A graduate of Saudi public schools, Al-Ghuraibi earned a master’s degree at King Saud University in 2000 with a thesis on young women’s attitudes toward modernity in Saudi Arabia. Seventeen years later, she got her Ph.D. degree at the University of Sydney with a dissertation on “The Role of Social Capital in the Formation and Activation of Civil Society Organisations in Saudi Arabia”.
The Saudi scholar’s return to her homeland coincided with the openness measures under Saudi Vision 2030, which included many reforms that promote the role and status of women in public life.
As a political sociologist, Al-Ghuraibi felt concerned that the rapid changes might lead to conflicts between different ideologies. However, she thinks society was ready for this change, and showed a high degree of resilience at the level of institutions, groups, and individuals.
The new openness was reflected in Saudi scholars’ choices of research topics in areas that were previously unexplored, such as women’s empowerment, women and gender studies, environmental studies, and social responsibility. This also led to the inclusion of social scientists in decision-making centres, said Al-Ghuraibi.
Al-Ghuraibi sees women’s empowerment in the kingdom as a channel for revitalizing progressive ideas. True empowerment, she says, is concerned with quality rather than quantity. For example, she calls for attention to making sure that newly graduated young women, especially those in jobs that require experience in decision-making, are well trained in the skills they need to avoid making costly mistakes in the workplace.
In addition to her teaching duties at King Saud University, Al-Ghuraibi is a member of many committees and units at her university and outside. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Saudi Social Studies Society, which publishes a refereed research journal and organizes conferences and seminars to discuss new issues.
She has also established a sociological café, whose meetings discuss social issues, and has concluded several cooperation agreements with public and private agencies.
Linking Theoretical and Practical Studies
Al-Ghuraibi recommends linking theoretical studies to field research in the teaching of social sciences in Saudi universities.
“The educational outcomes of theoretical majors do not meet the needs of the labour market, because practical training was not taken into account in their education,” Al-Ghuraibi said. Weaknesses of a too-theoretical approach include “a lack critical thinking skills among some students, and a lack of research, at school, on new issues related to changes in society.”