Women in Clothing Industry in Saudi Arabia

Subject: Industry
Pages: 13
Words: 4491
Reading time:
17 min
Study level: PhD

Saudi economy and the role of women

Currently, Saudi Arabia is considered to be one of the most sustainable economies in the world; this result can be partly attributed the efficient use of its natural resources, especially its oil reserves. The country possesses approximately 18 percent of the world’s petroleum reserves, and it plays a leading part in OPEC (Hobbs 2012). Although the government imposes a strong control over economic activities, various sectors of the economy have been able to achieve considerable growth. At present, the government implements reforms that are supposed to increase the competitiveness of the national economy. To a great extent, this goal can be attained by diversifying the economy and promoting the development of businesses that may represent different fields. Thus, this policy is critical for decreasing the country’s dependence on the exportation of oil (Hobbs 2012). Apart from that, researchers focus on the ability of businesses to adjust to the changing conditions in external environment; moreover, they lay stress on the need for innovation.

Although women constitute approximately half of the country’s population, the needs of female employees in Saudi Arabia have often been overlooked. In turn, scholars note that the position of women in the workplace is very weak in Arabic countries (Oxford Business Group 2008). Additionally, the findings of researchers indicate that the empowerment of women can be critical for increasing the income level of households and improving the performance of various organisations (Bowler 2010). Although Saudi Arabia makes significant progress in industrialising the economy, women still do not play an effective role in the domestic enterprises that may represent different fields. As a result, their potential is not fulfilled. This is one of the main barriers that should be overcome.

Admittedly, the government attempts to promote industry, business ventures and commerce in order to create new opportunities for the citizens of the country. The government has created Saudi Industrial Development Fund (SIDF) that is aimed establishing new industries and extending them (Oxford Business Group 2008). In the long term, this policy can be justified since it can lead to the creation of jobs, new products as well as infrastructure. Nevertheless, more attention should be paid to promoting the initiatives of those social groups which have been marginalised due to some reasons. In many cases, these people can contribute to the growth of enterprise by making suggestions regarding business operations and workplace procedures. The main problem is that at present, their opinions can be disregarded. In turn, it is critical to assist women in integrating into the workplace environment. For instance, companies should help them embrace innovative business practices.

Researchers argue that at present, Saudi women have to struggle with the prejudiced attitudes of male workers who do not like that the idea that female employees can raise their status in the workplace hierarchy (Elamin & Omair 2010). In this case, the age of male workers is the most important factor that shapes the attitudes of men. Those people, who are aged above forty, are more likely to be biased against women (Elamin & Omair 2010). This is one of the obstacles that should be removed. One should keep in mind that these prejudices do not necessarily manifest themselves at an official level (Elamin & Omair 2010). As a rule, there are no statutes that limit the progress of women in the workplace. However, these attitudes can affect executives’ decisions such as the promotion of workers or recruitment. Thus, one can say that there are tacit institutional barriers which can prevent female workers from strengthening the position in businesses and improving their performance. In many cases, these people feel marginalised in the workplace.

Additionally, one should mention that some entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia understand the need for promoting the employment rights of women. In particular, they try to design programs that can be described as the so-called “affirmative action” (Eleanor 1999, p. 567). For example, one can speak about enterprises that employ only women (Eleanor 1999). Overall, these trends can be explained by the fact that Arab countries are influenced by external factors such globalization and growing contacts between domestic and Western companies (Elamin & Omair 2010). It is possible to argue that women, who have to struggle with discrimination, are less likely to adjust to new working requirements. Very often, they cannot easily accept innovations because this behavior requires ability to take initiatives and play the role of leaders. This is one of the problems that should be addressed by various stakeholders such as policy-makers and managers who may try to introduce new business practices in the workplace.

At present, the government of the country wants to promote the employment of local people and reduce the number of expatriates who currently play the leading role in Saudi businesses (Eleanor 1999). Yet, this policy can be successfully implemented provided that the rights of female employees are supported (Eleanor 1999). Overall, these examples suggest that the needs of female workers in Saudi Arabia should be viewed as one of the main priorities for entrepreneurs and governmental officials. In this way, they can make Saudi businesses more agile and responsive to stressors. These are the main issues that should be singled out.

Yet, researchers also pay attention to socio-cultural norms established in many areas of the Saudi society because they can adversely affect the employment of women and their performance. These norms shape their perceptions, especially their attitudes towards professional career (Elamin & Omair 2010). To a great extent, these norms and values can be viewed the impediments to their professional development (Elamin & Omair 2010). Sometimes, they can discourage them from taking initiatives in the workplace. As a result, their professional growth is significantly impaired.

On the whole, these examples partly confirm the main assumptions imbedded in the theory of reasoned action. In particular, this model highlights the idea that the actions of a person can depend on his/her subjective perception of existing norms and beliefs about a specific behavior (Ajzen & Fishbein 1980). Many of the norms included in the culture of Arab countries do help women become more empowered. Thus, one should develop methods of minimising these adverse influences.

The studies related to innovation emphasise the idea that new practices can address many internal inefficiencies in organisations and spur wider social changes such as the empowerment of women. These practices can advance economic progress and address the needs of those individuals who could be underserved or discriminated in the past (Malhotra et al. 2009). For instance, the transformation of organizational structure and adoption of the open-door policy can reduce the power distance between frontline workers and senior executives. Similarly, the implementation of new technologies can support more efficient and impartial performance appraisal.

The examples included in this section suggest that the government of Saudi Arabia tries to strengthen the economy of the country through various investment projects and development of various industries. However, the problem is not directly related to financial resources or technologies. More likely, this difficulty highlights the necessity for modern business thinking. The following section will explains the background of clothing industry; furthermore it will investigate the behavior of Saudi female employees as well as their perceptions and attitudes. This discussion can illustrate the origins of the problems faced by these businesses and identify the ways in which their performance can be improved.

The role of women in encouraging change

The section will illustrate the responses of women who can express their opinions about their experiences in the workplace. Overall, it is possible to argue that females can respond to the dominant socio-cultural norms in different ways. Some respondents have attempted to protest against the social norms regulating the behavior of women in the workplace (Washington 2007). In contrast, other women try to maximise the benefits that can be derived from adhering to the social norms established in enterprises (Maschke 2013). One should pay attention to the third of group of female workers; in particular, they do not clearly express their discontent with the current rules. Yet, they are forced to struggle with stress; moreover, they attempt to meet expectations imposed on them by society. However, they understand that these rules can be wrought with injustice (Maschke 2013). These are some of the main responses that researchers should take into consideration.

Overall, women respond to gender barriers in different ways. To some degree, these differences can be explained by the fact these norms can affect various experiences of people. For instance, In Saudi Arabia, socio-cultural norms influence female workers’ self-beliefs about their professional career. As a rule, these perceptions prompt them to believe that they are not able to attain professional goals due to the fact that they have other duties such as the education of children (Elamin & Omair 2010). In this case, one can speak about self-fulfilling prophecy which is believed to be the underlying cause of difficulties encountered by women. Overall, the social background of women influences their self-efficacy beliefs which profoundly affect a person’s performance.

One can examine the opinions of different females representing the textile industry. Some of these people prefer to focus on the opinions of their relatives. For example, they may say, ‘‘I say as long as I am convinced of what I am doing and my family agree with that, I don’t care about others’’ (Alsalloom, Agrizzi & Soobaroyen, 2014, p. 26). As a rule, these people try to show that the dominant cultural norms are not always relevant to them.

Some of them display negative attitudes towards the existing norms that can stigmatise a person and make him/her feel guilty. In particular, they may say,

‘‘If you really feel the thing you are doing is wrong it will be wrong, and eventually you will get yourself depressed and leave the field for good’’ (Alsalloom, Agrizzi & Soobaroyen 2014, p. 27).

Such individuals try to find ways of changing their status within various enterprises. Moreover, they do not want to accept the duties imposed on them. As a rule, they play an instrumental role in changing the culture of companies.

One can say that modern Saudi women often express their concerns about the current norms. The main problem is that these norms can specify the roles that a woman should play in the community. However, some of them may not agree with this deterministic view on the status of female workers. So, these individuals try to show that the current rules are not always relevant.

Other females may believe that it is necessary to accept the existing conventions and wait for change (Eleanor 1999). Nevertheless, they usually find it stressful to deal with the gender norms and barriers. As a rule, they cannot easily accept socially-determined gender roles (Alsalloom, Agrizzi & Soobaroyen 2014). As far as the Saudi textile industry is concerned, one can say that female workers try to eliminate gender barriers which adversely influence the performance of individuals and organisations. For instance, some of them may state,

“I believe that there should be more opportunities for women to work; serious considerations should be given to the fact that women are an active part of society” (AlMunajjed 2010, p.12).

In order to address these challenges, women should be motivated and competitive (Alsalloom, Agrizzi & Soobaroyen 2014). Overall, it is not clear how and when the existing socio-cultural norms can evolve in Saudi Arabia. Thus, one should not suppose that the improvements can be introduced by some unknown agents. More likely, women should take initiatives that can be vital for changing the experiences of female employers. For example, one can consider the opinions of a female auditor, who points out,

‘‘I don’t think it’s about encouragement, it’s more the willingness of a person themselves, it’s inside you, you have it or you don’t, either you want to achieve or you don’t’’ (Alsalloom, Agrizzi & Soobaroyen 2014, p. 27).

These cases suggest that Saudi females who are employed in the clothing industry are attempting to introduce a significant change in their societal role. They believe that they have the ability and bargaining power to introduce innovations. In their view, significant improvements can be made. This is one of the main trends that should not be overlooked. However, women working within the clothing industry understand that they must take responsibility for their professional roles if they want to strengthen their competiveness relative to male employees. This strategy can be critical for improving the performance of these people in the workplace. Apart from that, they understand that this change cannot be attained immediately. These worldviews can help them attain long-term success.

Previous Studies

There have been several studies that are aimed at examining the adoption of innovative practices in the workplace. They can be related to different areas such as new technologies, dress code, performance appraisal, quality control methods, and other elements of performance. Some of these studies have certain strengths. In particular, some of them can highlight the factors that can contribute to the success of innovation adoption. For instance, researchers speak about employees’ beliefs about improvements and benefits of the new policy (Suliman 2013). Apart from that, they illustrate the ways in which employees can be motivated (Amar 2004). This knowledge has significant implications for businesses trying to adopt new strategies. Overall, researchers identify independent variables that influence innovation. This approach can assist managers who want to introduce innovations, and the findings derived during these studies are very valuable.

Furthermore, scholars show how one can make employees more open to innovation (Van der Sluis 2004). In other words, researchers demonstrate how to turn innovation into an inseparable part of the workplace environment (Van der Sluis 2004). Additionally, researchers emphasise the need to promote the creativity of employees since this behavior is conducive to innovation (Martens 2011). The main advantage of such studies is that they can be used for designing everyday operations of the company. Moreover, the previous studies can explain how to make innovations more efficient. So, they can have profound implications for the work of companies that may represent different fields including the textile industry.

Yet, there are some limitations that should not be overlooked. In particular, researchers do not use any specific theory of organisational change. The absence of a certain model can prevent researchers from understanding behavioral changes at organisational and individuals levels. Secondly, they do not show why an individual may reject innovations; secondly, they do not explain how the attitudes of employees are shaped. There are many approaches and concepts which can be suitable for such studies, for example, theory of reasoned action, trans-theoretical model, human capital and so forth. The absence of a specific model can be a very strong barrier to understanding the behavior of individuals and groups. Furthermore, the previous studies do not throw light on how innovations can be implemented by people who can be discriminated. In the past, these individuals could be discouraged from taking initiatives or acting as leaders. Thus, one should find ways of meeting their needs. In particular, one should understand how innovations can influence these workers. To some degree, this study is going to fill these gaps.

The strengths of different theories

Human capital theory

It is possible to consider several models that may be applicable to this study. For instance, one can discuss human capital theory which implies that the performance of an individual in the workplace depends on his/her investment in human capital. In this case, the term capital includes such elements as education, skills, ability to use technologies, creativity, and so forth (Smith-Hunter 2006, p. 31). In other words, one should speak about every attribute that can help a person achieve a specific goal. To some degree, these investments can also be made by businesses that want to improve their productivity. This theory is beneficial because it can throw light on the variety of factors that can influence the work of an individual, including his/her attitude to innovation. Managers implementing innovation should focus on the educational background of an employee and the skills that he/she possesses. Moreover, this approach can demonstrate how one can minimise a person’s apprehension of innovative technologies or business practices. In part, this goal can be achieved through continuous professional development. Thus, this approach is also valuable for showing how to make workforce more open to innovation. In this case, much attention should be paid to the on-the-job training which can be useful for raising professional level of female employees in the clothing industry of Saudi Arabia. Another strength of this model is that it has been tested in business settings, especially the design of training programs (Valerio, Parton, & Robb 2014).

Social cognitive theory

Apart from that, one should consider cognitive theory according to which a person forms his/her attitude towards a certain action by observing the behavior of other people who can be viewed as the role models. There are three important components included in this model, namely, self-efficacy of an individual, the perceptions of future expectation, and personal goals (Adams 2007, p. 62). Very often, they can be shaped by external environment (Adams 2007, p. 62). Moreover, this individual can emulate the behavior of others, if he/she sees that it is rewarded in a certain way (Adams 2007). This model is helpful because it demonstrates what kind of factors that can motivate a person; for instance, one can refer to the perceived benefits of a certain behavior. Additionally, this theory can explain why a person can adopt a negative attitude towards innovation. For example, this difficulty can arise if employees see that improved performance does not lead to encouragement or rewards. Furthermore, this framework implies that a new behavior may not be adopted if it is not modeled appropriately. In other words, employees may not understand how innovative practices can be implemented (Adams 2007). This theory is useful because it can highlight the challenges that should be anticipated by the management at the time when they introduce innovation in the workplace. Moreover, its principles have been applied to implement change at the organizational levels; in this case, one should speak about the work of medical institutions (Beidas, Carnell, & Kendall 2014, p. 74). So, it can show how a person can respond to innovation. These are the main benefits that can be singled out.

Planned Behavior

Much attention should also be paid to the theory of planned behavior. According to this framework, the behavior of a person is determined by a person’s beliefs about the outcomes of an action, subjective norms, and perceived control over behavior (Armitage 2010). To a great extent, this model is derived from the theory of reasoned action. The main strength of this theory is that it has significant predictive ability (Brannon & Feist 2009). In other words, it is useful for describing the way in which a person’s attitudes can be formed and how he/she can respond to the initiatives of managers who try to introduce innovations. Apart from that, this approach can be useful for explaining the differences between the intentions of an individual and his/her actions. Thus, it complements the theory of reasoned action. Moreover, it is beneficial for describing the way in which social norms can influence the actions of a person. This framework implies that a person can be influenced by the behavior of people whose opinions he/she values. The main advantage of this theory is that it lays stress on such a notion as the perceived control over a certain behavior such as the adoption of innovation (Contento 2010). For example, an employee may be willing to adopt an innovation. Nevertheless, he/she may reject this change, if there is no institutional support. This problem can arise, if the organisation does not offer the necessary resources such as technologies. So, this theory is useful for predicting the intentions of a person, his/her actions and possible discrepancies between intentions and behaviors. These are some of the main strengths that should be distinguished.

Trans-theoretical model

Furthermore, one should pay attention to the trans-theoretical model describing the stages describing the change in a person’s behavior (Cooper 2011). This approach can be applied to the adoption of innovation. It is possible to distinguish such stages as “pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance” (Shepherd & Raats 2006, p. 346). The major advantage of this approach is that it can explain why a person may reject innovative practices. For instance, an employee can do it, if he/she underestimates the benefits of new behavior. Additionally, this failure can occur at the stage of contemplation, if the management does not clearly identify clear strategies for implementing a specific innovation (Shepherd & Raats 2006). Apart from that, this model is helpful since it shows how management can strengthen the commitment of workers. For example, they can provide encouragement to people who have been able to adopt new practices. So, this framework is useful for developing step-by-step plan for introducing innovations. Moreover, this approach does not overlook the influence of beliefs and attitudes. These are the main advantages that should not be disregarded by the managers of businesses representing the clothing industry.

The comparison of alternative theories with TRA

Overall, it is possible to compare the concept of human capital with the theory of reasoned action (TRA). For instance, both of them recognise that the level of a person’s skill is an important determinant of a person’s behavior and his/her intentions (Sweiby 2012). Admittedly, competence influences a person’s beliefs and attitudes towards behavior including innovation. Nevertheless, TRA also implies that competence cannot be the only criterion, because there are many skilled professionals who can be reluctant to accept change due to some reasons (Sweiby 2012). In fact, this reluctance to embrace change is a very widespread phenomenon which can be observed in organisations employing very experienced and competent workers. An individual can accept organizational changes such as innovations, if he/she believes that this action is beneficial and achievable. In turn, human capital theory does not explain why an individual can be reluctant to adopt innovative practices, even though he/she has the sufficient expertise to do it (Sweiby 2012). This is one of the advantages that TRA has. Apart from that, one should keep in mind that human capital theory has been applied to explain the differences in wages or other important outcomes such as performance. Yet, it is not used to explain the changes in organizational and individual behavior. In particular, this model is not fully suitable for explaining the transformation of a person’s beliefs (Carpenter, Pollock, & Leary 2003). In turn, TRA has been applied to the study of organizational behavior as well as change.

One can also juxtapose TRA with social cognitive theory. There are several important similarities that can be distinguished. In both cases, the attitudes of an individual and his/her views of the established norms are described as the critical forces that influence people’s intentions and subsequent actions (Beidas et al. 2014). These variables are influenced by external environment, especially the behavior of other people who may act as role models (Adams 2007). So, the assumptions imbedded in these theories bear resemblance to one another. Nevertheless, the theory of reasoned action implies that it is possible to weigh the importance of subjective norms and personal beliefs. One of them can play a more important role in influencing the behavioral intent of a person. In turn, social cognitive theory does not offer this opportunity. This framework cannot explain the interactions between these variables. Apart from that, TRA implies that an individual can observe behaviors that can be based on different values or assumptions. For example, an employee can interact with colleagues who have different attitudes towards innovative practices. In turn, social cognitive theory does not show how a person can respond to conflicting messages originating from external environment. In turn, the use of weights included in TRA is beneficial for addressing this problem. This is why this model is more useful in this specific context.

Furthermore, it is possible to compare theories of planned behavior and reasoned action. In many ways, they are very similar to one another. In both cases, researchers focus on the attitudes and subjective norms that can be regarded as the factors shaping behavioral intentions and actions (Armitage 2010). Each of them has been used for predicting the behavior of individuals. However, one should keep in mind that the theory of planned behavior incorporates additional variables such as behavioral control (Armitage 2010). As it has been said before, this model can show why a person may fail to adopt a certain behavior, even if he/she wants to. This is one of the reasons why it may be applied for this study. Apart from that, the theory of planned behavior has been confirmed in many empirical studies (Brannon & Feist 2009). Nevertheless, TRA has been used to describe and predict organizational change (Carpenter et al. 2003). Furthermore, this approach has been applied to explain how a person treats innovative technologies (Coleman et al. 2011). These attributes of this theory may be relevant to textile companies that intend to use new workplace procedures or install new equipment. In turn, theory of planned behavior has been mostly used for analyzing health-related lifestyles such as dietary habits (Brannon & Feist 2009, p. 49). Yet, such behavior changes are not related to organisational behavior and innovation adoption. So, currently the scope of its application remains rather limited. This is why the theory of reasoned action is more appropriate for the needs of this study.

Apart from that, it is possible to compare TRA with trans-theoretical model. In both cases, much attention is paid to the perceptions and attitudes of a person who needs to implement innovation. This component plays an important role in shaping the behavior of a person. Nevertheless, TRA incorporates the notion of subjective norms. For instance, a person is more likely to accept innovation, if he/she sees that it is accepted by colleagues, especially those ones whose opinions are of great value to him/her. In turn, trans-theoretical model cannot explain this peculiarity. The main advantage of TRA is that it can help management anticipate the negative influence of peer pressure. Trans-theoretical approach can be used to develop a specific plan for adopting new forms of behavior. Nevertheless, this approach has been applied to describe the actions of a person who wants to change his/her lifestyles (Cooper 2011). For instance, one can speak about people intending to quit smoking (Cooper 2011). In contrast, TRA have been applied for diverse purposes. This is why TRA can be used for the needs of this study. Admittedly, this approach also has certain limitations, such as the inability to explain the differences between intentions and actual behavior. This weakness should be taken into account. However, this shortcoming can be overcome, if the management identifies and provides the resources that are necessary for adjusting to innovation. These are the main aspects that can be singled out.


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