Saudi waitresses feel weight of cultural norms
Saudi waitresses are increasingly torn between financial need and the pressure to give up their jobs by conservative family and friends for cultural reasons.
The majority of females who took part in a recent research study said Saudi women are reluctant to work as waitresses because of the negative perception of the profession.
Some Saudi women are still working as waitresses because they need the money, said Sheikha Al-Dahilan, who is a university graduate and currently has a job.
“If I needed the money, I would accept such a job, even if I was still at university.”
She said it was common for college students in America and Europe to work as waitresses for low salaries and rely on tips.
She said Saudi nationals must start respecting women who work in these positions.
Alaa Al-Swailem, a college student, said she respects Saudi women who work as waitresses.
She believes in creating opportunities for women to work. Al-Swailem said she would accept such work if she had no other alternative.
Salma Al-Wabare, a postgraduate student, said she would also work as a waitress if she did not have other qualifications, despite the social pressure.
Arwa Al-Shraideh, a high school student, said she would work in such a position regardless of her financial status, because it would be fun to meet people from different walks of life.
Umm Mohammed, the owner of a cafe, found that many Saudi women did not want to work as waitresses because of evening shifts, or their perception of the job as being temporary.
She had initially employed Filipino workers, but tried to hire more Saudis because of the Nitaqat System’s quotas.
Fatima, a university graduate, said she quit her job as a waitress because she felt pressured by friends and relatives, despite the fact that customers treated her respectfully and tipped well.
Munira Al-Shenaifi, a businesswoman, said that only a few Saudi women are keen to work as waitresses.
She has struggled to find employees despite providing training.
She urged Saudi women not to succumb to social pressure and accept positions that fit in with their needs for privacy.
Madawi Al-Hassoun, a businesswoman, agreed that Saudi women should respect and appreciate any kind of job. The focus, however, should be on developing the skills of Saudi women and creating more jobs for them.
Khalid Al-Helibi, director of the Center for Family Development in Al-Ahsa, said during a recent speech: “It is an honor to work. With the permission of her guardian, a Muslim woman or girl is permitted to work in cafes and restaurants, just as she is permitted to work as a nurse, educator, and in other professions.”