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Evidence of the characteristics of women entrepreneurs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: An empirical investigation

Syed Zamberi Ahmad (Marketing and Management Department, Prince Sultan University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)

International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship

ISSN: 1756-6266

Article publication date: 28 June 2011




Interest in women entrepreneurs from various backgrounds has led to increased publication in the literature about particular women's entrepreneurship issues. However, notwithstanding the importance of this area, little information exists about women entrepreneurs' business practices, survival and growth strategies and their perceptions of entrepreneurial careers; indeed, many questions remain unanswered. To address this gap, this study aims to explore some of these questions by considering women entrepreneurs in Arab countries, more specifically, women's entrepreneurship activities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), a country with unwritten social mores in a patriarchal, male dominant society. The key objective is to examine these women's personal characteristics, motivation factors, business challenges and perception on entrepreneurial behaviours.


Because of the lack of statistical data and difficulties conducting studies in an Arabic society, this study employed a qualitative research methodology. The research comprised 19 in‐depth interviews with Saudi women entrepreneurs who were identified through referrals from the Women's Section of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry.


The Saudi women entrepreneurs were found to exhibit many similarities with their counterparts in other Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region countries in terms of their personality traits. However, they differed in other aspects such as their educational backgrounds and the manner in which they acquired entrepreneurial skills. The findings suggest some strategies to contribute to greater success rates for women entrepreneurs in Islamic countries, where entrepreneurial activities are nascent but growing.

Research limitations/implications

The main limitation of the study is the restricted locale of the sample. A more extensive study is needed and future research should be more diverse – including widening the selection of respondents, industries and countries.

Practical implications

The paper shows that women's entrepreneurial activities in KSA are important to economic and social development. Saudi women's entrepreneurship, properly harnessed, has great potential as a tool for transforming the economy.


This paper contributes to the literature on gender‐related business barriers due to the scarcity of publications about women's economic activities in the MENA region, specifically in KSA. The paper is also valuable for policy makers in KSA and researchers wishing to pursue indigenous entrepreneurship and gender studies.



Zamberi Ahmad, S. (2011), "Evidence of the characteristics of women entrepreneurs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: An empirical investigation", International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 123-143.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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