‘I can’t feel like an academic’: Gender inequality in Saudi Arabia’s Higher Education system

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4 Citations (Scopus)


This empirical study explores the issues surrounding gender inequality and the career development of academic women in Saudi Arabia’s Higher Education (HE) system. The medium of narrative inquiries was employed, with a particular focus on female academics’ lived experience of gender inequality and career development. The study is influenced by a range of feminist attitudes and beliefs aiming to redress inequalities and enhance the profile of women. The methodology adopted in the study contributes to a deeper understanding of the challenges and barriers facing academic women in HE. The thematic analysis of participants’ narratives shows that the most significant factors restricting women’s academic freedom are gender segregation; social hierarchies; exclusion and marginalisation; and other structural and attitudinal barriers to undertaking research. The study demonstrated that family-related variables are central to research productivity gender gaps and are associated with structural and systemic discriminatory practices within academia in Saudi Arabia (SA). This paper concludes that although considerable progress has been made in terms of female participation, Saudi HE continues to offer ample career-advancing opportunities to men while restricting women’s prospects, as substantiated by the participants’ narratives. The research provides fresh insights into the issues experienced by Saudi women academics and identifies key areas that need to be addressed to promote gender equality in Saudi HE.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541–561
Number of pages21
JournalHigher Education
Issue number3
Early online date3 Sep 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2023


  • Gender inequality
  • Patriarchy
  • Saudi Arabia Higher Education
  • Vertical and horizontal segregation
  • Women academics

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