Westernized Saudi Women at Work

Al-Ahram Weekly tells us that some Saudi women are overcoming rather high startup and transactions costs, and are heading into the workforce:

How does a man meet a woman at work in a country in which women are not permitted to drive; where women can only apply for an identification card with the permission of a father or brother; where women are required to remain covered from head to toe in public; and where the law prohibits unmarried women from sharing a room with people other than relatives?...

Salwa appears around the corner, hand outstretched, a 26- year-old Saudi Arabian woman, unveiled, relaxed and professional. Registering the baffled look on my face at her uncovered state, she rushes to explain: "As you can see, all windows and doors are made of glass; it would be ridiculous to spend the day taking your abaya on and off depending on who comes into the office," she explained...

Her initial fears of not being accepted at work turned out to be unfounded. "The opposite turned out to be the case, in fact; my most conservative, bearded colleagues -- the ones whose abaya -wearing wives walk behind them on the street -- are the ones who appreciate my work the most."

Women like Salwa are still an exception in the conservative kingdom. Women make up half of the population, and more than half of all high-school graduates are girls, yet women represent only five per cent of the workforce, most of whom work in the teaching profession. But this trend is increasing...

This month, the Chamber of Commerce in Riyadh launched a special women's department, the aim of which is to provide support for Saudi Arabian business women....

During the time of the petro-dollars in the 1970s and 1980s nobody had to work. But today, where even the land of the black gold is in the grips of unemployment and wages are sinking, more and more women are forced to work to support their families....

As they say, read the whole thing. Even with recent cultural adaptations, this all sounds too optimistic to me... but one can hope.

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This page contains a single entry by Kevin published on June 25, 2004 10:50 AM.

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