Saudi social enterprise Glowork eyes GCC expansion

Glowork, the recruitment platform that connects Saudi Arabian women with jobs, is on a two-year expansion drive across all six GCC countries

Glowork, the recruitment platform that connects Saudi Arabian women with jobs, is to launch in the UAE as part of a two-year expansion drive that will see it begin operations in all six GCC countries, its CEO said Tuesday.

“The UAE is the first stop, but we want a presence throughout the GCC, in all of the countries,” Khalid AlKhudair told Philanthropy Age, adding that the company is in early-stage talks with universities and vocational centres in the UAE.

“Many of the private sector companies we work with in Saudi Arabia are headquartered [in Dubai], so we see huge potential in expanding those relationships.”

Glowork, founded in 2011, matches Saudi Arabian women with jobs by seeking out roles in sectors previously inaccessible to women. To date, it has placed some 26,000 women in the workplace – an average of 26 a day – and works with more than 150 companies, including General Electric, Shell, IBM and Cisco. It expects to have placed 50,000 women in roles by 2017, AlKhudair said.

The company’s primary source of income is its offline revenue stream. Through a partnership with the Ministry of Labour, Glowork is compensated with SR2,800 ($750) for each woman successfully placed in a role. For private companies, the fee is SR5,000 ($1,333) per hire.

In 2013, Glowork secured investment worth $16m from SAS Holding, with the Saudi telco taking a 51 per cent share in the startup. AlKhudair expects to seek fresh capital later this year to finance the company’s GCC expansion plans.

“We will require funding as we scale, likely by the end of this year,” he said. “We don’t have a number yet.”

Women account for 60.3 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s unemployed, and comprise only 16.4 per cent of Saudis with jobs. Despite this, efforts to open up roles for women are beginning to bear fruit, with the number of employed Saudi women rising by 48 per cent since 2010, more than double the rate for men, according to the kingdom’s Central Department of Statistics and Information.

In December, Saudi women voted for the first time in local council elections and also stood as candidates; a sign of slowly shifting attitudes in the GCC’s wealthiest economy.

Still, more needs to be done to encourage women into the private sector, AlKhudair said, including addressing the way in which job interviews are carried out.

“Questions about age and marital status take precedence over education or employment history,” he said. “It has a significant impact on the employment changes of women.”

AlKhudair was speaking on the sidelines of a Dubai meeting hosted by the Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Foundation, to mark the launch of Glowork’s digital app. The platform allows jobseekers to search for - and apply to - roles, while also offering discounts and other deals through its social function.