Saudi women who work in mixed locations face social backlash

Women who work in mixed gender environments face greater social discrimination than their counterparts who work in segregated work places

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Women who work in mixed gender environments face greater social discrimination than their counterparts who work in segregated work places, according to a report in Al-Jazirah daily.

Women doctors and journalists, regardless of the success they have achieved in their respective fields, complain that they often face rejection from men who prefer to marry women who do not work with other men.


A woman who works as a journalist said most men do not want to marry a doctor or journalist because these women are successful and men want do not want successful women. “There is nothing wrong with a single woman who has passed 30 years of age and has not gotten married yet. Anyone who looks down upon such women is not in his right mind,” said the woman, who requested anonymity.

A young journalist, who too preferred to remain anonymous, said he could not marry a doctor because social traditions and family opinions stood in the way.

“I don’t understand why most members of the public treat working women in this manner and why these women never get a chance to get married. It is a sad thing,” he said.

Anyone but a doctor

Umm Talal is a matchmaker who has helped countless couples tie the knot. In all the years she has been a matchmaker, rarely has she come across a man who is willing to get married to a woman who works in a mixed gender environment.

“Once a man knows that the woman works for a company that does not separate men from women, he immediately rejects the idea and asks me to find someone else who, for example, works as a school teacher or in any other field where she doesn’t have to mingle with men,” she said.

“The first thing men say when I ask them about the kind of women they want is someone who is not a nurse or a doctor. They say this because they believe the majority of nurses and doctors are single because men do not want to marry them,” she added.

Dowra Ahmad works for a private company where men and women mingle. Dowra received several proposals from men who changed their mind when they heard she worked with men. “Arabs, especially Saudis, refuse to get married to women like me,” she said.

Career or home

Abu Khalid said he does not mind getting married to a woman who works as a schoolteacher but not as a nurse or doctor. “I personally do not support women’s work in mixed environments because they can be susceptible to all types of harassment.”

According to Dr. Abdullah Al-Salman, director of the Human Resources Development Center, many men believe a demanding profession can negatively influence a woman’s mood and the stress is carried into the bedroom.

“The long hours and stress will make doctors and nurses feel tired by the time they get to their husbands. They will not have time for romance,” he said.

Maha Al-Shammary, a Saudi doctor, said some Saudi men think that female doctors are like housemaids who do nothing but serve people.

“Of course, this is not true. The medical profession is a great one and has a lot of ethics and values. The best solution to end this negative stereotype about nurses and doctors is to raise public awareness about what they do and how they serve their communities,” she said.

This article was first published by the Saudi Gazette on July 23, 2016.

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