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The power of femininity: Exploring the gender and ethnic experiences of Muslim women who accessed supervisory roles in a Bedouin society

Sarab Abu‐Rabia Quader (Oxford University, Oxford, UK)
Izhar Oplatka (Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheva, Israel)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 9 May 2008

Abstract

Purpose

The current paper aims to tell the stories of six female supervisors who have successfully managed to access this high‐level position in the Bedouin educational system, putting forward some implications for understanding and exploring the lives and career of women in patriarchal, minority groups.

Design/methodology/approach

Six female Muslim supervisors, who work in the Bedouin pre‐school system in Israel, participated in semi‐structured interviews conducted by the authors.

Findings

The stories illustrated a connection between “power” and “femininity” in leading positions in a patriarchal, tribal society different from the one constructed in the western literature on leadership. Thus, in spite of the inferiority of femininity in the traditional Bedouin society, the female supervisors perceived their femininity to be an advantage and powerful in, among other things, minimizing tribal‐professional conflict characterized by a contradiction between traditional and rational codes, and in taking on a social role in the empowerment of Bedouin women in all spheres of life.

Practical implications

The paper puts forward some implications for the recruitment and employment of women leaders living and working in patriarchal social groups within a multicultural society.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors' knowledge, this is a first attempt to document the lives and careers of female leaders in Bedouin society which is embedded with entrenched norms in respect to gender and the “place” of women in the society. The paper, then, provides insights into alternative interpretations of female leadership, power and career.

Keywords

Citation

Abu‐Rabia Quader, S. and Oplatka, I. (2008), "The power of femininity: Exploring the gender and ethnic experiences of Muslim women who accessed supervisory roles in a Bedouin society", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 46 No. 3, pp. 396-415. https://doi.org/10.1108/09578230810869301

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited