Women working in Saudi Arabia

Can a Woman Work in Saudi Arabia?


Having had the opportunity to work for and visit many companies in Saudi Arabia I have seen very few women working in Saudi Arabia. It is not that they are not allowed to work as they can, but they hardly encouraged or aided to become fully capable and productive employees due to the rules regarding what women can and cannot do socially.


Rules for Women Working in KSA


A woman cannot be alone with a man who is not her direct blood relative (brother, father or son) or her Husband. If she is found to be alone she will be tried and punished for lewdness or worse and the potential sentences are staggering with lashes being implemented every Friday. Women therefore cannot mix alone with other men which can make many business situations very difficult and potentially quite dangerous for both parties. So in the west where you may have the sexy sales rep visit you in your office to convince you to avail of their companies services; In Saudi Arabia this could get both of you arrested, jailed and deported if you are an expat.

Can Women Work in Saudi ArabiaThe law of the land in Saudi Arabia requires that working women are separated from the men and have their own area and facilities where they can be fully protected from the men within the company. Companies that employ women are inspected to ensure that these rules are followed and penalties can be imposed if a company  is not  fully complying with the regulations.

Travel is also a major issue, women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia, combined with the rule regarding mixing with the opposite sex it can make things very difficult. Strictly a woman should not travel in a taxi or have a driver who is not a blood relative. This is generally overlooked but if you get a police officer on a bad day or a matawa trying to make a point you could be in for a very bad day and this does happen from time to time. This means that any woman who wants to work has to have a driver to chauffeur her to work and home and runs a risk of imprisonment if the driver is not her blood relative. I have seen young boys maybe only 10 years old driving their mothers so as not to run afoul of this issue.


Where can a Woman Work in Saudi Arabia?


So with all of these problems it is difficult to find employment as you would in the west, there are few places you could work where you would be considered safe and proper. If you walk into any mall in Saudi Arabia and go from store to store you will be unlikely to see a female member of staff, In all my time I saw one store that had female staff and that was a dress shop and only women or families were allowed to enter with little of what was inside being visible from outside. That being said there is currently a drive to make the underwear sections to be more private in stores and to have them staffed by female employees which will provide more opportunities for women in the kingdom to be able to sell nickers and bras.


In all of the companies that I visited or worked at apart from hospitals and one company I never saw any female employees or knew of any working there. The one company that I knew where women worked was a company out of Dubai and was run by people far more open than most other companies that I had been into, they employed several women in various positions that mixed freely with all of the staff.

Hospitals of course contain many female workers from doctors and nurses through to the cleaning and administration staff. This seems to be the greatest employer of women by far in the kingdom although most of the employees are expatriate female workers such as Filipino nurses. Second to the hospitals are the various schools and universities, obviously the Saudis have their girls schooled separately and the staff in the schools are all female.

You will also see separate entrances into various banks that are for women only where women can deal with female staff in a man free environment.

Women Working in Saudi ArabiaMost other female workers tend to work in the cleaning industry being bussed from dormitories where they are locked away after work or as domestic staff for many families across the kingdom. Many female domestics have very poor wages, poor conditions and are often verbally and physically abused and even raped. You see stories on the news occasionally of what some poor women are put through, but on the whole most women are unable to complain and have to escape from abusive employers, often ending up living and working elsewhere illegally or waiting for deportation under a bridge in Jeddah or camped outside their own embassy. At times the way Saudis treat expats can be very inhumane and would lead to a court case in most countries and eventually jail.

It is far from easy to work as a woman in KSA, yet the work ethic of the women that I have met there is far better than any Saudi Male and the education and level of common sense is usually far superior. Personally I would rather see women working in Saudi Arabia than the men as they are far more friendly and productive!

13 comments for “Women working in Saudi Arabia

  1. Anbreen Naz Mohammad
    September 12, 2012 at 7:59 am

    Hi, i am seeking for a job here i m currently on a visit visa. Can i apply for a job here and if i get selected is it possible they will provide me work visa. please inform me as i am really seeking for this answer

    • admin
      September 14, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      Hi Anbreen

      If you do find work you will have to leave the country and return on a work visa. You cannot work on a visit visa. You do not have to go all the way home, you could go across the border to Bahrain or fly to Dubai and process your visa from there if you have all of the paperwork that they will require.

  2. Elena
    September 18, 2012 at 5:03 am

    Hi, my husband and I are thinking of moving in the Kingdom for a couple of years to earn some money and then leave. My husband is a manager and I am an architect. From what I’ve read on your website, he will probably find a job and I will surely stay home all day and try to work from home or drive myself crazy. If we do move and live in a gated community will it be possible for me to spend time outside my home (attached to my husband of course) wearing normal european clothing? Or will I be forced to wear a abaya?
    Do you know european women in this position? Thanks alot!

    • admin
      November 7, 2012 at 4:59 pm

      Hi Elena

      Living on a compound is like living in western holiday camp most of the time.. Most compounds have pools and other facilities and most ban Saudi dress – so yes you can wear what you like, even relax in your bikini beside the pool. Many couples live on various compounds and most women as you say are very much restricted to living their life out on compound. Some do find work as school teachers in the international schools and similar positions but this can be a little dodgy as you should only work for your sponsor and your sponsor will be your husband.
      When you leave compound however you will have to cover up and the abaya is very much compulsory.
      A gated community is not really how most would describe them as you enter under the firing line of automatic weapons and in some compounds armored cars and tanks! Security is very tight for the compounds and it can take a little getting used to at first.
      Internet is usually quite good so if you can do your work from home then there is nothing to stop you working from the compound. There are jobs available for women, I know of at least two women working in design in major development companies in Saudi, but you would then be under the control of your sponsor and could suffer with regards to being made to live in a different city, refused holidays and exit visas when your husband wants and so forth.
      Good luck, enjoy your earnings and the tax free money – always worth it!

  3. a
    October 3, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    there are many limitations

  4. Ayesha Arif
    November 1, 2012 at 3:43 am

    AOA, I am going to get married with a person who has transferable visa in KSA Riyadh. Currently, i am enjoying good career in Pakistan at some management level in a multinational Bank. I am very much worried taht since an year i am applying in banks in riyadh so that i can again enjoy the benefits of my career, but i hv not received any response.in April 2013 i will be coming to Riyadh on my permanent transferable visa. Can u guide me how to get job in banks in Saudi Arabia
    Ayesha Arif

    • admin
      November 7, 2012 at 4:43 pm

      Hi Ayesha,
      If you are coming to Saudi to be with your spouse and they are your sponsor you cannot work. Within Saudi you can only work for your sponsor.
      When you get to Saudi you can apply for jobs but if you find one the company would have to become your sponsor.

  5. Sandra
    February 19, 2013 at 1:47 am

    Can a woman vısıt a man ın hospıtal
    ıf she ıs not marrıed to hım?
    my fınacee ıs ıll at the moment there and thınkıng to go to hım
    could ı get a vısa as a sıngle woman and vısıt hım ın thıs case
    he ıs egyptıan muslım

  6. sara
    March 18, 2013 at 9:13 am

    can you reveal the name of that dubai company you mentioned?

  7. D
    May 2, 2013 at 10:55 pm


    A great opportunity to work in KSA has come up for the company I work in however, I am a single mother with two little girls.

    From reading your website it looks like this opportunity is not something I should be even considering.

    Could a single mother live and work in the KSA?
    Many thanks,

  8. Elizabeth Hutto
    January 12, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    My husband has been offered a job through dow chemical company and we are thinking about taking it. I am a nurse of 20years here in the states. I was wondering what the nursing market is like? Do they have contact companies for nursing? How hard is it for an american nurse to get a job over there?

  9. Monisa
    February 20, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Hi me is Monisa. iam an Architect and my husband is an computer expert. i want to work in suadi arabia. can i work in some consultancy if my husband give me pick and drop to office. what are the possibilities of getting job in Saudi Arabia.

  10. iqra
    January 23, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    hi, I am a divorced women and a Doctor, can i apply for job in saudi..

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