Working Women in Saudi Arabia since 2012

Dareen Abdulmohsen

Advisor: Tamara Harvey, PhD, Department of English

Committee Members: Debra Shutika, Maria Dakake

Enterprise Hall, #318
October 01, 2018, 08:30 AM to 10:30 AM


This ethnographic study explores working women in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It examines the challenges that women from different socio-economical backgrounds face as they work for pay. In 2012, the Saudi government opened the door for women to work in sex-integrated jobs, including very visible positions in sales and on the Shura, and lifted the requirement that males provide their consent for women to obtain jobs.  These policies have created new norms and new hierarchies among working women. More recently, the Saudi government lifted the ban on women driving.  This dissertation examines these social changes and their effect on women.  Chapters on the history of women’s work and education in Saudi Arabia and debates about gender in Islamic law precede the ethnographic study in which three main topics related to working women emerge: segregation, embracing work life, and commuting. The ethnographic portions of this study focus on three groups of women: business owners, managers and administrators, and saleswomen. Many of the insights of this dissertation arise from observing similarities and differences among these groups of women; as some of these groups were not possible before women’s work opportunities were transformed in 2012.