Until recently, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world where the right to drive was not available to women. This is about the change as the Saudi Government recently announced that women will be available to drive in the future. While there has been opposition from certain conservative voices, most Saudis have praised the decision, and this has also enhanced the popularity of Crown Prince Salman. As a progressive Saudi citizen, I could not be happier with this progress because it is not only a sign of social progress but will also result in tremendous economic benefits for the country.

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I have been worried about the social image of Saudi Arabia for a long time, and one of the factors that most hurt the image of the country was the exclusion of women from the privilege of driving. This was particularly ironical since Saudi Arabia was the largest oil producer in the world until U.S. surpassed it. Extending the right to drive to women will improve Saudi Arabia’s social image in the world and give hope to its young citizens that the future of Saudi Arabia is progressive values.

Many educated in women in Saudi Arabia did not pursue career because lack of driving privilege made it either impossible or extremely expensive to go to work. Their only option was to persuade a man in the family to drive them to work on a daily basis or hire a driver, both of which were impractical solutions for all but a minority of Saudi women. Being able to drive will encourage more Saudi women to pursue a career that should not only benefit them but also the entire country. I cannot help but think of a statement Bill Gates made during a speech in Saudi Arabia. He argued Saudi Arabia cannot join the ranks of truly developed countries because it does not effectively utilize half of the talent in the country. While Bill Gates was talking about the lack of professional opportunities to women, I know many Saudi women who would have pursued a career if only transportation was not such a major obstacle.

Saudi Arabia’s future does not lie in oil production because fossil fuels will be partially or fully replaced by clean energy resources in the future. To successfully adapt to a future that will be quite different from the past, Saudi Arabia should take steps to not only diversify its economy but also utilize the fully supply of human resources at its disposal. In other words, Saudi Arabia has to utilize its female work force to successfully transition to non-oil economy. Giving the right of driving to everyone including women will make it easier to accomplish the task because the privilege of driving comes with greater independence. I know from personal experiences that Saudi women are no less competitive than Saudi men and often outperform them in academics at both school and college level. One can only imagine the end result as many of these women will now pursue careers in science, engineering, and technology because they will not be dependent on men to take them to work.

Men and women are equal in Islam. Giving the right of driving to everyone including women will raise Saudi Arabia’s credibility as a Muslim country because no group will be discriminated on the basis of its gender orientation. Excluding women from the right of driving did send the message to the rest of the world that women are not treated equally as men in Saudi Arabia. Saudis like me can finally claim we are making a progress towards equal rights for women and men as evident by the granting of driving privilege to women for the first time in Saudi Arabia’s history.

I have thought hard about the success of the U.S. and I believe immigrants have played an important role in the economic rise of the U.S. The immigrants or the children of immigrants are responsible for iconic companies like Apple, Google, Intel, and Tesla etc. Many immigrants are now the CEOs of the some of the biggest U.S companies like Microsoft and Google. Giving the right of driving to everyone including women will make it easier for Saudi Arabia to attract talent from all over the world. When the social image of the country is improved, foreign expatriates are more eager to move to the country to pursue a career. This will also persuade foreign talent to move to Saudi Arabia who desire to bring along their families but might hesitate if the laws make it harder for their wives to drive or travel.

Saudi Arabia has finally caught up with the rest of the world in allowing women to drive. I am very proud of this progress because I believe it will improve Saudi Arabia’s social image in the world. This action will also bring my country closer to gender equality. Allowing women to drive will inspire them to pursue professional careers and make valuable contributions to the country’s economy. It will also be easier for the country to attract foreign talent including women. Saudi Arabia cannot rely on oil to support its economy and has no choice but to diversify its economy. This decision to allow women to drive comes at the right time because it will enable Saudi Arabia to utilize all available human resources instead of just half of it.