Up until the 1970s, most news anchors and reporters around the world were male. But over the last few decades that’s all changed as more and more women have taken the reigns at major news stations. But even in Western media, the heavily male-dominated industry still shows a pretty disproportionate amount of female anchors.
But when it comes to the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia (where many of their industries have been entirely male dominated until now) the appointment of female journalist Weam Al Dakheel is a huge deal. As the nation’s first state-authorised news anchor to go live on-air, Al Dakheel is playing a pivotal role in increasing female representation as the Kingdom undergoes reform.
The move comes as part of the kingdom’s ‘Vision 2030’ plan, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman making it his mission to see Saudi Arabian take steps towards a more progressive direction.
As part of the plan, the nation revamped its state-run TV channel. Formerly known as Saudi TV Channel, now Saudi TV, the channel’s programming is now set to reflect the kingdom’s move towards modernization with plans to put focus on youth-driven and family-oriented shows.
Al Dakheel, who is known for her previous stints at CNBC Arabia and Al-Arab News Channel in Bahrain, presented alongside Omar al-Nashwan for the channel’s morning show.
This isn’t the first time a female news anchor went on-air. Saudi’s Al Ekhbariya—the nation’s first news network—opened in 2004 with a news bulletin read by a woman. In 2014, an unnamed anchor went live on the channel without a hijab—sparking outrage considering the country’s strict Islamic dress codes.
But by the looks of things, real change might be coming. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans include women making up a third of the nation’s workforce by 2030, and Al-Dakheel’s new position as one of the nation’s primary news anchors certainly sets the tone.