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The decade long story of gender equality and female empowerment: a case study of corporate disclosures in Saudi Arabia

Wafa Al-Nasrallah (Department of Accounting, Prince Sultan University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal

ISSN: 2040-8021

Article publication date: 18 January 2023

Issue publication date: 26 January 2023

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Abstract

Purpose

This study deviates from the predominantly feminist/critical school of thought associated with existing gender studies to apply an interpretivist approach to investigate gender-reporting practices in Saudi Arabia, an Islamic country in the Gulf region and one of the fast-moving emerging economies both in the Middle East and globally. The purpose of this study is to investigate the extent of reporting on gender and the drivers behind this practice using the content analysis method.

Design/methodology/approach

This study contributes to the literature by adopting a rarely used three-lens conceptual framework to expand our understanding of reporting on gender in Saudi Arabia. Eleven companies were chosen based on their voluntary corporate social responsibility (CSR) disclosures in Saudi Arabia. The CSR and annual reports of selected companies were analysed using NVIVO Pro 11.

Findings

The results indicate that gender disclosures in the Saudi context are driven by legislation, location and international reporting frameworks. Although the number of disclosures increased over time, they were not adopted consistently and systematically because of their voluntary nature.

Research limitations/implications

The first limitation is the disadvantage associated with interpretivism related to the subjective nature of the investigation and room for bias, and hence, the results cannot be generalised. The second limitation is the sample size; future investigations may increase the sample size by including other service and manufacturing sector firms to have more comprehensive insights.

Practical implications

This study contributes to the literature by providing evidence suggesting that in Saudi Arabia, state legislation is the driving force behind reporting on gender issues. Although workplace disclosures dominate, companies are opening dialogues with other stakeholders (especially the community) by disclosing performance data, and thus emphasising their commitment to this social change.

Social implications

This empirical contribution to the CSR literature will provide rich historical and interpretive data on the emergence of gender transformation in society, and how that is reflected in corporate reports, thus, contributing to the understanding of the purpose of voluntary disclosures.

Originality/value

Employee-related disclosures in corporate reports are very common. However, issues such as diversity and equal opportunities tend to be overlooked. This study explores gender equality and female empowerment disclosures and practices in the emerging market of Saudi Arabia while focusing on whether the social, political and legal changes in Saudi Arabian society have affected these disclosures in corporate reports. There is a lack of qualitative analysis of gender disclosers globally and in emerging economies particularly.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The author acknowledges the support from The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education and Prince Sultan University for this investigation.

Citation

Al-Nasrallah, W. (2023), "The decade long story of gender equality and female empowerment: a case study of corporate disclosures in Saudi Arabia", Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 216-241. https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-04-2022-0193

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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