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Women, Work and Management in the Middle East

Guest Editorial team:

Jenny K Rodriguez (University of Manchester)

Maranda Ridgway (Nottingham Trent University)

Linzi Kemp (American University of Sharjah)


This special issue looks to showcase conceptual, theoretical and empirical papers that explore the experiences of work and management of women in the Middle East. The special issue has two aims. First, to expand discussions about women at work in the Middle East, considering the significant economic, demographic, generational, socio-cultural and political changes in the region and globally, and the implications of these changes for women’s experiences of/at work. Second, the special issue seeks to identify avenues for future research themes, building up on work developed in the past decade about women in the Middle East (e.g. Al-Ahmadi, 2011; Elamin & Omair, 2010; Hutchings et al., 2010; Metcalfe, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011; Metcalfe et al., 2009; Omair, 2008, 2010; Tlaiss & Kauser, 2010; Scurry et al., 2013; Rodriguez & Scurry, 2014; Kemp et al., 2015; Kemp & Zhao, 2016).

Despite the increasing number women in labour markets in the Middle East, the region remains under-represented in academic literature about women, work and management. Some discussions (e.g. Metcalfe, 2008; Metcalfe et al., 2009; Joseph & Slyomovics, 2011) have noted the role of patriarchal regimes in the organization of social and organizational life, noting that socio-cultural and political features, as well as institutional regimes create constraints for working women in the region. An important aspect of this discussion pertains to the diversity in the experiences of women, which are “compounded in an Arab Middle Eastern context by religiously and culturally defined attitudes and practices” (Jamali et al., 2005: 583). This poses different challenges to women that include the impact of gendered understandings about their identities, lack of opportunities to develop networks, demands to balance work and life commitments, struggles with legitimacy at work, and limited opportunities for career progression. At the same time, women navigate these environments so it should not be assumed that their experiences can be universalised or be simply understood in terms of how they may be framed by socio-cultural features and institutional arrangements.

The special issue is interested in works that engage with both established and emerging issues, and explore the diverse nature of women’s experiences in work and management in the Middle East. The diverse voices of women in the region are not sufficiently documented so more discussion is needed that not only problematises their experiences of/in work and management, but is inclusive of differences within and between groups of women working in the region. This would help to enhance our understanding of how their experiences come to be, how they navigate the nuances of the socio-cultural, institutional and organizational environments, and how this interplays with wider dynamics of work and management.

In this special issue, we refer to ‘women’ to include all women working in the region; conversely, whilst recognising the contested nature of what is termed as “the Middle East” (Davison, 1960), we use this term to include what is referred to as the Arab world, the Arab East, and Arab Gulf and the Levant.

With the previous in mind, we invite contributions that address (but are not limited to) the following themes/questions:

  • What are the experiences of women in work settings in the Middle East? What strategies do women use to navigate the nuances of the socio-cultural context?
  • What are the work experiences of women in non-traditional families? (e.g. single parents)
  • How do the experiences of diverse groups of women compare within and/or across workplaces or countries in the region?
  • How do women manage work-life balance demands, pressures and expectations? (e.g. limitations related to part-time work, maternity provision, etc.)
  • How do women engage with, negotiate and respond to notions of respectable femininity in work settings?  
  • What power dynamics emerge at work and beyond that impact the lives of working women (e.g. gendered hierarchies in organizations, reliance on domestic help) and how do women navigate these dynamics?


Guest Editors are happy to discuss ideas for papers with potential contributors. You can contact them at:

Jenny Rodriguez ([email protected]); Maranda Ridgway ([email protected]), and Linzi Kemp ([email protected]).


Important Dates

Deadline for submission of manuscripts: 30 November 2017

Special Issue publication date: May 2018


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Al-Ahmadi, H. (2011) Challenges facing women leaders in Saudi Arabia. Human Resource Development International, 14(2), 149-166.

Davison, R. H. (1960). Where is the Middle East?. Foreign Affairs, 38(4), 665-675.

Elamin, A. M. & Omair, K. (2010) Males’ attitudes towards working females in Saudi Arabia. Personnel Review, 39(6), 746-766.

Hutchings, K., Metcalfe, B. D. & Cooper, B. K. (2010) Exploring Arab Middle Eastern women's perceptions of barriers to, and facilitators of, international management opportunities. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 21(1), 61-83.

Jamali, D., Sidani, Y. & Safieddine, A. (2005) Constraints facing working women in Lebanon: an insider view. Women in Management Review, 20(8): 581-594.

Joseph, S. & Slyomovics, S. (2011) Introduction. In Joseph, S. and Slyomovics, S. (Eds) Women and Power in the Middle East, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 1-22.

Kemp, L. J., Madsen, S. & Davis, J. (2015) Women in business leadership: A comparative study of countries in the Arab Gulf states. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 15(2): 215-233.

Kemp, L. J. & Zhao, F. (2016) Influences of cultural orientations on Emirati women’s careers. Personnel Review, 45(5): 988-1009.

Metcalfe, B. D. (2006) Exploring cultural dimensions of gender and management in the Middle East. Thunderbird International Business Review, 48(1), 93-107.

Metcalfe, B. D. (2007) Gender and human resource management in the Middle East. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 18(1), 54-74.

Metcalfe, B. D. (2008) Women, management and globalization in the Middle East. Journal of Business Ethics, 83(1), 85-100.

Metcalfe, B., Hutchings. K. & Cooper, B. (2009) Re-examining Women’s International Management Opportunities and Experiences: A Middle Eastern Perspective. In Ibeh, K. & Davies, S. (Eds) Contemporary Challenges to International Business, London: Palgrave-Macmillan, pp. 232-250.

Metcalfe, B. D. (2011) Women, empowerment and development in Arab Gulf States: a critical appraisal of governance, culture and national human resource development (HRD) frameworks. Human Resource Development International, 14(2), 131-148.

Metcalfe, B. & Mimouni, F. (Eds.) (2011) Leadership development in the Middle East. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Omair, K. (2008) Women in management in the Arab context. Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues, 1(2), 107-123.

Omair, K. (2010) Typology of career development for Arab women managers in the United Arab Emirates. Career Development International, 15(2), 121-143.

Rodriguez, J. K. & Scurry, T. (2014) Career capital development of self-initiated expatriates in Qatar: cosmopolitan globetrotters, experts and outsiders. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(7), 1046-1067.

Scurry, T., Rodriguez, J. K. & Bailouni, S. (2013). Narratives of identity of self-initiated expatriates in Qatar. Career Development International, 18(1), 12-33.

Tlaiss, H. & Kauser, S. (2010) Perceived organizational barriers to women’s career advancement in Lebanon. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 25(6), 462-496.