Saudi Millennial Moms: Traditional yet Tech Savvy
Gone is the stereotype of a Saudi woman staying at home with her children, according to research done by Publicis Media titled “The Saudi Networked Mom.” The research shows that Saudi millennial moms are more vocal about their wants and needs, and more informed about international trends thanks to social media platforms. Publicis’ research also shows that with this newfound connectivity to online platforms, there has been a major shift in cultural attitudes and mindsets amongst the latest generation of Saudi moms.
Rapid societal and economic changes have definitely had an impact on how Saudi women think and feel compared to previous generations. Their lives now conceal a number of contradictions. While older generations of Saudi mothers focused primarily on their husband and children, the latest generation of Saudi moms is thinking more about more their personal happiness. Although they still look to their mothers for advice, the majority of Saudi millennial moms now use social media and the internet to gather information on raising their children. Publicis’ data shows that many new Saudi mothers even wish to raise their children differently from how they were raised.
Challenging the status quo
Saudi Arabia is still anchored in conservative social mores that are penciled into law. For example, women still need permission from male guardians to travel. However, many Saudi activists, like Loujain Al Hathloul and Mona Bu Sulayman, are using social media platforms to advocate for the advancement of women’s rights. A number of hashtags and online campaigns calling for more equality between the sexes have rattled the conservative Kingdom, showing that Saudi youth want change.
The reach of these online campaigns in Saudi Arabia has been astonishing. In early 2017, hashtags calling for women’s rights to drive gained over 200,000 mentions and 181 million potential impressions, and similar online campaigns calling for the end of male guardianship, and to allow girls to play sports in schools gained nearly 200,000 mentions and 155 million potential impressions. Since movements have started in the Kingdom, these numbers have skyrocketed and continue to rise.
The young female activists have also won some important victories. Starting in June of this year, women will be allowed to drive and movie theaters, banned since the 1980s, will soon reopen. Saudi Arabia even witnessed its first Comic-Con last year which spurred an online conversation of more than 50,000 people at the time.
It’s not only social media that has sparked change for Saudi women. As global oil prices declined in 2014/2015, so did the Saudi economy. Saudis suddenly no longer had as much expendable income as previous generations, so millennial Saudi mothers had to break from their predecessors’ spending habits and downsize. More families now depend on two incomes and from 2010-2015 there has been 48% increase of women joining the workforce. Moreover, about 30% of Saudi millennial moms are now having a single child, while 40% are having two. This pales in comparison to the previous generation of Saudi women, 90% of whom had three or more children.
To offset the decline in oil revenues, the Saudi government has attempted to diversify its economy. One way it has done this is by establishing the world’s largest private equity fund, backed by Japan’s Softbank Group and Saudi’s main sovereign wealth fund. The fund has raised over $93B to invest in technology sectors including artificial intelligence and robotics.
Through this large investment in tech, Saudi women are increasingly starting their own online businesses, as an alternative to traditional full time employment, with Instagram pages as their baseline. This too is reflected in the generation gap, as virtually no Saudi moms over the age of 46 years old were freelancers or self employed, with the vast majority being full time moms. Meanwhile, less than half of younger Saudi moms are stay-at-home parents and either work full time, part time, as a freelancer or are pursuing their education. Saudi millennial moms are also three times more interested in furthering their education by obtaining post-graduate degrees than that of previous generations.
Coming out stronger
Ultimately Publicis’ research shows that Saudi millennial moms’ lives are at a turning point. While they still cling to a number of traditions, their mindsets and world views are changing and shifting thanks to online platforms. As more Saudi mothers continue to pursue advanced degrees and found new companies, they will increasingly be able to take control of their own destinies compared to their predecessors.