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  • Publicado : 6 de marzo de 2011
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Like those of its competitors in New York or London, the sleek glass and steel offices of media company Rotana are filled withpreening attitude and fashion-conscious staffers: assistants teeter in shoes that might have absorbed much of their monthly paycheck; executives parade the halls in power suits and pencil skirts. ButRotana isn't in New York or London; it's in Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia, a country in which women normally adhere to a strict dress code in public — a black cloak called an abaya, a headscarf and aveil, the niqab, which covers everything but their eyes.

There's another reason many Saudis would find Rotana shocking: men and women working side by side. The sight unnerves enough men who comelooking for a job that human-resources manager Sultana al-Rowaili has developed a trick to see if a male applicant can handle working in a mixed-gender office. She arranges for a female colleague tointerrupt the initial interview, and watches to see if the man loses concentration or stares too much. Sometimes even that isn't necessary. Many men are undone by the very idea of being interviewed by awoman. "They are in a state of shock to see a woman in a position of authority and to have to ask her for a job," al-Rowaili says.(See pictures of Saudi women.)

Saudi men may have to start gettingused to such situations. True, Rotana remains an anomaly protected by the position and progressive ideals of its owner — global investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. And Saudi womenstill can't drive and legally can't even leave the house to shop, let alone get a job, without a male family member's permission. Yet under the guidance of a few members of the Saudi royal family — inparticular the current King, Abdullah — the kingdom is slowly changing. Mixed-gender workplaces are becoming more common, especially in banks and good hospitals, where female doctors are not...
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