The idea spread through the film ‘Field of Dreams’, that ‘If you build it, they will come’, runs into some reality in Saudi Arabia. The government, seeking to increase the number of women in the workplace, is fencing off certain sectors of the economy so that women only may work in them. The effort started with lingerie shops and has moved on to cosmetics. Discussions are being held about expanding the restrictions to furniture stores and opticians (presumably for female customers only).
But there are deeper issues that interfere with government aspirations. One of them is that the term ‘saleswoman’ is seen as socially inferior. Much the way that Saudi society rebels against the idea of Saudi women taking jobs as domestic servants, it looks askance at women working to serve customers. This is not dissimilar from European attitudes in the 18th and 19th C. that looked down upon anyone involved in ‘trade’.
There are, of course, other barriers. Concerns about modesty, protecting women in a mixed-sex environment, personal safety… all of these are questions being raised. This article from Saudi Gazette reports on a survey of women’s attitudes towards the job of ‘saleswoman’:
Many Saudi women consider ‘saleswomen’ tag infra dig: Poll
Mushtak Parker | Saudi Gazette
LONDON – The challenge for the empowerment of Saudi women in the retail workplace remains an uphill task although creating awareness amongst Saudi women about the nature of the retail sector may encourage a greater number to work in the sector.
A study titled, “Females tackling the challenges in the retail sector – Saudi Arabia” and released earlier this week revealed that 58 percent of Saudi women polled in a survey said they do not accept the concept of women working in retail sales. Some 42 percent of women polled were fine with the idea of Saudi women working in the retail sector.
For the meaning of ‘infra dig’, I point you to this entry at World Wide Words.