This section of the work is strongly focused on the empirical research around the status of women in the Saudi workforce. It is thus focused on the topic of women in the workforce, and the opportunities and barriers, which exist to women in the workforce. The section thus begins by focusing on the historic role of women in the Saudi workforce, and how this role has developed and evolved over time. It also considers specific developments such as vocal and technical qualifications, and also how the Saudi economy has changed since the credit crunch and financial crisis. The argument in this section of the literature review is that women remain constrained by the legal and social barriers to inclusion, but have begun to develop their own opportunities through entrepreneurship, and are also benefitting from recent developments in the workforce, although barriers to equal opportunities remain.
Whilst the academic literature on the law in Saudi Arabia is hindered by the lack of legal clarity in the Saudi judicial system, the literature on the status of women in the Saudi workforce is much clearer, and backed by a stronger level of empirical evidence. The literature supports the view that Saudi women's role in the workforce has been hampered by traditional social views on the status of women and their role in business. For example, Rawaf (1990) undertook an empirical survey based study of female administrators in Saudi Arabia, demonstrating how their role has evolved over time, but also how they continued to be seen as having lower intrinsic value than men have, and not were not in a position to be managers or to take senior roles. This idea of limitation on females when it comes to promotion to managerial and executive positions may be the driving force behind the rapid rise in numbers of female-owned businesses in Saudi Arabia. According to empirical survey evidence of female entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia collected by Patni (1998), these businesses grew rapidly during the 1990s as women looked to break away from the constraints imposed by existing male dominated businesses.
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