The present research is rooted in the gendered nature of employment and the resulting impact on women who wish to pursue a career and to achieve success in the workplace. Belliveau (2012) notes that, even in developed nations where the equality discourse is well established, employment and working remain inherently gendered concepts, with most employment activities dominated by masculine values and dialogue. Such observations are particularly pertinent in industries and regions where cultural ideologies around professional work and social roles act to develop and reinforce beliefs around the relative value and employment status of men and women (Cech, 2013). Studies in this area indicate that the majority of gendered attitudes around employment, particularly those involving the employment roles of women, are strongly rooted in cultural and socioeconomic traditions. This is reflected in the observations of Alesina et al (2013, p. 469) that "the descendants of societies that traditionally practiced plough agriculture today have less equal gender norms, measured using reported gender-role attitudes and female participation in the workplace, politics, and entrepreneurial activities". This hence demonstrates the challenges inherent in creating equal opportunities for women in societies with long held traditional and social views around their role. Even when these traditions are obsolete, they continue to have an influence on social and employment institutions, with Field et al (2010, p. 125) noting that many social and cultural institutions "inherently pose obstacles for would-be businesswomen", helping to maintain gendered norms and thus mitigate against the role of women in the workforce.
1.2 Saudi background
The relative importance of religious constitutions and underlying cultural traditions is strongly linked to the extent to which they affect roles in society. This is particularly the case in Islamic nations such as Saudi Arabia, where workplace environments, hierarchies and management structures are heavily influenced by religious and cultural views about the role of women (Marmenout, 2009). This is reflected in Islamic Law, which holds that whilst husbands are required to live decently with their wives and treat them kindly, wives are required to obey their husband in all permissible matters (Nasir, 2009). These religious-social constructs can pass across into the workplace, creating barriers to equal employment opportunities for women. This is in spite of the fact that many Islamic nations, including Saudi Arabia, are recognising the growing contribution that women make to economic and social development. There is a strong clash between this recognition and the ongoing "strong desire to maintain the traditional Saudi culture, which restricts the travel and interaction of females" (Al-Kahtani et al, 2005, p. 227). As such, whilst Saudi Arabian women are entering the workforce in increasing numbers, as employees, managers and entrepreneurs, they have many societal and institutional challenges to overcome in order to obtain a similar recognition and equally open opportunities as men (Danish and Smith, 2012).