Dr. Lilac al-Safadi has been appointed as the first female president of a co-educational university in Saudi Arabia, the Minister of Education Dr. Hamad al-Sheikh announced on Thursday.
Al-Safadi will be heading the Saudi Electronic University this fall, a public university in Riyadh that grants undergraduate and graduate degrees.
She earned her Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Wollongong, as well as her master’s degree in computer science, after earning her bachelor’s in software engineering.
The new president worked as an executive director for over 20 years in business development and consulting, strategic leadership, and project management.
She has also published more than 50 research papers and articles on research topics such as e-commerce and artificial and commercial intelligence.
Al-Safadi was the vice president and national technology officer at Microsoft and is a faculty member at the King Saud University.
She is also the director of the Women’s Technology Incubator, which is in charge of developing the entrepreneurship center and medical sciences departments.
The announcement is the Kingdom’s latest move to push more women into various fields in line with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to diversify the Kingdom’s economy and includes increasing women’s labor force participation.
Saudi Arabia on Thursday also announced the appointment of 13 women to the country’s Human Rights Council (HRC), with women now accounting for half of all board members.
Saudi Arabia has in recent years made great strides toward establishing gender equality in the country.
The Kingdom’s economy has made the most progress globally toward gender equality since 2017, according to a World Bank report released earlier this year.
Saudi Arabia was the country to make “the biggest improvement globally” since 2017, according to the World Bank press release, including advances in women’s mobility, sexual harassment, retirement age and economic activity.
In 2018, the ban on women drivers was lifted after King Salman bin Abdulaziz issued a royal decree granting them the right to do so.
In August 2019, the Kingdom began allowing women above 21 to travel abroad or obtain a passport without the permission of a male guardian.