say when 50 percent of your community, and specifically women, are involved in business and in trade you actually have a better economy,” she added.