Indian conglomerate Tata is to open an outsourcing centre in Saudi Arabia staffed entirely by women, it was reported, in the latest sign of changing attitudes to female employment in the conservative Gulf kingdom.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), India’s largest IT firm, said that it will run the services facility in Riyadh as part of joint venture with General Electric. The centre will initially employ about 400 women when it opens in the second quarter of next year, although this could increase to as many as 3,000.
Strict social rules generally prevent the mingling of males and females in the workplace in Saudi Arabia, which has historically limited employment opportunities for women.
“This is the first time to our understanding that anyone has done this, because this [Saudi Arabia] is a unique market,” Natarajan Chandrasekaran, CEO of TCS, told London’s The Financial Times.
“In India, there has been huge opportunity for our industry to liberate underused talent and, while Saudi isn’t on the same scale, there is still a big opportunity to help people, especially women, find good professional jobs,” he added.
TCS said however that it would not employ women in call centre roles, to avoid startling conservative male customers, and they would instead work in a variety of back office roles.
According to figures from the Saudi government, unemployment among females in the country ran at 35.7 percent in 2012, up 2.3 percent compared to the previous year.