Women in the Clothing Industry in Saudi Arabia

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 13
Words: 3007
Reading time:
11 min
Study level: PhD


The methodology will focus on many aspects in the process of collecting data, the site selection, sample and population, data encoding, and much more. The goal is to collect reliable data that can be added and compared with existing literature. Human beings always can commit mistakes and errors which may result in discarding some of the obtained data, thus, there is a waste of valuable time and resources.

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The reliability of data will depend on several factors. Researchers use various techniques to deal with errors and enhance reliability in their work. Technology can help, in particular, computer software using the Bayesian method. For this paper, we use the reliability of the sample population as a reliable sample helps generate reliable data.

However, this study on Saudi women in the clothing industry has a few resources that we can draw from previous studies. We found no empirical study about the subject that we can rely on as one of our sources. So far, we can surmise that this is one of our strongest limitations in providing a successful dissertation on the subject. In our search over various online databases, journals, and articles, we found similar studies conducted in Europe and not in Saudi Arabia or the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia has over centuries maintained a patriarchal culture, with women usually reserved for the home and caring for children. Men rule and control power structures and almost all areas of life. However, there are a few areas dominated by men where women can penetrate, and this is in economic self-determination. Women who belong to poor families feel they have to go out and use their entrepreneurial talents. However, they have to respect the cultural sensitivities of their men and the wider social mores (Danish and Smith 216). It may take some time but some sectors in society are initiating the move.

An organizational setting, such as industry, is a typical area for studying and examining social phenomena (Miller 4), especially Saudi women whose ‘predicament’ seldom draws attention from the various sectors of society. There are growing industries in Saudi Arabia, although most are related to oil production and its derivatives.

The clothing industry must be examined in the context of women’s employment. There are quite some Saudi women who are now holding a high position of power in Saudi Arabia. Those who are university-educated are employed in government offices, but there are those employed in private companies doing secondary jobs, or menial jobs, such as clerks, receptionists, and the like.

Changing the demographics and lifestyles of Saudis have triggered demand for a different type of clothing. High-end brands are dominating the retail market in Saudi Arabia. Western lifestyle and technology, coupled with economic factors, have also influenced women to try to be a part of the Saudi workforce, despite inhibitions and constraints brought about by cultural beliefs and tradition.

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The Saudi Arabian government and concerned society groups also want to help women to be a part of progressive society with much lesser prohibitions and so that they can have a brighter future and an improved quality of life along with their respective families. The establishment of industrial zones with women as the major players in management and various tasks and functions, initiated by the government and supported by the different civil society groups, is a great move for the people of Saudi Arabia. This will benefit the women’s sector in this very traditional Saudi society.

Site selection

Site selection is significant in finding reliable sources which can give us a large volume of data and information for this dissertation. First, this research has chosen three cities to be the site of the primary research, and these are Riyadh, Jeddah, and Makkah. It could also be either one of these cities since I have to conduct more studies and research regarding the industries found in these areas. Data about the important cities and the country are available on the internet, from databases, books, and journals.

Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia and most of the businesses are concentrated in this city. Jeddah is the second important city and has large industries. Makkah is known for being a place where many religious people thrive. Business life is not too lively as only two firms are operating.

Generally, these cities were chosen as areas of research because we can have an in-depth analysis of the business life in the city, with emphasis on the role of women in business, and effective management of Saudi women at work in the clothing industry.

Saudi Arabia has made steps to attract foreign firms to invest in the country. Some of these measures include the loosening of strict government regulations for companies doing trading activities. The country has recently joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and has liberalized several sectors, including retail and franchising. It has enticed foreign investors to hold joint ventures with local companies. Foreign firms are allowed to hold a lesser than fifty percent share but with a minimum capital requirement of US$5.3 million, but firms can grow at 75% after 3 years of operation. Joint-venture partners are permitted to practice individual careers in different fields (“Embassy of Switzerland: Saudi Arabia Major Business Sectors” 1).

Oil is the major source of Saudi Arabia’s economy. However, the government has instituted programs for diversification and succeeded in improving the economy through non-oil exports. The Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) is a government agency set up to encourage private companies to set up businesses in the industrial cities. The businesses include non-oil ventures, such as retail, clothing, and apparel (“Saudi Arabia: About Saudi Arabia” par. 7).

It is expected that the clothing industry in Saudi Arabia will grow exponentially with Saudi women as the main players. The market will tap a mixed segment of men, women, and children. While most clothing and apparel are imported, it will not be long that local manufacturing facilities will be set up by these international companies (“Saudi Arabia: Saudi Apparel Market” par. 1).

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Saudi Arabia has set up industrial zones, particularly in Riyadh and Hofuf, which employ only women. These industrial zones are designed only for women, with considerations over their sensitivities and privacy. Giving employment to women is a government priority as most Saudi female graduates are unemployed. The government has established employment for women in the city of Hofuf (“Arab News: Work Begins on Women’s Industrial City” par. 3).

Jeddah is another city with an industrial zone to be set up this year. The zone will house factories and foreign and local businesses, but most of all, it is a zone designed for women workers in the clothing industry. The government tasked with the development of the zone is the Saudi Industrial Property Authority (Modon) (“Gulf Business: Saudi Arabia to Build ‘Women-Only’ Industrial City in Jeddah” par. 1-3).

Makkah is a city of pilgrimage, but will soon be the venue of an industrial city which will be launched by next year, 2016. Makkah’s Chamber of Commerce has committed to providing capital amounting to SR50 million (“Arab News: 2nd Industrial City in Makkah by 2016” par. 2). Women workers will be one of the largest beneficiaries of this large project.

Interview Method

This research will use the interview method as a primary research tool to collect data from a reliable sample. The interview method is qualitative research as it aims to collect information of the interviewees’ lifeworld in terms of interpretation of an important subject in question (Kvale, qtd. in Opdenakker 1). Researchers use several methods in gathering the interviewees’ descriptions, and face-to-face interviews are some of the best methods to do it. Other methods include interviews through telephone, the internet, or by using computer-mediated communication. Technology has provided research studies with new tools in conducting effective gathering of data and information.

Face-to-face (FtF) interviews emphasize coordinated communication. There are social cues, for example, voice, intonation, and body language the interviewee can provide which can be transformed into valuable information. Social cues are important in drawing information from the interviewee, especially if the interviewee is perceived as irreplaceable. We can also save time here because we get an immediate response after each question. The interviewee’s answer is more unstructured. However, the interviewer has to concentrate much more on the questions and the possible answers (Opdenakker 4).

Interviewing is appropriate for this study in drawing first-hand data from a sample of women workers working in the clothing industry in Saudi Arabia. As stated elsewhere, it will be difficult to deal with this kind of population, and getting a sample from this population is the more difficult. Convincing this prospective sample into being interviewees in this interview method is easier than convincing them to participate in a survey using questionnaires, or interviews using the web. This is because it is easier to convince people to face to face, rather than in writing.

The Transcription Process

Transcription is an essential aspect of the qualitative process. Scholars of different fields have recognized the relevance of transcription in qualitative research (Oliver, Serovich, and Mason 1273). The transcript of the interviews will bear the word-for-word depiction of speech as language represents the real world. Transcription is also easier in FtF interviews.

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Sample and Population

The sample population will be composed of women who have had work experience of more than three years in the industries. I will interview female managers or executives and male executives if need be. Distributing questionnaires might gain displeasure to our folks and do not look pleasing to our existing customers. However, the interview method is very important in this research because of the valuable first-hand information that it can provide. Having a male companion who is respected in society and who knows political leaders in the area will be a great help and can produce positive results for this project. We will have to do some explaining to the local folks and the prospective sample our intention in doing the research and conducting interviews with working women of Saudi Arabia.

The industry for this research is the clothing industry in Saudi Arabia, in particular firms that make clothes for patients and doctors and all kinds of hospital garments, party clothes for girls, and clothes for women and children.

Obtaining a sufficient sample is one of the important research tasks in providing convincing research. Guaranteeing that this research can have enough data can lead to a believable analysis (Marshall et al. 11).

Criteria for sample selection for the quantitative survey

An important advantage of the quantitative method is that it can use a smaller sample to infer a larger group, and this can reduce the cost of researching with a larger sample (Bartlett, Kotrlik, and Higgins 43).

The criteria will apply to all women. I foresee difficulty in communication and we might not understand each other. So, I should illustrate my study in brief, but it must be clear and concise to avoid misunderstanding and to be considerate to those who lack cooperation. Sources of this proposed study will come from the web and television. I will also take into consideration company and industry brochures. Updated information is a requirement for my study and this will give me a source for analysis about the company and the industry.

Criteria for sample selection for a qualitative approach

The sample for qualitative research will be the participants in interviewing. This is typical of ethnographic research or drawing from the experiences of the participants. Interviewing is the most important tool in ethnographic research because through interviewing, the researcher can put into a larger context what was experienced by a smaller group (Fraenkel and Wallen 516).

I also see several problems in doing qualitative research. Some companies do not have the right information and data, for example, phone numbers or access numbers to locate their address. Changes about these data are not readily available, so it is really hard if these firms do not give much importance to such kind of information.

Some managers are hospitable from the beginning but later on, the researcher is left behind in the middle of the activity. When I request information and appointment, they ask many things, like if I had formal requests from their supervisor, or the embassy, and the kind of interview questions I had.

The industry that I want to focus on is the garment industry with good standing or some organization where I can extract information about innovation and how they deal with environmental forces.

Piloting and screening

Examining non-response bias, by asking similar questions and asking the same question, at the beginning, the first time, and at the end the second time. The prospective participants will be briefed on the proposed survey and some of them will be allowed to see the whole context of the interview process.

Data editing, coding, and recording responses

This will include analyzing problems to be encountered during fieldwork. One of the most significant obstacles in this research is transport. There is no public transport in Saudi Arabia and the women cannot drive and travel alone. This Researcher must be accompanied by her husband or relative anytime she goes out for fieldwork. Other factors that have to be dealt with will include renting a car, the cost of staying in a hotel and looking after my kids who cannot be left alone. Finding an industry location will be the most difficult problem that I will encounter since most of these industries are located outside the city.

Negotiating Access

Problems I will encounter during the fieldwork might be enormous of which I should have to prepare.

I will have a problem particularly in the communication process with female operators. Sometimes, you receive a blank stare from managers who are not cooperative. Some of the people connected with the company do not have email and cannot communicate with me through any means. Valuable information will depend much on face-to-face interviews. This is a challenge, but I will be guided by principles I obtained in the university. Culture, no matter how ancient, will always evolve into something that fits with existing needs. Culture and tradition in countries like Saudi Arabia will someday evolve as it is influenced by technology and beliefs and practices by other people. This is now beginning to happen, where the young Saudis, who comprise a great portion of the population, are influenced by Western culture and would prefer the high-end brand.

Sources for the research

Sources of data will mostly come from journals and articles which can be taken from online databases. There are sources that I can take and browse from the web and television, which may be about existing cultural practices, but these are observations and can only help a bit, but not entirely.

Books and magazines can be of help on the general subject of the role of women in society. However, concerning empirical studies about this subject, we find a few articles that can provide data and information.

Peer-reviewed journals provide data and information about Saudi culture and society which is beginning to recognize women’s power. These journals can provide valuable information regarding this research because of their objectivity and critical analyses on almost all subjects under the sun. Books are not peer-reviewed but can give us narrative information.


The questions will be semi-structured interviews, which will gain ideas and opinions from the participants on their present situation, their problems, and challenges in the clothing industry.

These are the questions:

  1. Please state your name, age, gender, and educational attainment.
  2. How long have you been working in the clothing industry?
  3. What particular area of expertise are you assigned or connected to?
  4. What are your common problems and challenges as a worker in the industry?
  5. Why did you decide to work and come out from your home considering your traditional role as “woman of the house”?
  6. Does your company respect your rights as a woman and as a worker?
  7. What rights are respected and what rights are not observed?
  8. Did it come to a point that any one of the workers was forced out of work because she is a woman?
  9. Do you think your work was better performed by a male worker than a female worker?
  10. Do you feel the industry is not providing enough for women workers in terms of salary, benefits, and work-life balance?
  11. What suggestions do you have to improve the quality of life of women in the clothing industry in Saudi Arabia?

The questions pertained to the behavior and attitude they exhibit as workers of a men-dominated workforce. Variables will be drawn from the questions. Variables are like themes generated from the questions. An example of a dependent variable is behavior. This can be exhibited in behavior at work, which is affected by company rules and regulations, including organizational culture.

The variables

The dependent variables we will examine and analyze will include behavior, intention, attitude, and belief. These independent variables are mostly about behavior, which is largely affected by culture. Attitude and belief are also culture related. Independent variables will include control and women management.

Examining non-response bias

This pertains to asking the same questions after such questions were not properly answered by the respondent or were not answered at all. Non-response bias refers to the tendency of interviewees not to answer the interview questions for some reason or another. Non-response bias can be reduced by convincing the participants about the mechanics of the survey on confidentiality, and the objectives of the research.

We can surmise that quite some participants in this survey will resort to non-response bias because of the traditional Saudi culture on the role of women in society. Convincing the participants not to resort to this tactic is a challenge, but it will be quite a feat because this will be a milestone in the history of the role of women in society. Women have to speak out so that they can be freed from the clutches of men’s domination. This is difficult and a gargantuan task in a country that is strictly traditional.

Works Cited

Arab News: Work Begins on Women’s Industrial City 2014. Web.

Arab News: 2nd Industrial City in Makkah by 2016 2012. Web.

Bartlett, James, Joe Kotrlik, and Chadwick Higgins. “Organizational Research: Determining Appropriate Sample Size in Survey Research.” Information Technology, Learning, and Performance Journal. 19.1 (2001): 43-50. ABI/INFORM Complete. Web.

Danish, Abeer Yousuf, and Helen Lawton Smith. “Female Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia.” International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship. 4.3 (2012): 216-235. ProQuest. Web.

Embassy of Switzerland: Saudi Arabia Major Business Sectors 2010. Web.

Fraenkel, Jack, and Norman Wallen. How to Design and Evaluate Research in Education. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2006. Print.

Gulf Business: Saudi Arabia to Build ‘Women-Only’ Industrial City in Jeddah 2015. Web.

Marshall, Bryan, Peter Cardon, Amit Poddar, and Renee Fontenot. “Does Sample Size Matter in Qualitative Research?: A Review of Qualitative Interviews in IS Research.” The Journal of Computer Information Systems. 54.1 (2013): 11-22. ABI/INFORM Complete. Web.

Miller, Gale. “Introduction: Context and Method in Qualitative Research.” Context and Method in Qualitative Research. Ed. Gale Miller and Robert Dingwall. London: Sage Publications Ltd., 1997. 1-11. Print.

Oliver, Daniel, Julianne Serovich, and Tina Mason. “Constraints and opportunities with Interview Transcription: Towards Reflection in Qualitative Research.” Social Forces, 84.2 (2005): 1273-1289. ProQuest. Web.

Opdenakker, Raymond. “Advantages and Disadvantages of Four Interview Techniques in Qualitative Research.” Forum: Qualitative Social Research. 4.11 (2006): 1-13. ProQuest. Web.

Saudi Arabia: About Saudi Arabia 2015. Web.

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Apparel Market 2010. Web.