Meet Dr Jouharah Abalkhail – Hull’s UK Alumni Awards finalist for 2019

Dr Jouharah Abalkhail graduated from Hull University Business School in 2012 with a PhD in Management.

After returning to Saudi Arabia in 2012, she undertook a range of scientific research projects aimed at empowering women into taking leadership positions. This has led a range of collaborations with the Saudi government as well as private and charitable organisations, that have aimed to improve the standard of living for women in the Kingdom. She is a member of multiple committee’s and her work extends into e-learning and e-mentoring support.  Dr Jouharah has also published extensively in the field of female development and received widespread recognition for her achievements. Theseinclude being awarded the Academic Excellence Award from King Saud University in 1998 and a recent Education Development Excellence Award for Women Leaders at the Middle East Excellence Awards Institute.

Jouharah is the sole representative of Hull alumni at the forthcoming UK Alumni Awards. She will be competing in the Social Impact Award category later this month. We managed to catch up with her as she prepares for the forthcoming ceremony.

  1. What initially attracted you to study at the University of Hull?

I chose to study at the University of Hull for its academic reputation. The University of Hull has become an ideal place for higher education studies, sought by many prospective international students. I was particularly attracted by its dedication to the development of distinguished and responsible leadership.

  1. Were there any members of staff or fellow students who made a particular impression on you during your time at Hull?

I consider myself very lucky to have been surrounded by university staff and fellow students who have certainly enriched my studies, my career, and my personal life. In terms of members of staff, I would like to thank Professor Barbara Allan, Professor Kevin Orr, Professor Carole Elliott, Dr Suzanne Clisby , Mr. David Tucker, Mrs. Jane Bows.

I would also like to thank Mrs. Jean Russel, my neighbour in Beverley, who have been a member of my family for so long, and who so kindly looked after me, my kids and my house. I would also like to thank Mr. Loncaster, the head teacher of Molescroft Primary School in Beverley, who made our move to the UK, and my youngest daughter’s adjustment so much easier.

  1. What are your fondest memories of your time as a student here?

As a mother of four, a non-native English speaker and a very dedicated student, my PhD journey was not an easy one, but certainly rewarding. My graduation day is definitely one of my fondest memories. To be supported by my family, my professors and my classmates, who have supported me and encouraged me throughout my journey was certainly rewarding. They helped me through my PhD journey, in which I graduated with a distinction, and I’m just so, so grateful for that.

  1. You have published extensively in the field of female development in the Saudi workplace and in society. Did any aspects of your course, your research and your day-to-day life in Hull help to influence the way that you have approached your post-study work?   

The courses that I took at the University of Hull and the journey towards my PhD thesis have certainly enabled me to excel in my research, writing and project management skills. After moving back to my home country, I was appointed as the Director of Research and Consulting at the Institute of Public Administration. I am also part of multiple committees to assess and evaluate research papers submitted to different academic journals

  1. Much of your work focusses on the complex laws, rules and social practices which impact on women in their day-to-day lives in Saudi Arabia; do you feel that there has been tangible progress for Saudi women (both legally and culturally) in recent years with respect to their rights and freedoms?

Absolutely. The social reforms unleashed by the Saudi government are bringing changes to many aspects of life in the Kingdom. We have seen tremendous progress in increasing the number of women not just in the workforce but in senior management positions. More and more, women are part of the decision-making process in the public and private sectors. In 2018 alone, female participation in the workforce has increased by almost 10% in 2018.

Recently, the Kingdom also lifted a ban on women driving, which is not only encouraging women’s freedom of mobility, but also harnessing women’s financial independence, which in turn allows them to play a bigger role in economic and social development.

The Saudi Vision 2030 specifically calls for a vast improvement in the status of women, driven by a new focus on education, openness, and equality.

  1. Can you share with us any information about any current research projects that you are working on or any projects that you have in mind for the future?

I am currently working on two projects. The first is on Gender Diversity in the Company Boards in Saudi Arabia, which assess the ratio of male to female board members in Saudi companies and looks into key opportunities and challenges facing women in boards. My second is a research paper on the Dark Side of Leadership.

  1. Would you recommend Hull as a study destination to prospective students in Saudi Arabia and, if so, what particular strengths or features would you draw their attention to?

Ever since joining the University of Hull, I have considered myself an ambassador of the university by representing it, promoting it and encouraging people to apply. I always stress on the significance of the University of Hull’s notable range of academic excellence and courses, as well as the beauty of its diverse student base, coming from all around the world, and enriching the experience of students altogether.

The University of Hull has not only provided me with a solid education, but also offered me valuable opportunities to engage in, such as taking part in activities, networking events, conferences, career services, training and workshops and much more, all of which enhanced my personal and professional journey.

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