The purpose of this research is to establish whether gender inequality in the workplace has affected the perceptions of job satisfaction, career progression and career success of female academic staff in Saudi Arabia. It seeks to discover whether female academics perceive their careers to be as successful as they would like them to be and whether they communicate any experiences of gender discrimination in the workplace and/or limitations on their career progress, which they consider to have been placed on them due to their gender. It also seeks to discover if feminine agency is evident as being developed as a change strategy among the group of female academic staff.
This research draws on previous similar studies, which have been undertaken in other countries and in other workplace settings. The available literature on this subject shows that several researchers have undertaken to study women’s (and men’s) perceptions of gender inequality and its impact on their job satisfaction and their career progression. One study found that the job satisfaction among the academic staff at a Saudi University found that female staff had less of a sense of job satisfaction, had a shorter duration of service in their posts and achieved lower academic titles than their male counterparts achieve. (Al-Rubaish et al 2009). Another study of female medical staff in academic medicine in Saudi Arabia showed that while female doctors were successful in junior posts, to achieve higher academic progression they needed to have more support from the institutions and the senior academics in those institutions. (Al-Tamimi 2004).
A qualitative study of female workers in the defence industry carried out in the US found that “traditional organizational cultures maintain the status quo as the norm and enforce gendered stereotypes”. (Woods 2015). A phenomenological study in Thailand of female managers showed the female participants reporting, “having experienced some form of career block and discrimination in their roles as managers.”(Hansatit 2014).
The Al-Runaish study, while carried out in a Saudi University, is a quantitative study, using surveys to gather data about job satisfaction and achievement. The qualitative studies of female workers and their perceptions of job satisfaction and career progress have been carried out in locations outside of Saudi Arabia.
The present study contributes to the literature on the subject by revealing the perceptions of a particular group of Saudi Arabian working females, in the academic profession, of how gender inequality has affected their personal careers. It is hoped that this will bring fresh insight to the real experiences of Saudi women who seek to work on the same professional level as men. This information will be useful for those who are interested in feminist issues, for those managers and policy makers who contribute to equality policies and fair practises in academic institutions, and to younger women who seek to pursue a career in academia who would like to learn from the experiences of others what the working world might be like for them. It will also add to the newly growing body of work which seeks to determine the nature and the value of feminist agency in modern society, and make a point-in-time record of this ‘agent for change’ and how it is affecting the way in which women seek to negotiate the obstacles to success placed in front of them by gender inequality issues.
Saudi women health status and pregnancy