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The rights of women in Saudi Arabia have been an issue since the inception of the Kingdom. Segregation leads to a multitude of problems for women who seek to make a career in Saudi Arabia, but due to modernization, the attitudes towards women and their roles in society are changing.
Segregation and Workplace Discrimination
Saudi Arabia practices two different types of practices concerning women. The first one is the creation of women-only public spaces. This program was created to appease the more conservative citizens of the country. It is an older practice aimed to create businesses and public places, as well as to have stricter control over the female population (Geel 363). But since the early 2000s, the Saudi Arabian government introduced a new practice of mixed-gender business. This practice was named ikhtilat, and it was implemented to gain a balance between the conservative members of the public and the emerging liberal movement. Ikhtilat was always less supported by the government, but it is slowly gaining supporters amongst the government (Geel 365). Both practices are often debated and deal with complex issues of religion, globalization, and modernization of the country (Geel 376).
Workplace culture in Saudi Arabia is gendered. Women often experience gender stereotyping when applying to different specialties. For example, positions of surgeons are considered masculine, and women are not associated with these types of jobs. Ideas of female leadership are common, but with a distinction, that female leadership should be separate from male leadership (Alwazzan and Rees 862). Unfortunately, this negative attitude toward female leadership is preventing the exploitation of the potential of female leaders. A large segment of them had higher education and earned master’s and Ph.D. degrees.
Therefore, they are more than qualified for those positions (Kattan et al. 104). Women are less likely to receive a career promotion. They tend to work more hours for lower wages, their extra duties are often not rewarded, and a general lack of appreciation in the workplace is common. These factors lead to a fall in productivity, and difficulties in time management. Sometimes female workers do not even receive feedback on their performance, preventing them from improving their work habits (Rajeh et al. 8). A woman in Saudi Arabia is expected to combine 40 hours of work a week with daily care for their household and family. This perception leads to a much harder process of balancing life and work for female workers. Subsequently, female workers are likely to receive more stress, suffer from depression, and become ill (Azeem and Altalhi 186).
Although this segregation is evident and is almost considered to be a part of the cultural identity of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, modernization, and changes it brings to the gender roles are already on the horizon. After interviewing a large group of college students, a study found that almost half see these changes as positive and that the reasons for the negative perception of them lie in the extreme dedication to tradition, which is common in Saudi Arabia. More than half of women and almost half of the men who were interviewed about this topic believe that these changes should improve their professional lives and give more career opportunities to women. Education beyond university is seen as the main benefiting factor for women who seek higher career positions. The majority of the Saudi Arabian population is under the age of 25, and this factor leads to the government creating new economic sectors that more likely to employ a person who participated in additional higher education. On the other hand, the issue of access to the job market for women is still the main barrier to their employment (Al-Bakr et al. 61).
Segregation is a clear problem for female workers in Saudi Arabia. They are overworked, underappreciated, and are unlikely to receive a promotion, but perhaps with the new generations growing in modern society, there will be more support for women in the workplace.
Al-Bakr, Fawziah et al. “Empowered but not Equal: Challenging the Traditional Gender Roles as Seen by University Students in Saudi Arabia”. Forum for International Research in Education, vol. 4, no. 1, 2017, pp. 52-66.
Alwazzan, Lulu and Charlotte E Rees. “Women in Medical Education: Views and Experiences from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”. Medical Education, vol. 50, no. 8, 2016, pp. 852-865. Wiley-Blackwell, Web.
Azeem, Syed Mohammad and Hassen Altalhi. “Role of Perceived Work-Life Balance and Job Satisfaction in Developing Organizational Commitment Among Hospital Employees in Saudi Arabia”. International Journal of Academic Research in Business and Social Sciences, vol. 5, no. 12, 2015, pp. 185-197. Human Resources Management Academic Research Society (HRMARS), Web.
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Kattan, Manal Matouq et al. “Factors of Successful Women Leadership in Saudi Arabia”. Asian Social Science, vol. 12, no. 5, 2016, p. 94. Canadian Center of Science and Education, Web.
Rajeh, M. et al. “Are There Barriers for Professional Development of Women Dentists? A Qualitative Study in Saudi Arabia”. JDR Clinical & Translational Research, vol. 20, no. 10, 2017, p. 238008441668508. SAGE Publications, Web.