Profiles of Women in STE in Saudi Arabia


Literacy Rate (2006)  69%
Primary School Enrollment (2006)  91%
Secondary School Enrollment (2006)  70%
Tertiary School Enrollment (2006)  7%
Percentage of Women among Students Studying Science(1995/1996)  8.5%
Percentage of Women among Students Studying Medicine(1995/1996)  2.7%
Percentage of Women among Students Studying Engineering


2006 Female Labor Force Participation Rate:  18%
Wage Equality for Similar Work (Ratio of women’s wage to men’s wage)  N/A
Enterprise-Level Policies to Combat and Prevent Sexual Harassment  N/A
    • Education is free at all levels to citizens, and gender segregated. Girls have access to the same classes as boys, except in 2003, when laws were passed that prohibit girls from taking any “civics” and physical education classes. The school system in Saudi Arabia is centered on religious studies. Throughout middle schools, a majority of the school week is spent on religious studies, with math and sciences receiving less attention. In high school, a student is able to specialize in a subject, but religious studies are still required. School enrollment for girls at the primary level is at an impressive 91%, but drops dramatically at the tertiary level, with enrollment at only 7%. In 1995-96, of the total student population studying sciences, 44% were women, and of engineering students, only 1% were women . Women make up 56.4% of the university student population. These numbers reflect a clear presence of women in sciences; however, there are existing policies that apply restrictions on the subjects they can study. For example, women are prohibited from majoring in engineering at certain universities and are denied admission into King Fahd University of Oil and Minerals, on the grounds that they will not be allowed to work in those fields upon graduation. All the Saudi universities that do admit women have separate, often inferior facilities . Because of this, and additional societal pressures, women tend to stay in the humanities or education field.
    • Efforts are being made to improve education for women. The King Saud University in Riyadh now has added a new women’s campus, where male professors are able to teach female students via closed circuit television. Now top professors are available to females as well. Plans for building 17 new medical schools, 8 of which are exclusively for female students, are expected to bring more women into higher education .
  • There are many obstacles that women face in the workforce due to gender segregation. Women cannot be hired unless they are accompanied by their male guardian. Employers have to go through complicated processes to hire women, so oftentimes they opt to hire men for convenience. Less than 15% of Saudi women over the age of 15 are in the workforce. There are not enough workplaces deemed legitimate by the government for women to work. Even so, women are starting to appear in the health and medical field as doctors, nurses, and laboratory technicians.
    • The government is in the process of creating policies to include women in the workplace. They have set up industrial projects to employ women. However, the government’s increasing privatization of corporations may actually be detrimental to women’s advancement in the workforce, as the public sector provides the most benefits to female employees, such as child care and maternity benefits. In 1995, the Ministry of Commerce announced that women no longer were to be issued licenses for businesses that require them to supervise foreign workers, interact with male clients, or deal regularly with government officials . Women do not have access to drivers’ licenses, which will have a clear impact on their ability to attain an education and their presence in the workplace, whether in S&T or other fields .

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