Women and Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia

Introduction

The following research is focused on women and entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia and is investigating whether women’s entrepreneurial micro businesses can grow in Saudi Arabia. It discusses the women entrepreneurs who have excelled in Saudi Arabia thereby setting pace for other entrepreneurs to emulate. It looks into the characteristics that make women entrepreneurs. It investigates the barriers that women operating micro businesses face in their attempt to expand their businesses. The research also investigates the solutions to the barriers and challenges that the entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia face in their entrepreneurial endeavour.

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Introduction of Women entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia

The wife of Prophet Muhammad who was a great entrepreneur and a successful businessperson embodies involvement of women in entrepreneurship activities in Saudi Arabia. She served as an inspiration to women in Saudi Arabia and many women have justified their engagement in entrepreneurial activities from this role model. However, it has not been an easy way for women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia due to the parental responsibilities that restrict them. Access to capital has also been a challenge to women entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia. Government regulations have also hindered the desire of women in micro businesses to expand their businesses. Women have however risen against those odds and they established micro businesses out of their small savings and family support. This research investigates how women in micro businesses obtain capital. It looks into what the government is doing to increase women participation in businesses.

Project background

The country is counted as one that oppresses women due to its previous conservative policies. It has however changed its policies especially in the fields of registering businesses, funding, and administrating in the country.

This project is based on Saudi Arabian women in Jeddah. It investigates the number of women who are involved in micro businesses in Saudi Arabia. In addition, the project specifically looks into whether the women in Saudi Arabia are enjoying the benefits of changes in policy and perception of Saudi culture that allows women to participate in entrepreneurship activities. This project investigates whether women have benefited from the change in government policies as well as increased participation of women in country’s administration.

Terms of reference

Objectives

The objective of this research is to investigate the barriers that women in Saudi Arabia face in their attempt to grow their micro businesses.

The second objective is to investigate whether women entrepreneurs in micro businesses have utilized the formal sources of capital to start or expand their businesses.

The third objective is to investigate how women in businesses manage to balance their business and family roles.

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Stakeholders

The stakeholders in this project are women involved in micro businesses in Saudi Arabia because this project is intended to help them to expand their businesses. The results of this study will be used in developing the policy that can help women in micro businesses in Saudi Arabia expand their businesses using the formal sources of capital.

Limitations

This study is limited in a way that it will only investigate the development in Khuwalid business centre and not in the whole country as this may be costly in terms of financial resources and work force to analyse the data.

Project methodology

This project uses qualitative methods of research. It uses a representative sample of women entrepreneurs in Jeddah, and they are members of Khuwalid business centre. It uses the interviews as the data collection tool. The research uses a sample of five women who are involved in different micro businesses. The interviews investigate five aspects of their businesses in terms of their experience during the development, their way of managing the human resources, their sources of initial capital and the outlook that the women entrepreneurs have concerning the future of their businesses.

Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship refers to the activity or the process of starting up a new business venture. Business is different from entrepreneurship although people normally take the two terms to mean the same. Business is the activity of trading that involves exchange of goods and services. Entrepreneurship is the activity of establishing a new business and is a skill that requires time, resources and knowledge (Drucker 1974). Entrepreneurship is careful management of the business as profitability may involve expanding the business to other frontiers, which will increase the sales. It will involve the business management capability, human resource management and technology to give the business advantages over the competitors. Entrepreneurship requires innovation or creation of new products and presenting them in the market.

Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia

Entrepreneurship is a fundamental pillar of the economy as it involves creation of new businesses and investment opportunities that lead to economic growth of the country (Swedberg 2009). Due to this understanding of the benefits of entrepreneurship, the government should not underestimate the need to incorporate women into the economic development of the country. Women have been particularly enterprising in the country. Due to the cultural restrictions, the country does not have a history of women entrepreneurs (The World Bank 2007). However, as shown below in this discussion there are women who have cut a niche in the world of entrepreneurship and are doing well (Livingston 2007).

The existing data indicates that 4.5 percent of the businesses registered in Saudi Arabia belong to women (Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2003). However, this may not be a true reflection of women participation in businesses because many women prefer to register their businesses after the name of either their husband or male counterpart to minimise the restrictions and regulations that target many women entrepreneurs. Many of these businesses registered under women’s names are in the informal sector such as tailoring shops and fashion stores. Many of the Saudi women entrepreneurs prefer to venture out or stick to the informal businesses rather than the formal businesses due to the regulations and restrictions placed by the government on women (Younis 2009).

How can Saudi women increase their participation in entrepreneurship?

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There are several ways in which Saudi women can increase their participation in entrepreneurship. The first one boils down to gaining appropriate education or training in the field that they want to venture. This is very important because they will understand better the business they want to engage in as well as what they can perform better. The quality of their services increases and they are able to attract more customers and retain them in the business. Training in a particular field, especially obtaining technical expertise gives the entrepreneur an edge over their competitors. It makes them produce services or products that are differentiated from competitor products.

When they become competitive, they will perform well in the market, and this will lead to the increased sales due to the increasing number of customers who demand the services provided. This promotes the women entrepreneur in the business or new venture. Therefore, Saudi women can increase their participation in entrepreneurship by acquiring technical skills in manufacturing and production (Younis 2009). The Saudi women must also learn the processes involved in the production of the goods and services within the businesses that they operate. Training offered by financial institutions would certainly increase women participation in business in Saudi Arabia (Abdullah 2010).

Other than the formal training, Saudi women can increase their participation in entrepreneurship opportunities by learning how to manage and combine their family roles with their business roles. For Saudi women, the role they play in their family cannot be underscored, Saudi norms and culture do not take it lightly if any woman does not pay enough attention to her family. This therefore makes women stick to businesses that allow them to participate in the lives of their families. Thus, learning how to manage the work roles will increase women participation in entrepreneurship (Livingston 2007).

Women can increase their participation in business through development of business environment that supports women. Currently, the existing policies restrict participation of women in entrepreneurship. When women are encouraged to start business they will work hard to ensure that they manage the available resources well and succeed in everything they do (Younis 2009).

Determining business opportunities and challenges

The first business opportunity for women is in the informal sector. This is an area where women have dominated in their expertise. One of such areas includes the provision of services. This area presents a huge opportunity for women to engage in business. Services such as catering, event management and interior designs present an opportunity for women entrepreneurs to exploit (The Ministry of Economy and Planning, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 2005). The other major opportunity that cannot be ignored by women entrepreneurs involves the master plan of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to open an all women industrial city (The Ministry of Economy and Planning, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 2010). This city is designed for women only. Its purpose is to allow women work in the industries just like men but it should be within the confines of sharia law, which does not allow interaction of unrelated men and women in private areas. This city gives women entrepreneurs who have passion for production or who have an expertise in industrial work an opportunity to exploit or display their skills. This presents Saudi women with a rare opportunity to participate in formal businesses, which have usually been men’s prerogative.

The fact that Saudi Arabia is a country that continually attracts different people to perform religious rites and visit its magnificent cities is a great opportunity that women entrepreneurs should exploit to gain better understanding of the business opportunities that exist in the country. Knowledge of services to be offered to tourists such as Saudi clothing and antique materials may be an opportunity for businesspersons. The other crucial opportunity presented in Saudi Arabia is the entry of women in places of administration such as the Jeddah a chamber of commerce. This makes it easy for women to lobby policies that are friendly to them as well as policies that will expose them to avenues and opportunities of entrepreneurship (Alstete, 2003).

The Khuwalid business centre is another avenue that presents opportunities to women entrepreneurs by providing networking opportunities as well as opportunities that will allow them to enhance their business management skills.

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Irrespective of the above-mentioned opportunities in Saudi Arabia, there are certain challenges that restrict women entrepreneurs from exploiting their potential. The first challenge relates to the access to funds, since women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia have a challenge in accessing capital sources to start their businesses. Women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia mostly rely on their personal savings as well as funds provided by their families to support their businesses (Alshemari 2000).

The second challenge that women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia face is balancing their family and business roles. Most probably, a woman will have to sacrifice her family time in order to manage the business. It is therefore a challenge for women entrepreneurs to manage the demands of their families as well as businesses (Lundström 2005).

The other challenge relates to the restrictions imposed by the Saudi government on women that refer to the registration of the business. The Saudi authorities require any woman registering a formal business to have a male manager. This shows that a woman cannot register a business on her own. Although recently government departments for women who want to register their businesses have been created, bureaucracy affects them, and in the end it takes more time than the normal registration process done by men. These restrictions prevent many women entrepreneurs from venturing into entrepreneurship where they operate their own businesses. The other major restriction pertaining to women who want to venture into business is that they do not drive, which means that they have to hire or have a driver to take them to their business locations. This increases the operational cost of the business and makes it hard for women entrepreneurs to engage in businesses that are far from their residential places. The other restriction issue relates to the access of formal sources of capital. Women entrepreneurs do not have access to formal sources of capital, for instance, if they have a business idea and want to get formal capital such as loans to start the business.

Methodology

Methodology refers to the methods used in collecting data, determining the sample used for the analysis of the data as well as methods used to analyse the data and reach conclusions. The methodology influences the outcome of the research and findings. Selecting appropriate methodology that relates to the information needed is imperative in making the findings of the survey or the research accurate and authentic (Creswell 2003). This research uses the qualitative method of data collection and a stratified sample rather than the random sample in selecting the respondents to participate in the interview or provide the required data. The random selection of data involves the creation of a positive way of dealing with sample collection and in the determination of the resources pertaining to the research. Methodology determines the appropriate resources needed to make the research successful (Bradley 2010).

Interviews

Interviews are a qualitative method of collecting data. It is especially useful in collecting data that requires personal opinions or views on a particular issue and cannot be classified in terms of amount or quantity (Patton 2002). The interviews present an opportunity to get information from women entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia and the challenges that they face. The other aspect concerning the interviews relates to collecting a huge amount of personal data, which has variability from each of the source hence making it an important tool in data collection (Bradley 2010).

Development of interview questions

The interview questions are split into three major categories. The first category relates to the entrepreneurs development of business. It involves questions on how the entrepreneur conceived the business idea and implemented this idea. It looks into various ways in which entrepreneurs evaluate their business ideas before implementing those ideas. The other aspect that is imperative for the business is developing an appropriate way of dealing with the customers. The second part of interview questions relates to the development of appropriate strategies that will ensure the success of the business and development of the resources that will help to establish an appropriate way of dealing with the business. The interviews help to obtain information on the women entrepreneur’s sources of initial capital. It also seeks to figure out how the entrepreneur deals with the customers.

The second aspect of the interview involves looking into how the entrepreneurs deal with another important aspect of the business, which is the employees, especially the male employees who may feel uncomfortable working with a woman as their boss. The aim of these questions is to investigate whether there are changes in the attitude among men to women who are managing their own business. The other part of the interviews looks into how women entrepreneurs manage their work and family roles. This is because the management of those two roles is critical for the success of the business. The final aspect included when developing the interviews relates to the challenges that the women entrepreneurs have faced in the development of their businesses. It looks into the encouragement that woman entrepreneurs have to offer to other aspiring women entrepreneurs. This makes the interviews an imperative scope that will provide the required information on entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia (Bradley 2010).

Reflection

The interview sample will look into different emerging businesses that Saudi women are engaging in their entrepreneurial endeavour. The interviews seek to explain the capability of the businesses in Saudi Arabia and women’s success strategies in those businesses. The first finding is that the interviews affirm the previous suggestions that Saudi women are likely to obtain initial investment from the family or personal investments rather than the formal sources of capital.

Sources of initial capital

Almost all women interviewed indicated that their sources of capital were either from their parents or from personal savings that they had. The other finding regarding their personal attributes shows that women interviewed indicated that they had a sense of taking risks and took different kinds of risks only if they felt that the risks were manageable. This finding affirms the risk taking attributes of the entrepreneurs.

Risk taking

In regards to how they identify their business ideas, most of them indicated that the idea was a result of their imagination on how to solve a particular problem. Some of them however indicated that their idea was the passion that they had for business and that they had to follow that passion. Concerning the personal sacrifices that they had to make to succeed in business, most of them indicated that they had to sacrifice family time in order to devote that time to the business (Abdul Ghafour 2010).

Time sacrificed

How can women exploit the business opportunities?

Women in Saudi Arabia can exploit the existing business opportunities in a number of ways. The first way is by networking with other businesspersons who are in the business and can help them start their businesses. The Saudi women can exploit the existing business opportunities by looking into the current business opportunities without having to restrict themselves in one field. For instance, there are many women businesspersons in the sector of fashion design but few in financial services, which represent an opportunity for the women to exploit (Abdullah 2007).

Taking advantage of the available learning opportunities that may help the women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia to increase their knowledge is one of the best ways that will increase the level of knowledge of women entrepreneurs. There are many learning opportunities in the country that can help the women entrepreneurs such as seminars, workshops that aim at equipping women entrepreneurs. Khuwalid Business Centre provides this opportunity for women entrepreneurs who invite other women entrepreneurs who have been involved in businesses and succeeded (Ebbena 2006). They offer business skills that will help to manage business, obtain funding as well as maximise the earning potential of their businesses by increasing their marketing and communication skills. The other way in which women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia can exploit the existing business is opportunities by learning to balance their family work roles and the demands of the business. This is because the family roles are also demanding and without the ability to handle family, it can affect the business negatively (Abdullah 2010).

Women in business planning

Planning is critical in business as well as in entrepreneurship. Women participation in business planning in Saudi Arabia has been low and it aims at ensuring that there are positive ways of implementing business operations relating to the success and establishment of the resources that will sustain the business in the long term. In the interview results based on the five interviews of the Saudi business, their planning mainly identified a market where the products would sell and ensure that the market for the product will increase with time. The market for the product ensures that the product development relates to the endeavour of the business operations (CAWTAR, 2007).

When planning business there are factors that women entrepreneurs consider in their business plans. The first one is initial funding where the women entrepreneurs must consider the source of capital (Schultz 2000). This is because capital is the lifeline of business and no business can start without it. From the interviews, one thing that was evident was that the sources of capital that women entrepreneurs had were either from savings, family or from the business. Very few women indicated the government or financial institutions as the source of their funding (Abdullah 2010).

The other aspect of planning for business that women entrepreneur must consider regards the type of business. Most of the businesses started by the women entrepreneurs are mostly shops or informal businesses. None of the women entrepreneurs indicated that their businesses are LLC companies. This shows that a lot has to be done to assist these entrepreneurs have Limited Liability Companies as their businesses become established. The other aspect of importance in relation to planning and entrepreneurship involves planning for the workers who will work in those businesses. Planning on the human resources to work in the business entails creating job profiles that fit the skills needed by the business. The workers must perform the work roles according to the job descriptions. Women entrepreneurs must aim at having the best workers although they face the challenge of employing male employees. However, as one of the interviewee indicates in the interviews there has been cultural transformation and men are willing to work for women than it were previously (Minkus 2006).

When planning for the business, women entrepreneurs must consider risk factors that may lead to the closure of the business. Planning for risks such as fire may help the entrepreneurs avoid huge losses due to calamities that may be prevented through compensation by insurance companies. Planning for training of the employees and for the entrepreneurs is another imperative aspect of planning that women entrepreneur in Saudi Arabia must consider. Training equips the entrepreneurs with new information and business skills that are imperative for the long-term growth of the business (Abdullah 2010).

The other planning aspect that the Saudi businesspersons must put into consideration is the future of their businesses. Having expansionist plans on how to expand their businesses when given capital is imperative as many of the interviewed women entrepreneurs indicated their desire to expand the businesses. This is possible by either having plans on how to expand by establishing joint venture with other entrepreneurs or establishing independent branches or subsidiaries of the business (The World Bank 2010). This is in consideration that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has set up mechanisms of establishing a women’ s industrial city, which is exclusively made for women who want to venture or work in industries. It is also a means of exploiting the vast human resource of women in the country who have the industrial skills but they cannot work in the male dominated factories or environment due to the Arabian social cultural restrictions (Entrepreneurship Institute 2010). Preparing for such resources is imperative for all women entrepreneurs. Ensuring that the business has savings that will boost the expansion operations of the business is critical to women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia (Alana 2011).

Exposing women to funding initiatives

To ensure that women entrepreneurs succeed in their businesses, it is imperative to expose them to available funding opportunities. This is because business funding is imperative for the success of any business venture. Without adequate sources of funds during the initial stages, the initiative is likely to fail. The following are some of the funding initiatives that women in Saudi Arabia can be exposed to in their effort to access funds. The first source of funding the women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia must be exposed to is the microfinance institutions funding (Honey 2007). These institutions provide loans to women as a start up capital. All that one has to do is to present a detailed business plan that shows the potential of the business. After the business plan is reviewed, the institutions avail funds to the businessperson or entrepreneur (Al-Jassem 2010a).

The institutions provide a mechanism of monitoring the progress of the business venture to ensure that it is profitable and that one can earn money from the venture. This ensures that the business prepares or develops resources that ensure the profitability of the business and creates resources ensuring that there is absolute way of dealing with the profitability of the business venture. The microfinance such as National Micro Finance Institution (NMFI) provides the entrepreneurs with training opportunities on how to make their business profitable and increase sales. This source of funding has more advantages than funding from the family or personal savings because it comes with training and security measures that regulate the business thereby minimising losses. It also informs the entrepreneurs about the insurance policies that will ensure that the business is secure from unprecedented circumstances that may lead to loss of property such as fire (Al-Jassem, 2010b).

The other source of funds that women entrepreneurs needs to be exposed to are the government funding initiatives that aim at helping the women entrepreneurs. To promote more women to be in business the government has availed special funds for women entrepreneurs. The funds are availed on the condition that women must have male guarantors either a husband or a brother who will be responsible for the repayment of the loan in case the borrower defaults the loan (The World Bank 2009). This condition considers the fact that many of the Saudi women do not own properties in their own names. Their father or the husbands own most of the properties that they have. This puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to securing loans. The government must promote women by providing lenient measures for women entrepreneurs (Almaeena, 2007).

Other than the government, there are non-governmental organisations that provide resources or capital to women entrepreneurs. These non-governmental funds such as USAID give funds to groups of women entrepreneurs who have formed formal organisations that are recognised by law. The formal groups receive the funding collectively, which are then divided amongst the members. To ensure that there is profitability of the business, members receive capital and they know each other making repayment of the loans easy due to the social reinforcement. The groups then provide training to the women entrepreneurs through the seminars and other business workshops that the non-governmental organisations provide to women entrepreneurs ensuring that their businesses are successful (Howkins 2001).

The other sources of funds that women entrepreneurs need to know about are the financial intuitions such as banks. Currently there are banks that specialise in providing funds to businesses owned by women such as the Gulf One Investment Bank. This bank has cut a niche in the Saudi banking industry due to its favourable loan options that favour women entrepreneurs. Unlike other banking institutions that offer loans on property or a guarantor, this bank provide funds to the women group initiatives that focus on the development of women businesses. It allows women to give their valuables such as jewelleries as a form of security for their funding. This has made the bank increase the number of women clients and has allowed many women to venture into businesses. The bank provides financial education to women entrepreneurs through training, seminars and workshops.

Though there are many entrepreneurial opportunities existing in Saudi Arabia there is one major problem. The problem is that women entrepreneurs are unaware of these sources of funds hence they are unable to obtain funds to expand their businesses. Most of the women entrepreneurs interviewed from the interview sample indicated that personal savings are the major sources of capital. Others indicated their families as the source of capital for the initial investment. This shows that the informal sources of capital are the most popular means of securing start up capital rather than other sources of capital. This shows the need to create awareness of the other sources of capital. As indicated in the findings from the interview, most of the women entrepreneurs have desire to expand their businesses because of the uniqueness of their business and demand of the products they offer.

Relying on personal savings and family funds as the major source of capital may prevent expansion of the business. The women entrepreneurs need sensitisation about the existence of other sources of funding. Other than expanding the business, formal sources of capital present opportunities of business training, which is very helpful to the entrepreneurs. It helps the entrepreneurs by equipping them with comprehensive knowledge about businesses. This is in consideration that many of the women entrepreneurs are starters and they do not have adequate experience in operation of the businesses. The trainings that are availed by the financial institutions are of importance as they ensure that the business operates securely and that the entrepreneur is well equipped to handle the risks, human resources, technology, and financial accounts of the business (Porter 2008).

There are several ways of exposing women entrepreneurs to the financial institutions. The first one is that of networking, which involves bringing together like-minded people who have the resources, the funds and ideas in the creation of the business and opportunities pertaining to the business. The networking opportunity means a lot to the business as it creates a positive way of exposing the entrepreneur to funding opportunities.

The other way of exposing the entrepreneurs to the funding opportunities is by providing publicity to the organisations that provide capital to women entrepreneurs (Riddle 2007). Media campaign aimed at creating awareness of the available opportunities of funding women entrepreneurs will ensure that they have information on the places where they can receive funding for their business initiatives. The government must publicise its initiatives that target women entrepreneurs. As indicated earlier, reducing the restrictions that deny women entrepreneurs the opportunity to expand their businesses is imperative. The Gulf One Bank should also publicise its imitative and show how they have helped women entrepreneurs by training them and providing loans.

The Jeddah Chamber of commerce is another avenue that can contribute in exposing women entrepreneurs to funding opportunities. The chamber of commerce, which represents the interest of the business community, has now had a number of women. The chamber can organise forums or discussions for women entrepreneurs who need to have money for the business operation (Bolton & Thompson, 2007).

The Khuwalid business centre also offers an opportunity of exposing women entrepreneurs to funding initiatives. The forum brings women entrepreneurs together, they have opportunity for not only networking but also educating and informing them on different formal sources of funds, which may help to expand their businesses. The women entrepreneurs may develop their businesses ideas and mode of operation based on the knowledge they have gained from such forums. It networks women entrepreneurs with fellow women who are in similar businesses or women in need of such opportunities. It provides the women entrepreneurs with an opportunity of sharing their experiences especially success stories on how they have managed to acquire funds and used them to expand their businesses (Khan 2010).

The Khadija business forum is another forum or initiative that can expose the funding initiatives that are available to women entrepreneurs. The forum, which aims at encouraging women into business and entrepreneurship, can help women entrepreneurs by not only providing networking opportunities but also giving women entrepreneurs forum where they can test their entrepreneurial skills through the incubation business models. The venture brings together women who deal with designs shops and small-scale businesses. By educating women on the advantages and the availability of formal sources of funding, more awareness about formal sources of funding can be achieved by having the public figures especially the prince and princess support for women entrepreneurs (Khoury & Moghadam, 1995).

One of such initiatives has been through Princess Banta who has been advocating for reduction of restrictions that prevent women from engaging in businesses. Such advocacy for women from public figure presents publicity to the sources of funding that women entrepreneurs can access to support their businesses. The other way of exposing women entrepreneurs to the formal sources of funding is by creating trust on the formal sources of funding. Most of the Saudi women are attached to their families or answerable to their family members and may not want something that may jeopardize relationships within their family settings. As indicated from the interview, most of the women entrepreneurs show that they value their families and consider the time they have not spent with their families as the ultimate sacrifice that they have given in their quest to have their own businesses (Kaaki 2010).

Women engaging in administrative roles

There are women in Saudi Arabia who are involved in administration although they are very few in the government administrative roles. Some of the prominent women who are in administrative roles are like Princess Banta who is one of those who have played a significant role in advocating for woman’s right to education and to do business in Saudi Arabia. Other than women from the royal family, there have been women who have played significant administrative roles such as Nahid Taher of Gulf One Investment bank, which has assets worth over ten billion Saudi riyals. As a founder of the bank, she is a model of successful women administrators who has played significant role in availing funds for business investment to women (Porter 2008).

Saudi women have always faced challenges as they never had the power to make decisions in major issues in the country, which undermined women due to the cultural belief that were held within their society. In the year 2006, many Saudi women were incorporated in the decision making process of the country though initially there were conflicts due to their cultural challenges, which have diminished with time.

At the beginning of the year 2006, Dr.Naela Attar and Dr.Najah Alashri were elected into the board of directors of the Saudi management Association. The Association had 2400 members, 21 percent being women. The women committee held a seminar, which expressed the role of women in the board of directors with the aim of informing the community about their services and objectives. In addition, they encouraged the community to honour the four women who had been elected into the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board. Dr. Hanan Alahmadi was the head associate of the committee and an associate Professor in the field of health administration in the Public Administration Institute. She therefore gave keynote address on the aim of the association, which is empowering as well as enhancing the status of learned women in the roles of leadership. Dr. Hanan expressed her interests in the managerial systems of the country.

She explains that failure of the government to involve the management experts in the managerial processes has led to failure of most projects as per the research that was conducted, which proved that without the implementation of modern management methods. Globalisation has also increased the rate of competition across the world hence the requirements of innovative and creative minds in the process of decision making the country to gain an edge in the world market. Since management has a become a science she says that it is advisable to involve the managerial expertise in making concrete decisions for the country to develop its resources as a way of improving the living standards of the people in Saudi. She therefore encouraged the professionals to come together and form a mechanism that could look into the managerial systems of the country as a way of improving the managerial and leadership skills among the professional women in managerial leadership positions as a way of improving the social and economic sectors of the country (Ind 2007).

Dr. Naela Attar is another woman who is in charge of the Jeddah Women’s Committee as well as a member of the Management Association board of Saudi. She has also expressed the view that the association develop women in leadership positions for them to deliver the best for the country. Other programs that she manages involve supporting managerial research teams to equip managers across the Kingdom as well as facilitate the exchange of research ideas across the world for them to be competitive. The board has contributed supported women to run offices since the year 2006 when she was elected to the JCCI board.

As compared to earlier times before the year 2006, women in Saudi in the new era seem to be motivated by Dr. Naela. She therefore advocates the need for women in Saudi to focus ahead as a way of improving their potential in leadership and managerial system for them to excel in improving the economy and living standards of the kingdom. She is a member of the Khadija Bint Khuwailed Centre, which has always supported the training of women as well as equipping them with the necessary skills and expertise in the sector of business.

The role of the government

In Saudi women develop in the business sector and improve the economy of the Kingdom. In Saudi, women own both registered and unregistered enterprises. As per the interviews above, common businesses owned by women entrepreneurs are art based, and include interior decors, jewellery, cookery and fashion. Other areas where women have invested are like rendering professional services in the section of business, public relations, managerial events, marketing, retailing, and whole selling as well as in beauty and salons (The Ministry of Labour, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2005).

The government of Saudi has helped women entrepreneurs by simplifying the terms and regulations in the business environment. The challenges that constrained the business activities in Saudi affected the businesses directly and indirectly in that it discouraged many women entrepreneurs from engaging in businesses. The government has therefore made it easy for women entrepreneurs to attain business licenses, which was not there in the past (Khan 2010).

According to the study, there are loopholes that the government needs to address for women entrepreneurs to achieve their objectives of improving the economy of the country. It will also be of great importance for women to have the freedom to travel internationally so that they can exchange ideas as a way of improving the operating systems of their business in order to be competitive in the global market (Arthur & Sheffrin 2003).

The government has developed women entrepreneurs by setting up institutions where it has recruited international female experts to train women entrepreneurs within the Kingdom. The government is helping the women entrepreneurs by providing loans to sustain their businesses. It is also providing forums that can offer loans to women who are willing and ready to develop by engaging in business. Such forums equip women with the necessary knowledge of starting business as well as managing them (Dechant 2005). The government has also improved technology in the Kingdom, which can serve better if utilised by women entrepreneurs in marketing their products locally and internationally.

Solutions to the problems faced by Saudi women entrepreneurs

There are solutions to the problems faced by women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia. These solutions will involve providing women with access to start up capital. The solutions must change the current perceptions that people have about women in Saudi Arabia and provide environment to conduct businesses profitably. The solutions to problems of women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia are in threefold. The first solution can be derived from policy changes in the government allowing women to conduct different types of the businesses. The second solution relates to changes in perception concerning women as entrepreneurs, where society can now accept that women can perform well in managerial roles. The other solutions relates to women’s capability to balance their businesses and family work roles. Access to formal sources of capital will also serve as a solution for women entrepreneurs.

Changing perceptions of women stereotypes

There are facts that show that stereotypes concerning the women in Saudi Arabia are changing. The first way to deal with this change of perception in the country is to identify the changes that occur. One of the most significant changes that occurred in the country is the fact that women are allowed to conduct business. Earlier, women were not allowed to venture into formal businesses such as contracting, real estate, and investing. Women were restricted to working in fields such as education, consulting and service businesses. However, this state of things has been changed and the ministry of labour now allows women to participate in the formal businesses such as contracting, real estate, investing in the stock exchange and security markets (Camlin 2010). The Saudi society has now accepted that women can play significant roles in the economy of the country and allow women to participate in entrepreneurial activities. This is an important change of perception, as the government has been a hindrance to the advancement of woman in the business environment by putting restrictions on women’s engaging in the businesses world (Butt & Dalgic, 2007).

Another important change of perception regarding women is changing a well established opinion that women cannot be good administrators and that male employees cannot work for a female boss (Rawaf 2000). This, however, has suffered changes recently and most men are willing to work for women entrepreneurs as their bosses. From the results of the interview, all entrepreneurs indicted that men employees had no problems working for women, as they offer the necessary support to the business. For instance, Nahed Taher the founder and the Chief Executive Officer of Gulf Investment Bank proved that women can make it as entrepreneurs, as well as good administrators. The appointment of a woman deputy minister in the year 2006 has also contributed to the increased perception that woman can perform as leaders and administrators successfully. The election of a woman in the chamber of commerce in Jeddah has also played a role in perception of women in leadership and has shown that women can participate in the economy of the country. This has reinforced the change in perception regarding women as leaders, as well as entrepreneurs. Many women who have succeeded in entrepreneurship demonstrated that woman can be good leaders.

The earlier perception that a woman must have a guardian or a guarantor to assist in business management is now changing. This is because women in Saudi Arabia are now educated and can handle most of the business operations like men. This has enabled women to participate in business without the previous restrictions. Men have also accepted women as their counterparts in businesses. According to Ba-lsa (2007), women can be competitive and provide services that surpass those provided by men.

The other change in perception involves women’s ability to balance family and work roles. There has been a fear that woman cannot manage a family and work in the business at the same time. This made men fail in supporting women who wanted to follow their entrepreneurship (Dechant 2005). This is because the society felt that women participation in economic activities away from their families would disengage women from family, that would present a significant problem to the family and the society in general. However, many women have shown that it is possible to participate in business endeavours and still care for their families (Power 2005). From the interviews, most of the women proved their ability to balance their business and the family responsibilities by managing their time while distinguishing their business and family roles. This shows that family is an imperative aspect in assisting women entrepreneurs as without family support it would be hard for women to be in business and engage in entrepreneurial activities (Butt & Dalgic, 2007).

The next change in perception is related to the fact that women do not have resources or capital. It has been assumed that women do not have access to capital or do not have sources of capital to enable them to do their own business. However, from the interview results it is clear that most women indicate that they use personal savings as their start up capital. This shows that women have money and can use it to finance entrepreneurial ventures. Therefore, women need not rely on formal sources of capital because they can have other informal sources of capital (Hassan 2006).

New policies and perceptions for women

The first policy that is required to enable women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia to complete their businesses fully relates to the registration process. Although the royal decree authorises the entire government department to have female sections, most of the departments do not care about women employees including the ministry of commerce and industries (Ba-lsa 2008). The current female sections do not have an appropriate power to cater for the women entrepreneurs mainly due to the fact that women working in those departments do not have any power related to the registration of businesses, thus they have to consult male counterparts to get an approval ofor registration of their businesses. This reduces the efficiency of such departments making it hard for women to complete the registration process within the required time. This makes the women entrepreneurs who wish to register a new business use a male representative in the registration process making the registration easier and faster than when done by the woman entrepreneur herself. However, there are variations in this issue depending on the city where one is registering the business. Some cities, such as Jeddah, are more accommodative and have an efficient registration process for women, compared to other cities such as Riyadh and east Province. Jeddah has policies that are efficient regarding registration of women that own businesses (Abdullah 2010).

To make more women participate in entrepreneurship the government needs to implement the royal decree by ensuring that women registration departments have full authority of the registration of businesses, thereby serving woman entrepreneurs efficiently. This would reduce business costs for women entrepreneurs at the initial stages, as now they have to pay a lawyer or use a male relative to complete the registration process on their behalf. Having policies that empower the women departments to have autonomy in the registration of businesses will increase women participation in entrepreneurship and uplifting of the country’s economy.

The second new policy that seeks to make women entrepreneurs independent in their business operations deals with the change in policy that requires that women business owners have male business managers if business serves or employs men (Ortmans 2010). This means that women who employ men in their business or if their businesses involve men, should have male managers. This becomes an obstacle to women entrepreneurship because very often they may want to select a relative or incompetent manager to fulfil this policy requirement, which may result in business failure. According to the stipulations of this policy the male business manager must be unemployed and do not own any business. This shows that such kind of a person may be incompetent and if the woman entrepreneur relinquishes control of the business to such a person, the business is likely to fail.

One more challenge of this policy is that the appointed manager may be a relative and a woman owner of the business may feel embarrassed to correct such a person in case he makes business mistakes. This leads to collapse of the business and the business manager is not responsible. In case there are creditors, it is the owner of the business who is liable not the manager. This policy must be changed to allow women participate in entrepreneurship. This restriction should be removed to allow women participate in the business and ensure that there are business procedures that allow women to appoint people who are competent in the business. Women entrepreneurs must also ensure that they have not relinquished all authority to the managers to avoid collapse of the business. The male manager’s main responsibility should be communicating with male employees or clients and policymakers, as well as a decision making function in the enterprise (Mayo 2001).

However, there is a royal decree that permits women to access licenses for all types of businesses in the county. Most of the areas where many of the municipalities licensing do not recognise women entrepreneurs want to invest in such fields as women fitness, interior designs, art shops, salon, cosmetics. This makes it hard for the women entrepreneurs to operate in such businesses to support the family.. This is a challenge that affects women entrepreneurs negatively in the country. The policies on licenses affect women entrepreneurs in a number of ways.

The first one is that it has led to loss of business opportunities for women entrepreneurs as it inhibits the entrepreneur’s creativity because they have to engage in businesses that are licensed. For instance, many wish to offer day-care services to help working women by taking care of their children as they work. However, due to lack of appropriate licenses that are specific to such type of businesses, the business fails because there are no such licenses (Fakkar 2007).

This makes the women entrepreneurs have informal business arrangements, which incorporates businesses that are not licensed and unregulated. This means that such businesses cannot grow, extend beyond their informal location and are risky to health, safety and the environment. The other option that women have is that they register the businesses under different categories. For instance, many of the municipalities do not have a category for business licenses. However, women entrepreneurs register them under the categories of tailoring shops. This makes them conflict with authorities especially in the issuance of visas and regulation procedures. To solve this problem the government must develop licensing policies that allow women to participate in various types of businesses by recognising such businesses formally and setting regulations and best practice policies regarding such businesses.

Balancing family and work roles

This factor cannot be ignored due to its effect on women entrepreneurs. These factors usually affect most of the woman entrepreneurs, as they have to manage their businesses as well as families because 72% of businesspersons indicate that they are married.

Marital status

This shows that large percentage of women must make decisions that will affect their families as well as their businesses. Learning how to balance the two roles is a contributing factor to the success of the business. The following part looks into how the women in business manage the family work roles. From the interviews, four of the interviewed women indicated that they were married and have children. They indicate the family as a priority and have to set aside time for it. Although the research failed in acquiring information on how these women entrepreneurs, manage to balance the family work roles and the demand of their businesses. The first way of managing family and work roles is by engaging family support. One of the imperative points to note from the interview is that the family played a key role in influencing the success as entrepreneurs. This is because in most instances the family provided funds or initial start up capital to help the women start the business. If it is not about giving capital, they acted during the feasibility of the idea by testing the idea or the product whether it would work in the market. This shows that the families determine the success of the women entrepreneurs. This makes women feel obligated and strive to allocate time for their family members. In many instances, family members act as representatives of the business or business managers for the women.

The women in business balance their work and family roles in two major ways. The first one is that they set specific time for business where they handle business issues. They allocate time for their families to ensure that none of the areas is neglected. This enables them to take care of both the businesses and family.

The second way of balancing the family and work roles is by locating the business near home. Most of the women prefer businesses located close to their places of residence so that they can attend their family as well as businesses. Businesses in the informal sector help the women with appropriate strategies of balancing their work and the family. The location also helps them to attend the businesses and save transport costs.

Aligning entrepreneurial strategies with the opportunities

To align the entrepreneurial strategies discussed earlier that have resulted from the changes in perception about women in entrepreneurship requires changes in government policies with the opportunities that exist in the country. Several things should be done for success of women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia. The important thing is the provision of training or education to women entrepreneurs to help them learn about the available sources of capital and their advantages (Parker 2007).

There are several ways women entrepreneurs can use the new opportunities that are available. This is due to policy changes as well as other development changes intended to increase the participation of women in entrepreneurship. The first strategy involves technological measures that will help the business have advantage over the competitors. Technology integrates the business operations, simplifies most of the business operations that would be difficult if there were no technological operations to support such tasks. Technology is needed by women entrepreneurs to help in activities such as inventory management. The inventory assists the business manager to count the stock and replenish the old stock ensuring that the available stock will be enough for the customers. The other need involves processing of employees salaries, and managing the accounts of the business. The women entrepreneurs ensure that they have technological equipment such as computers, Iphones, internet connection and relevant software (Strokes 2010).

One of the most important technological applications that can help the women entrepreneurs is the enterprise resource planning, which are applications that help to perform the tasks that help the business (Al-Jassem & Al-Mukhtar 2010). These enterprise resource systems enable the businesspersons to create a well-oriented business system that looks into every business aspect such as human resource management by having job descriptions, timetables, performance evaluation systems to gauge the performance of the employees as well as salary processing applications (Pickton 2000). The ERP vendors must also work together with their companies to simplify the software used by the small and medium enterprises as this will affect them negatively and prevent the companies for maximising the potential of ERPs (Bailetti 2012). The ERP needs customisation such that it is specific for the customers and suits their needs in the appropriate manner. This is because it is imperative for customers to adapt the need of the business and ensure that customer is positioned for success when using the software as they have specific need, which they meet for the customer (Al-Dabbagh 2009).

The enterprise resource planning is imperative in giving the business systems that help in the development of the business for it to be competitive.

The other way in which the business can improve its resources is by having a good way of dealing with the business strategies involved in implementation of marketing strategies. Marketing the business is critical in aligning the businesses with the upcoming opportunities. Women entrepreneurs can maximise the potential of their businesses through marketing strategies (Atkinson 2007). The other marketing presents an opportunity of the business by enabling the business to reach out to the potential customers. Women entrepreneurs can enrol in marketing courses that will show them how to market their businesses. A good marketing system must incorporate technology and marketing (McDonald 2007). The marketing can be through text messaging by having a list of people to inform about the new products and services that are available in the business (McDonald 2007). The other strategy may involve using mailing lists but this depends on the skills of the women entrepreneurs. One interesting thing is that women in Saudi Arabia are more educated compared to their counterparts in Middle East and North Africa countries. This shows that these women can use the skills to market their businesses both within the country and abroad. Because most of the businesses owned by women are informal, a good strategy must be in place to market the businesses (Kumar 2000).

Recommendations and conclusions

The following are some of the recommendations and conclusions on women and entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia. They look into the future of the women and entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia by assessing the status and what can be done to women and entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia as well as whether women entrepreneurial micro businesses can grow in the country.

Conclusion

Irrespective of the challenges outlined that women entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia encounter in their pursuit to establish profitable business ventures, they are still optimistic that the future has more for them. They work hard to ensure that they engage in businesses and that they succeed in what they do irrespective of the challenges they face every day. With this optimism, the pioneer women entrepreneurs are making ways for future generation of Saudi women to handle their families and build their micro businesses. When women are organised they can operate businesses and manage their families without failure. The most important thing is commitment as well as support from men and determination for them to succeed.

Recommendations

The following are recommendations on what the women in micro businesses can do to grow their businesses and their entrepreneurial spirit. The first recommendation involves having policy changes. Policy changes are needed to help women in their business endeavours if they are going to succeed. As the society changes, the challenges come from people who are not accommodative to the changes and they present barrier to progress. To safeguard the transformation that is going on in Saudi Arabia, which is enabling women to grow their micro businesses, it is necessary to create policies that protect this progress. These policies should address specific areas such as licensing, registration and operation of business. The government should intervene to ensure that women are supported and there are no rules that affect the growth of businesses that are owned by women (Morgan 2006).

The second thing that should be done to assist women in micro businesses is providing them with training. This training should be aimed at providing women with skills that are critical to their businesses such as technological skills and marketing skills. The marketing skills enable women to increase the earnings of the business by increasing the sales volume whereas the technological skills assist the women to reduce business costs thereby increasing the profitability. The women should ensure that the business has generated revenues that are more than the costs incurred for it to be profitable. Failure to that means there is no progress and the businesses may not continue in future due to losses (Duening 2009).

Even with training and changes in policy without access to the formal sources of capital, the women entrepreneurs will be limited in their entrepreneurial endeavour. Educating women on how to access the formal sources of capital provided by banks will help in increasing their involvement in entrepreneurship. These funds are necessary not only for the expansion of the businesses but because they have training opportunities for woman entrepreneurs such that they guarantee that the business will be profitable as the formal sources of capital cannot fund a business which has no potential of making profits.

Women entrepreneurs need to know how to balance their businesses with the family work as this may be a big challenge to them. The family is very important even when they are busy in their businesses and should not be ignored. Obtaining the support of the family members first before starting the micro business is imperative as starting a business may mean that one will have to spend a lot of time in the business especially during the initial stages.

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