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An Investigation of How Women in Leadership Roles Can Support Their Self-Learning and Development in the Saudi Arabian Context

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The Saudi system is set up in a form known as the Sunni-Islam state version which is a conservative form of government in terms of interpretation of the Muslim faith

In the judicial and government system of the country they make use of the Islam law that is comprised of a defined gender inequality. In this case, the women are subjected to strict and tight legal instructions and there are restrictions on their personal behavior in comparison to men. There is no equality for women despite Article 8 of the Saudi law which states that Government in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is based on the premise of justice, consultation, and equality in accordance with the shari’ah law.

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Reflecting the rise in educated women in Saudi Arabia, one area of employment where women have made strong progress is higher education. The number of female lecturers increased from 4700 in 2003/2004 to approximately 19,600 in 2008/2009

That corresponds to an increase of 7200 to around 48,800 male lecturers over the same period (Al Alhareth et al. 2015, p. 11). Precisely because women make up a reasonably good proportion of higher education faculty, and education is segregated by gender, this should create opportunities for women who aspire to higher education leadership, particularly in female only universities (Alomair 2015). However, female academics tend to hold lower level positions. Thus, in common with other countries, the rise in educated women and female faculty is not matched by the proportion of women in higher education leadership. It is particularly shocking, since education is one of the few careers available to women, that more women have not advanced into educational leadership. One key explanation is that historically women have been prevented from occupying positions of leadership in Saudi Arabia due to strict cultural conventions and legislative restrictions. In fact, historically, according to Smith (1987, p. 34), the education system itself subjugated women to ‘ensure that at every level of competence and leadership there will be a place for them that is inferior and subordinate to the positions of men.

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Few studies highlight the factors that influence the effectiveness of female leaders in Saudi higher education institutions (Alomair, 2015; Gonaim, 2016; Heredero, & Margalina, 2016). However, anecdotal evidence indicates that women at higher education institutions are still striving to develop their leadership skills, their leadership capacity and their effectiveness as leaders

They are striving to close the gender differences gap that limits their leadership opportunities in general, and specifically in higher education institutions (Alkayed, 2015; AlGhamdi, 2016; Hodges, 2016). Women are looking to participate in the decision making in their institutions. Many are interested in improving their leadership ability by becoming more knowledgeable in the leadership, and attending leadership development programs, which are often limited to male leaders (Alhmadi 2011; Heredero & Margalina, 2016; Abalkhail, 2017; Alotaibi et al 2017). In short, the number of women leaders in higher education is not what would be expected, given that women experience similar preparation and possess similar dispositions to leadership as men.

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To sum up, reform is urgently needed in both educational and employment sectors to provide greater equality for women. Previous trends of females in educational development indicate an ever expanding access of education by women to where they may outnumber men. However, gender segregation and inferiorities in curriculum differentiation is still experienced

he diversification of the country’s economy and the expansion of the services in the various sectors may result in the liberalization of the scope of occupation and enroll women in leadership roles. This would help move women up in public visibility and allow them to participate in the decision making of the country.

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Alomair, M. (2015). Female leadership capacity and effectiveness: A critical analysis of the literature on Higher Education in Saudi Arabia. International Journal of Higher Education, 4(4), 81-93.

Gardner, J. (1990). On Leadership. New york, NY: Free Press.

Herbst, T. & Conradie, P. (2011). Leadership effectiveness in Higher Education: Managerial self-perceptions versus perceptions of others. SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 37(1)

Heredero, C. & Margalina, V. (2016). Factors of successful women leadership in Saudi Arabia. Asian Social Science, 5, 49-107

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