From site managers on landmark construction projects to employability specialists in the Middle East, at Interserve we have talented and skilled women working in every area of our business. This International Women’s Day, as well supporting the call to give equality of opportunity for all women around the world, and supporting the call to #pledgeforparity, we are showcasing the stories of some of our people who help make Interserve the successful global business it is today.
Nichole Munro – Vice Principal
Read about Nichole who is helping women achieve equality in the Saudi Arabia.
As Vice Principal of the Al Khobar Female College in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia I am very proud to be part of the Government’s initiative in widening participation and providing support for young Saudi women in the country. We tailor our educational programmes to suit individual needs, providing a range of educational and training opportunities that allow women to not only be part of Saudi’s workforce but excel in their roles.
There are many challenges facing females in Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest being the fact that, in accordance with Saudi law, women cannot drive, so have to rely on drivers to take them to and from college or work placements. I have seen first-hand how a driver picking up a student late can affect college attendance and even lead to them losing a work placement.
We are supporting the Saudi modernisation programme of which our colleges are an important part. Of course, our primary concern is the wellbeing of our students. We will involve families and guardians to ensure the student is receiving support and is equipped to overcome barriers to her future success outside of college.
Life as a professional woman in Saudi
The theme for International Women’s Day this year is Pledge for Parity. Supporting parity involves everyone, and moves differently in different cultures, but large companies can lead the way forward (as Interserve does) by providing training and internship opportunities for females, as well as targeted recruitment strategies and sponsorship programmes to catapult women into key positions within Saudi organisations.
When I was fifteen years old and seeking advice about my future studies and career I was told that I shouldn’t worry about looking for a job and should marry and stay at home. These words actually had a positive effect on me, making me more determined to succeed. I have never forgotten them. Now I look back at how much I have achieved, grown and learned since then, which gives me the belief that I can continue to succeed in the future. It may surprise you to know that many of our students are married with children, and are being supported by the Government and their families to achieve professionally as well as personally.
Despite my determination it has sometimes been a challenge to balance raising children with my career, not to mention overcoming prejudices based on age, gender and physical appearance that are deeply rooted in the national culture.
There have been significant advances recently in the campaign for women’s right to vote and stand for election. This is a big step in the right direction in terms of integration, and is just part of a cultural journey to support working women in the country, such as the provision of on-site childcare and crèche facilities, for instance which are currently not commonly provided.
A desire to educate
I have been a qualified teacher since 2004 but I came to the sector late after deciding to sell the family car rentals and currency exchange business in Spain to go to university. My family always said I was born to be a teacher and as a child I would teach my little cousins using my chalkboard! I still love teaching and I am passionate about supporting people through education to be the best that they can be.
When I was studying for my PGCE I was fortunate enough to have a strong female role model in my personal tutor. She had also gone into teaching late and understood the challenges of raising a family whilst working and studying. She went that extra mile to offer support and advice, and to help me get through all of my teaching observations and assignments. I observed her teach on numerous occasions and wanted to be just as good as she was, and with her help, I got there.
Nichole Munro is Vice Principal of the Al Khobar Female College in Saudi Arabia, one of a number of Further Education and vocational colleges managed by Interserve in the Kingdom. Find out more about our work to promote gender equality and diversity at: www.interserve.com/a-woman’s-place.