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Title: Women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia : bargaining within a patriarchal society
Author: Studholme, Sophie Alkhaled
ISNI:       0000 0004 2740 1824
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2013
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Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest exporters of oil and is known as the hub of Islam. It has been argued that the production of oil has a harmful effect on the economic and political status of women. Therefore, these tribal states are left with atypically strong patriarchal institutions where women are assigned to the domestic sphere. However, the international political pressure on Saudi Arabia to improve the position of women post the events of September the 11th 2001 has led the government to mobilise initiatives encouraging women into the public sphere. In addition, the depletion of oil resources has drawn the government’s attention to lessen its dependency on oil production and concentrate on private sector investment. Part of the government’s strategy has specifically focused on women, who hold much of the wealth in the country, to invest in the entrepreneurial sector in order to diversify the Saudi economy and provide employment to the rapidly increasing population. However, the laws continue to maintain women’s secondary position in society, as they are built on tribal customs and ideologies which treat women as ‘legal minors’ under the guardianship of her closest male relative. Furthermore, women are confined to jobs in the labour market which are deemed ‘suitable to their nature’, and thus, their entrepreneurial investment is constrained by gender-­‐discriminating laws and placed within certain industries. Research on Saudi women’s experiences of participating in the labour force are scarce, as is the literature on Saudi female entrepreneurs .This thesis adopts a relational multilevel framework with the lens of ‘patriarchal connectivity’ in investigating the salient micro-­‐ domestic, meso-­‐societal and macro-­‐ state opportunities and boundaries of 13 Saudi female entrepreneurs embedded in the patriarchal context. The research adopts a relational methodological approach, capitalising on qualitative in-­‐depth interviews with the female entrepreneurs to explore their entrepreneurial experiences, motivations, and the boundaries and opportunities they face. Furthermore, the study investigates women’s negotiation strategies in overcoming the patriarchal boundaries. The findings highlight the women’s ‘emancipatory’ motivations behind entrepreneurship. They also illustrate the nature of the ‘permeable boundaries’ within and across the patriarchal domestic, societal and state domains, which meant the women were paradoxically confronted by ‘enabling’ opportunities and ‘constraining’ boundaries in each of the domains. However, whilst the women did exercise agency at some permeable boundaries, this agency remained within the confines of a prevailing patriarchal structure.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: University of Aberdeen ; College of Arts and Social Sciences ; British Federation of Women Graduates
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Business women ; Male domination (Social structure)