Removing the Veil: A Saudi Woman Speaks Out

Removing the Veil:  A Saudi Woman Speaks Out




Because the Saudi woman is typically covered and veiled, she is generally viewed by Western cultures with a sense of mystique.  Westerners wonder how she lives; how she thinks; what her general day-to-day life is like.  One Saudi woman kindly agreed to respond to my questions and share a bit of herself and her life and her views.




  1. To begin, tell a little bit about yourself such as your general age range, your background such as are you married or single and whether or not you work outside of the home.

I am 29 years old, married and have one beautiful daughter and expecting my second child. I am a medical doctor and continuing with post graduate studies. Up to now I have always been studying or working except during maternity leave after I had my daughter. 



  1. Were you working before or after your marriage?  How has your husband accepted having a professional working wife?  I understand that among Saudi men the level of support and understanding to a working wife can vary.

I got married during the last year of medical school and I was very clear with my husband that I intended to continue with my studies and in the future work. He did not interfere with my professional life, nor was he a demanding Saudi husband; none the less he did not offer much help with house work.



  1. What motivated or inspired you to go into the field of medicine?

My mother was my inspiration and strength that lead me to enter and continue studying medicine.  She is not a typical Saudi mother; she provided and raised us to believe that the sky is our limits regardless of the constraints from the culture.




  1. How easy is it to manage being a wife, a mother, a physician and a student – all at the same time!?  What have been some of the challenges you have had to face with your busy lifestyle?

It is difficult and challenging due to the nature of our culture and all the expectations of women in regards of family and social commitments. Before I had my daughter it was manageable; however, thereafter I had to change from practicing as a clinician to being an academic. Both I and my husband have very long working hours in addition to my night duties and unfortunately it is nearly impossible to find a high standard nursery that has long working hours. Most of the schools finish between 12 and 1 pm. Therefore I had to change my priorities and my daughter’s well being was my number one priority.




  1. What has been your experience as a Saudi woman working in a professional environment that is only partially segregated?

     It’s a unique experience in some ways for me as a Saudi and a shared experience with other women around the world. I am working in a mans world, therefore if I am pregnant and feel tired; I should ignore that feeling because I chose to work I could have sat at home.

In dealing with other men at work I have to be careful not to get too friendly otherwise I would be mistaken to be easy going. In doing so I have maintained my respect and up to now did not encounter an awkward situations.




  1. What has it been like working in a multi-cultural environment with individuals from vastly different backgrounds, cultures, customs and languages?  What have been some of the experiences you have encountered in this capacity?

It has been and still remains an interesting and versatile environment to work in. Where you meet people from different parts of the world with fascinating backgrounds and cultures. The main experience that I have encountered with people from developed countries is that upon arriving they have a massive culture shock. They usually have difficulty accepting all the regulations and boundaries that they must abide by. However I do try to explain that this country has only been established a number of decades ago; where it was previously a desert with the majority of people being illiterate. Hopefully the situation will improve and we may have a chance to become a developed country in the future.




  1. What do you see as the most predominant opportunities for Saudi women?

The most sought position for the majority of Saudi women is teaching due to its short working hours and long holidays. Therefore women would be able to take care of their children and husbands.

However this again varies as there are many Saudi women who want to be more and do more, a prominent example is studying medicine and becoming physicians.

Most of the opportunities that are available for women to choose from depend on what they want. However women can not study law, architecture or engineering.



  1. This may be a bit delicate but I have to ask, do you feel that most of the Saudi working women take their jobs seriously and are dedicated to their job and profession?

I would say that the Saudi population in general needs to be enlightened in regards of being professionals and exhibiting professional behavior. In regards of women taking their jobs seriously; in the field of medicine where it is predominately males, women need to work harder in order to survive and progress with their profession.



9.      Because of the high expectations on the Saudi woman to manage it all – husband, children, job and home, does this impact on the way in which a Saudi woman is perceived in the workforce?

Well you are still perceived as a woman who has to do everything at once with out compromising the job and taking any time off. We have strict rules and regulations in regards of maternity leave. It is difficult to come back for half time and more difficult to get an extended maternity leave.



10.                   You responded to what you view as the most predominant opportunities for Saudi women.  Now let’s look ahead to the future.  What new opportunities do you hope to see opening up for Saudi women in the Kingdom?  And when do you think they’ll be able to achieve these opportunities?

As I mentioned above women can not study law, engineering and architecture. However a lot of private universities are being established, therefore I do think that this will change in the near future.




11.       What advise would you give to the young Saudi women who are either completing high school or have recently started university?

I advise them to aim for the sky and set their goals high and try as hard as possible to achieve. They should never think that marriage is a goal; it happens if it is meant to be. They should not prioritize marriage over their education and professional future.



  1. What are some of the most typical questions expats in the Kingdom typically ask you as a professional Saudi woman?

How do you tolerate all the restrictions and regulations for women in Saudi Arabia?



  1. And in closing, what message would you like to deliver to non-Saudis about the women in Saudi Arabia?

We are women like women any where, we cry we laugh we hurt we go through all the feeling women around the world go through. However we need to fight more to reach what other women may reach with less effort and struggle.




    Again, thank you very much for kindly sharing your views and    perspectives.





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