Women in Middle-Eastern organisations: career experiences, opportunities and work-life balance

Nicolina Kamenou-Aigbekaen, Kathryn Thory

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    This conceptual paper investigates work/career and family life experiences for women working in the Middle eastern region, and specifically the Gulf countries (GCC). Through a review of the literature on gender, work experiences and work-life balance this article argues that most research is conducted in western contexts and has been criticised for not acknowledging ethnicity, nationality, cultural and religious differences when examining work and career experiences and also when looking at conflicts and opportunities in balancing work and family life tasks and responsibilities (for example, Kamenou, 2008; Rana et al., 2008). Moreover, when examining research on women’s work experiences in the Arab World, there is a dearth of studies looking at women's career progression, leadership, the glass-ceiling and work-life balance in this region (with some notable exceptions, for example, Syed et al., 2005; Syed, 2010; Afiouni, 2014; Al Dajani, 2010; Hutchings et al., 2010; Moghadam, 2013; Metcalfe, 2010; Metcalfe et al. 2009). In response, this study seeks to provide a crucial insight into a very under-researched area relating to Middle Eastern women's participation in the labour market and their perceptions of the effects of work on their home life and vice versa. It pays particular attention to work identity, role expectations, ambitions and aspirations, career opportunities and barriers, employers’ policies and practices, quality of life for the women themselves, but also other family members, including parents, spouses and children. The research also explores the emotional dimensions of work/career and juggling work-life commitments. The authors argue that a theoretical framework which acknowledges structure, culture and agency in investigating women's careers and work-life balance experiences is appropriate and can be applied well in the Middle-Eastern context. The structural dimension of the framework include organisational and family structures and the agency dimension encompass the strategies, emotions and personal determination on career experiences and opportunities. The interdependency of structure and agency is extended by incorporating culture, which is interpreted as both organizational and social group culture (Kamenou, 2008; Evetts, 2000; Bhopal,1997). This paper focuses on literature on Arab Muslim women in the Middle East but it is envisaged that the future empirical work will include women from other regions, nationalities and religions as well as men, in exploring career experiences and work-life balance perceptions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages20
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2016
    EventInternational Conference on Organization and Management - Abu Dhabi University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
    Duration: 20 Nov 201621 Nov 2016


    ConferenceInternational Conference on Organization and Management
    Abbreviated titleICOM
    Country/TerritoryUnited Arab Emirates
    CityAbu Dhabi


    • women
    • Arab Muslim
    • work-life balance
    • career management


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