A woman will head up the Saudi stock exchange for the first time ever.

The Saudi government has previously vowed to up the number of women in the nation’s workforce – and one particular new appointment is really raising the bar.

In a win for gender equality, a woman has been hired to fill a high-powered role previously only held by men.

Sarah Al Suhaimi, currently NCB Capital Co’s chief executive officer, has just been announced as the chair of Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange, making her the first woman in that position.

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The Harvard-educated CEO will now head up the Tadawul, the largest bourse in the Middle East.

It’s not Al Suhaimi’s first record-breaking role either – she became the first female head of a Saudi investment bank when she joined NCB Capital Co in 2014.

The announcement falls in line with Vision 2030, the nation’s post-oil economy plans, which – among other things – plan to develop women’s role in the economy.

Change is already happening

While women’s rights are a controversial topic in the country, changes are most certainly afoot.

Currently, the country prohibits women from taking the wheel, interacting with men, trying clothes while shopping or competing freely in sports.

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However the kingdom recently held its first-ever women’s day, a ban on women voting or taking part in elections lifted in 2015, and in 2016 the strict religious police were stripped of their power to stop, question, pursue or arrest people.

The hope is to make the region a more modern, tourist-friendly destination by 2030, and subsequently there have been several calls from prominent figures to lift the controversial driving ban.

There have also been requests to lift strict labour laws, along with a landmark petition asking the government to do away with the male guardianship law.

The government also have plans to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.

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