This article explores the experience of women academics in Saudi Arabia’s higher education. Based on narrative inquiry and underpinned by Bourdieu’s work, I trace the influence of SA’s educational policy and the broader impact of patriarchal norms on the experience of 10 women academics. The article argues that gendered expectations mean that leadership roles within Higher Education (HE) are predominantly held by men, and women are prevented from fully participating in research, decision-making processes and other Higher Education activities beyond teaching and administration. The narratives presented in this article illustrate that HE in Saudi Arabia remains dominated by traditional patriarchal consciousness. The article concludes that to bring about change, women’s sections in Saudi universities need financial, administrative and academic independence.