Saudi Women in the Workforce: How Does the Kingdom achieve real Empowerment?

Saudi women suffered hardships in the pre-oil era that no one else could live with. They used to carry water long distances, prepare food, and spin clothes. Everything was not available in the past, which made the woman suffer the conditions of life. Along with these conditions, life was harsh on the Arabian Peninsula.

In the past, Saudi women were required to sew their clothes and their children’s clothes with their own hands.

She made various perfumes and incense. She ground grains and supported her husband in many aspects of life.

Saudi women used to start their day before dawn prayer and perform household tasks such as milking cows and sheep. They also provided food for animals and took care of them.

She used to prepare coffee and then go out to collect fresh water. She may bring some animals to help her with that or hire someone who carries two types of water, salt water and fresh water for drinking. She herded sheep and collected firewood to help her husband and children.

Saudi women worked in many professions that fit their society. They practiced shepherding and agriculture alongside men.

In the recent past, and before government jobs after oil discovery, most Saudi men worked in agriculture. The man spends his time among his crops in the fields. The woman supports him in working at home, preparing family food and drink.

 She also helps her husband or father in the fields if she is not yet married. She harvests crops, plowing, and grazing livestock in the desert. She also brings fresh water for drinking to the house or woodcutting.

Many Saudi women have mastered a lot of handicrafts brilliantly such as knitting, sewing, and business, buying and selling in the popular markets, especially in which simple clothing and dairy products such as pumpkin and ghee are displayed.

Saudi women have not neglected education since ancient times. There were many books for women studying the Qur’an, Sharia, reading, and writing. With the passing of time and boom years, women took their share of this development. They joined regular schools and entered the labor market in the fields that suited them, such as education, nursing, and others.

Since the era of King Abdulaziz – may God rest his soul – the government has paid significant attention to women and their education and empowered them with all their rights in the light of what is stipulated in the teachings of the tolerant Islamic Shari’a.

His sons are righteous kings who care for Saudi women. 

Saudi women entered education during the reign of King Abdulaziz Al Saud through women’s books held in the teacher’s house (Al-Mutawa’a), or in the homes of wealthy families. Education revolved around the Holy Qur’an and reading and writing.

This was followed by the opening of private schools in a limited number of cities. Education in such schools was limited to religious sciences and Arabic. At this stage, some groups in Saudi society refused to educate women and considered it forbidden.

 Education for Saudi women began officially in 1960, during King Saud’s reign, with the establishment of the General Presidency for Girls’ Education. This started in primary schools, then intermediate institutes, then general education, higher education, and external scholarship programs.

Saudi women’s education progress is still progressing. In 2019 they were allowed to join the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, which was intended for male students only. In the following year, the first Saudi woman became president of a university offering studies to both men and women.

Saudi women in 2019 were educated 91%. Saudi women ranked first in the Arab world and tenth globally in education within twenty countries, according to the Spector Index.


Working in trade.

The Saudi woman entrusted elderly parents and relatives with caring for the children until they returned from the fields. She was also concerned with raising livestock at home, and the resulting milk products such as pumpkin and ghee. In addition, she used sheep’s wool for weaving rugs, hair houses, and clothes, as well as benefiting from palm fronds.

The need for money compelled many women to work in trades, such as buying and selling in the markets. This was especially true for those who lost their breadwinners and had many children. Through work, she filled her needs without help.

Once female graduates increased, they took the initiative to enter the labor market. The first jobs they held were in education, then nursing.

After the expansion of academic education and the spread of colleges that graduated thousands of women in various scientific disciplines, there were many opportunities to get a job.

Saudi women now work in medicine and other academic jobs due to obtaining the highest degrees of scientific certificates, such as a master’s and a doctorate. Saudi women have achieved many scientific achievements at the national and international levels.

General Presidency for Girls’ Education 

Saudi women’s work began with the requirements of the era in which they lived. Many regular schools opened, whose establishment was announced on 21 Rabi’ al-Thani 1379 AH when a royal decree was issued to establish the General Presidency for Girls’ Education. This was an official educational body in charge of planning, supervising, and managing girls’ education, as well as vocational training centers for girls.

Graduated women were directed to the job market that suited them, and they were mostly appointed teachers. King Saud University, established in 1377 AH, provided the first opportunity for Saudi girls to enroll in higher education internally.

 In 1381 AH, girls were allowed to join the university through the College of Arts and Administrative Sciences. Universities opened the way for girls who wanted to continue their education through the affiliation system.

In 1390-91 AH, the General Presidency for Girls’ Education established the first girls’ college, the College of Education in Riyadh. This led to the opening of several female student departments in boys’ universities affiliated with the Ministry of Higher Education.

Large numbers of female students have benefited from scholarship programs offered by universities and colleges for undergraduate and graduate studies in various countries of the world. This is especially Europe and North America.

 In 1429 AH, the foundation stone was laid for Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, the first integrated public university city for women. Princess Dr. Al-Jawhara bint Fahd bin Muhammad bin Abdulrahman Al Saud was appointed as the first female director of the university.

Saudi women have sought to obtain the highest academic degrees. They have entered the labor market in a way that suits their abilities and the nature of their formation. They have proven their worth and achieved successive successes. Rather, they have emerged in international forums with their scientific achievements and patents, which have become the center of admiration for everyone, with the support and support they find, whether from within the family or from officials in all sectors of the state.

Saudi women have success in multiple fields

Saudi women have proven their superiority in many fields of work and in various disciplines and sciences. Many names have emerged in various fields at the local and global levels. For example, Dr. Howaida Obaid Al-Qathami was awarded the title of first consultant cardiac surgeon in the Kingdom and the Middle East. She was second in the world.

 Dr. Salwa Al-Hazzaa, head of the eye department at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, was chosen as the International Woman of the Year for the Biographical Center in Cambridge in Britain, and her name was included in the list of distinguished personalities in the US, and her name was also included in the list of the fourteenth Marquis of the most prominent personalities for the year 1997.

 Princess Mashael bint Muhammad Al Saud is also considered the first Saudi scientist in space and remote sensing to specialize in “applied geomorphology”, and an active member of multiple scientific societies, committees, and bodies, and has participated in many international and regional conferences, and has many published research.

 Dr. Maha bint Muhammad Omar Khayat also won a gold medal at the Inventors’ Fair with “Nanotechnology” in Switzerland. She won the highest international award, the gold medal at the 40th International Geneva International Exhibition of Inventors. This was for her invention presented on the spatial control of silicon secondary wire growth. Using a chemical reaction in the nanometer range of chemically active elements.

 In a similar achievement, Professor Ghada Mutlaq Abdul Rahman Al-Mutairi won the Scientific Creativity Award from the largest organization to support scientific research in the US (NIH), which is an award and scientific support worth three million dollars. Thousands of researchers and Saudi women are still working to achieve the highest achievements in their fields of work and study.

Women during King Salman enjoy a glorious era 

Saudi women live during King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s reign, their most glorious era, so it is right to say that they are living their “golden age”.

Scenes and rights not previously known in the history of the House of Saud were achieved by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. This was for Saudi women. This was to obtain dozens of rights that they could not achieve before the reign of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

Saudi women have an active role in society. They are now entitled to their rights like men. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is witnessing a campaign of legal reforms and cultural changes that are the largest in its contemporary history.

The start was in Saudi Arabia’s celebrations of the 87th National Day, specifically in September 2017, which represents the eternal anniversary of the unification of the Kingdom. Women were allowed to attend the National Day celebrations.

During King Salman’s reign, many orders and decisions were issued supporting women. This was in contrast to Saudi Arabia’s decision to implement Vision 2030 under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Here are some of the most notable decisions by which King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ensured equality for women.

Traveling without the guardian’s consent

Saudi Arabia has decided to drop guardianship over women in travel and grant them broader powers than empowerment in family matters. This reduces the powers of male guardianship at a time when attention is on the kingdom’s human rights record.

It is scheduled that Saudi women will be allowed to obtain a passport and travel abroad without prior approval from the “guardian,” according to a decision issued by the Saudi Cabinet on Thursday, August 1, 2019.

The amendments also grant women the right to register births, marriages, and divorces, and issue official family documents. In addition, they grant women the right of guardianship over minor children.

Officer women in the Royal Guard

Saudi women participated in the Saudi Royal Guard for the first time on June 26. A picture of a woman wearing the official Royal Guard uniform wearing a muzzle spread.

Saudi Women in the Camel Festival

For the first time in Saudi Arabia, women were allowed to participate in the camel festival, where Princess Sirin bint Abdulrahman Al Saud participated.

A princess participates in a camel festival at the third King Abdulaziz Camel Festival. This is in the southern Sayahed region of Saudi Arabia.

Allowing women to drive

King Salman issued a historic decision winning for women. He issued a royal order on June 24, 2018, implementing the traffic system and executive regulations. This included the issuance of driving licenses for both males and females and allowing Saudi women to drive.

Entering Parliament

For the first time in the House of Saud’s history, women entered the parliament. King Salman allowed women to register as candidates in municipal council elections.

King Salman also issued a royal order, on Monday, October 19, appointing Dr. Hanan Al-Ahmadi, assistant to the Saudi Shura Council head, to the excellent rank.

Allowing Saudi women to give fatwas

In 2017, the Saudi Shura Council agreed to allow female academics to issue fatwas (religious opinions), after the fatwa inside the kingdom for 45 years was restricted to men specialized in Islamic law only.

This came after 107 members of the Saudi Shura Council approved a recommendation made by one of its members.

Firefighting Saudi woman

Saudi Aramco trained two Saudi women in firefighting operations, as part of a periodic training program. This was for the first time in the history of the Kingdom. This was to begin their firefighting work.

Arbitration in international tournaments

For the first time in its history, Saudi women participated in arbitration at the international badminton championships.

Saudi women, Hatoon Al-Sadhan and Rubi Al-Luhaidan, adjudicate in the Arab Championship and the East Asian Badminton Championships, in the Jordanian capital, Amman, between 24 and 26 August 2019.

Allowing Saudi women to attend matches and parties

In January 2018, the Kingdom allowed women to attend football stadiums after prohibition.

Saudi Women in air control.

The Saudi Air Navigation Company has announced the recruitment of women to work as air traffic controllers in the Kingdom at all airports.

Maha Al-Yamani, a specialist in aviation risk management at the authority, said in previous statements last April: “Today we have more than 100 women working in the authority to make the civil aviation sector safer and more efficient.” The company announced that by the end of 2019, it is scheduled to reach the number of air traffic controllers in is 26, which is a precedent that occurs for the first time in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi women in the army

In February 2018, the Saudi Public Security Directorate announced the opening of admission and registration for some female military jobs with the rank of soldier. This was done in seven regions of the Kingdom.

In March of the same year, the Saudi Shura Council approved the employment of women in the Ministry of National Guard sectors in support work. In addition, it approved military housing ownership after retirement. This approval came from a recommendation made by the Security Affairs Committee of the Council.

Women in sports

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently allowed women to play sports and join clubs. The Saudi Ministry of Education announced that girls would be allowed to play sports in public schools, starting in 2018. This is a precedent that is the first of its kind.

Jobs in Notary

The Saudi Ministry of Justice announced its need to fill several jobs for women under the name of “notary public.” Saudi women are allowed to work as notaries of justice in various regions of the Kingdom.

This step comes after the Minister of Justice, Sheikh Dr. Walid bin Muhammad Al-Samaani, directed women to be hired as notaries, to facilitate documentation services.

The move comes after women qualified in law, Sharia, sociology, administration, and technology obtained positions in the Ministry of Justice.

Saudi women in a military parade

A Saudi women’s military troupe performed a military parade, the first of its kind in the history of the Kingdom. This was for the Saudi National Day commemoration.

The Volunteer Affection Campaigns Division carried out several performances, including the infantry parade, the royal peace, and the representation of a military raid, in addition to a display of weapons and several other activities.

Saudi Women as Ambassadors

Saudi Arabia appointed Princess Rima Bandar Al Saud as the first ambassador in the Kingdom’s history. Taking office on July 4, 2019, she was the first woman in the history of the Kingdom to head the diplomatic mission of her country.

Then, in October 2020, Amal bint Yahya Al-Mouallimi was appointed as the Queen’s Ambassador to Norway, becoming the second Saudi ambassador in the Kingdom’s history.

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