College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-20-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Christine Reyna, PhD

Second Advisor

Verena Graupmann, PhD


This study investigated the nature of stereotypes regarding Saudi women in contemporary Saudi Arabia. Despite the extremely high levels of inequality between men and women that The Global Gender Gap has documented in Saudi Arabia (American Association of University Women, 2014), little is known about the actual perception of women within Saudi society. Several factors in Saudi Arabia’s history—including its pastoral herding economy, tendency toward frequent warfare, and polygamous family structure (Wagemakers et al., 2012)—link Saudi society with a tendency to encourage the formation of restrictive gender stereotypes that may be particularly harmful to women (Alesina et al., 2013; Nisbett & Cohen, 1996). Nevertheless, there is a dearth of research regarding gender stereotypes within Saudi Arabia and consequently there is limited data available about the specific stereotypes held by Saudi men and women about Saudi women. This study aimed to contribute new research to fill the gap in the literature regarding gender stereotypes about women within Saudi society. Using the social psychological framework provided by social role theory, social identity theory, and self-categorization theory, this study first attempted to identify some of the central stereotypes faced by Saudi women and then to elucidate ways in which gender impacts how men’s stereotypes of women differ from Saudi women’s self-stereotypes.

This study employed a cross-sectional, between-groups, quantitative design to test two hypotheses using a dataset that was collected from 841 Saudi undergraduate participants via survey questionnaire, the Saudi Women Stereotypes Scale (SWSS), in October 2014. The SWSS was a new scale, and as such the study also served to test the reliability and validity of the scale itself. To test the existence of the proposed stereotypes, items on the SWSS were subjected to Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) with varimax rotation (Gorsuch, 1983) to determine the optimum number of variables (stereotype dimensions). Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) was employed to test overall gender difference as well as similarities across stereotypes and differences across stereotypes. The study’s first hypothesis was supported, as that there are stereotype categories associated with Saudi women: virtuous, submissive, isolated, less competent, and source of shame. The second hypothesis was partly supported, revealing a multivariate effect of gender on stereotype endorsement such that men and women differed in their overall endorsement of female stereotypes. Men showed stronger endorsement of the stereotype that Saudi women are less competent, submissive, while women reported stronger support for the stereotype that Saudi women are, virtuous, and isolated.

These findings provide some of the first evidence about the type and strength of stereotypes about Saudi women. It can be concluded that the type of stereotypes about Saudi women endorsed by participants in this study reflect the nature of social relations in Saudi society and appear to maintain a system that segregates women and gives men a higher status, yet also regards women as virtuous.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons