Saudi Stores To Let Women Sell Undergarments


For years, women in Saudi Arabia have had to buy their lingerie from men. Since men and women are segregated in many areas of Saudi society, women generally can’t work in malls and stores — unless the store caters to women only.

As Bloomberg reports, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has said that he intends to make it possible for more women to have jobs, and he has now decreed that “shops selling women’s necessities” should only be staffed by women. The Labor Minister has set an end-of-the-year deadline for stores to comply.

The decree is good news for Saudi women seeking employment, as Saudi Arabia’s female employment rate is currently the lowest of the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

  • In 2008, it is estimated that only 12% of Saudi women were employed
  • Whereas the female employment rate is 25% in Qatar and 28% in the United Arab Emirates
  • In the U.S., the employment rate for women 20 years of age and older is 55%

“It’s a good thing to happen, but it requires planning.” — Ghaith Azzam, brand manager for La Vie En Rose

Store owners planning to make the switch to an all-female sales staff are considering various measures to prevent men from gawking at the saleswomen.

  • “Families Only” signs may be posted
  • Male guards might be stationed at the store entrance
  • Store windows may be covered with heavy curtains, so men can’t peer inside

Not only will more Saudi women be employed due to the new directive, but Saudi shoppers will no longer have to consult men about panties and bra sizes. Women have wanted the change for years, even campaigning for it through Facebook postings and letters to lingerie stores.

A directive similar to this one was issued in 2006 but never carried out, mostly due to the objections of religious conservatives.