Saudi Arabia’s first female Editor-in-Chief makes a crack in the glass ceiling

Feb 16, 2014

“There’s a crack that has been made in the glass ceiling. And I’m hoping it will be made into a door,” Jabarti told Al Arabiya News, commenting on her appointment as Editor-in-Chief of one of two English-language dailies, the Jeddah-based Saudi Gazette. 

Jabarti was appointed by departing director Khaled Almaeena, who announced his choice on the daily’s website this last Sunday: “It was not a question of gender but of merit that decided and earned her this opportunity. I am proud to have played a role in her career,” he wrote.

Having served as second in command at the paper since 2011, Jabarti also had something to say about the challenges of her new role: “Being the first Saudi woman [editor-in-chief] is going to be double the responsibility … One’s actions will reflect upon my fellow Saudi women.” Nonetheless, she made it clear that journalism was a popular field for Saudi women, noting that of the Saudi Gazette’s 20 or so reporters, only three are male.
However, she also commented: “The majority of our reporters are women – not because we are biased and choosing women over men. There are more women who are interested in being journalists...[my] success will not be complete unless I see my peers who are also Saudi women in the media, take other roles where they are decision-makers.” 

Despite the victory that her appointment represents, Jabarti is well aware of the continuing gender bias faced by Saudi women as evidenced in an article she wrote for Channel 4 in 2011 in which she imagines a future where Saudi Women are allowed to drive but little else – highlighting the severity of Islamic law regarding the necessity of having a male guardian to do even the most basic of daily tasks from renewing a passport to opening a savings account for a child or even shopping for lingerie. 

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