The kingdom’s ground-breaking embassy worker opens up about her headline-making appointment.
News of her new role landed just after Saudi Arabia announced it would soon start issuing driving licences to women.
And now the kingdom’s first female spokeswoman has revealed her appointment had nothing to do with her gender.
“I don’t necessarily focus on the gender,” Baeshen told NBC this week.
“When I got the phone call and met with the ambassador, His Royal Highness Ambassador Prince Khalid bin Salman, he immediately told me you’re not here because you’re a woman.”
Baeshen was announced as a spokesperson for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, US, in September, a day after King Salman issued a royal decree to lift the driving ban on women.
The reform came as part of Vision 2030, the kingdom’s post-oil economy plan under which the government aims to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.
“One of the barriers for women entering the work force was transportation,” Baeshen added to NBC on the lifting of the ban. “But now that women can obtain drivers licences, it will also help achieve this aim of achieving women’s participation in the work force.”
Baeshen is a socioeconomic strategist who has “advised the private, public, third and NGO sectors in the United States and Arabian Gulf”, according to her LinkedIn profile.
The US-raised Saudi citizen spent several years working in Riyadh’s Saudi Ministry of Labour and the Saudi Ministry of Economy and Planning before returning to the States in 2017.
Talking of Vision 2030, Baeshen added that there’s “something [in it] for everyone”.
“The kingdom is not easternising or westernising, it’s modernising, and I think that’s the most important key,” she added.
“Modernising without compromising our set of values and our cultural integrity.”
Images: Fatimah Baeshen/Twitter, France 24 YouTube/Screen grab