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Changing society: pioneering women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia.

Algahtani, Sosan


Sosan Algahtani


Alistair Anderson


The research examines the role of institutions influencing Saudi female entrepreneurs, and how they became enabled to be social agents and institutional entrepreneurs in a very traditional, family-orientated society - albeit facing pressures to change. In acknowledging the uniqueness of the social-cultural context in Saudi Arabia, this study adopts a qualitative design. Specifically, purposive and snowball sampling techniques were implemented to gather primary qualitative data. The data draw on 31 interviews with female entrepreneurs residing in Jeddah, capturing the practical experiences of these entrepreneurs, and their engagement with the informal and formal institutions of their immediate societal surroundings. The analysis relies on the constant-comparative method (Anderson and Jack 2015) to illicit the meanings and implications taken from context, and also how this informs the day-to-day activities of the entrepreneur (Anderson et al. 2012). This study has found that existing institutions both constrain and enable Saudi women's entrepreneurship. In particular, the obligations and responsibility of Arab families are turned into an advantage, in the form of a patient resource base or networks of knowledge development. We saw too how pioneering efforts, in conjunction with other change, have begun to modestly alter the opportunity structure in Saudi Arabia, with the entrepreneur acting as an agent of change. Saudi women's entrepreneurship is thus best characterised as a recursive process between these entrepreneurs and the social system, which is an essential resource for - and product of - situated actions. This research makes a modest contribution to the long-running discussions on women's entrepreneurship in the context of the Arab world. The findings cannot suggest that it is going to be easy or smooth for future women entrepreneurs; traditions continue and there are also vested patriarchal interests. Nonetheless, increasing numbers of Saudi women are involved in growing their businesses. These pioneers have changed society; a modest, but progressive change for the better. This study has several implications. First, the produced empirical findings have highlighted certain areas for further improvement of female entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia, which goes in keeping with Saudi Vision 2030 and the expected role of women in the social and economic development of Saudi Arabia. Second, this study has contributed to the existing body of knowledge and understanding of what institutional barriers and challenges Saudi female entrepreneurs face and how they could be overcome at a national level.


ALGAHTANI, S. 2022. Changing society: pioneering women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis. Hosted on OpenAIR [online]. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 1, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jun 1, 2022
Keywords Women entrepreneurs; Female entrepreneurs; Saudi Arabia
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