The literature also demonstrates how the ability of Saudi women to succeed in the workplace has been hindered historically by a lack of social opportunities and institutional support. For example, Calvert and Al-Shetaiwi (2002, p. 112) demonstrated that, of Saudi students, "in 1995/96 only 5 per cent of Technical and Vocational Education (TEVT) enrolled students were female. This compares with an average of 29 per cent in other Islamic countries and 45 per cent in Japan". This hence demonstrates how Saudi Arabia lagged behind its fellow Islamic nations in providing educational opportunities for women, which in turn limited their participation in technical jobs in the workforce. At the same time, this study also highlights the country's Seventh Development Plan (2000–2004), which recognised the skill shortages inherent in Saudi Arabia, and increased the focus on the training of women in order to address these shortages (Calvert and Al-Shetaiwi, 2002). The growing inclusion of women in the Saudi educational system has been shown to feed through into attitudes towards women in the workforce. This is reflected in the study of Elamin and Omair (2010, p. 746) in which "a sample of 301 male participants completed the newly developed multidimensional aversion to women who work scale (MAWWWS)". The results of this study indicate that whilst Saudi males continued to hold very traditional and conservative attitudes towards working females, "single, unemployed, young and educated Saudi males report less traditional attitudes towards working females compared with married, employed, old, and less educated ones. Age was found to the most important predictor of the males' attitudes towards working females" (Elamin and Omair, 2010, p. 746). This demonstrates how the growing role of women in the Saudi workforce is driving improvements in attitudes, helping women obtain greater status in Saudi companies.
Evidence that is more recent demonstrates that there is an increasing recognition of the contribution that women can make to the Saudi economy, particularly following the economic pressures created by the global credit crunch. In particular, a quantitative study by Elimam et al (2014, p. 60) used Pearson correlation and regression analysis to compare Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries, demonstrating that "there was a high significant relationship between female labour work force participation and GDP", thus showing the important contribution women are making to economic development in Saudi Arabia. Another study of the role of women in the Saudi workforce is based on the Schultz model, under which national income is the total of human capital and physical capital (Yusuf, 2014). This study uses surveys of Saudi women to demonstrate that, whilst women make a positive contribution to the Saudi economy, they are often reluctant to join the workforce and work alongside men due to fears around discrimination and treatment, and this is hindering the development of a vibrant human capital in the country.
The final important thread in the academic literature in this area focuses on the growing tendency for women to advance to leadership positions in the country. Butt et al (2014) examined perceptions of the level of organisational commitment of women working as leaders in Saudi Arabia, using "a descriptive correlational study in which an organisational commitment questionnaire (OCQ) was used to collect data". This study demonstrated that women showed high levels of organisational commitment, and were happy to play important roles in their businesses. The value of women in these positions is reflected in recent developments which "indicate a clear strategic direction of policy makers and development plans in Saudi Arabia towards an even greater role for women in public life and into top leadership positions in public domains" (Al-Ahmadi, 2011, p. 149). However, Al-Ahmadi's (2011) study, based on a survey of 160 female leaders in government roles in Saudi Arabia, showed that women continue to face specific organisational, personal and cultural challenges, which can hinder their effectiveness as leaders. This hence indicates that whilst women are highly committed leaders, they do face more significant challenges than their male counterparts do.
Women in Saudi Arabia - Riyadh