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Women and the legitimization of (not) engaging in paid work: logics from Lebanon

Charlotte M. Karam (Olayan School of Business, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon)
Fida Afiouni (Olayan School of Business, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 9 October 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore how public (i.e. culture, state, paid work) and private (i.e. household) patriarchal structures work to shape a woman’s own legitimacy judgments concerning not engaging in paid work. The authors trace the intersection and interaction of legitimacy logics at both the collective (i.e. validity) and individual (i.e. propriety) levels, thereby gaining a better contextual understanding of each woman’s perception of career opportunities and limitations.


Qualitative methodology drawing from 35 semi-structured interviews with Lebanese women. A multilevel analytic framework combining the institutional structures of private and public patriarchy with the micro-processes of institutional logics is used.


Legitimization of (not) engaging in paid work is often tied to patriarchal logics that favor private sphere responsibilities for women, particularly related to the relational and instrumental logics of childrearing and husband-oriented responsibilities. Women’s legitimacy judgment formation seems to be based on multilevel cues and on differential instances of evaluative vs passive judgment formation. Some appear to passively assume the legitimacy of the logics; while others more actively question these logics. The findings suggest that active questioning is often overwhelmed by the negative and harsh realities making the woman succumb to passivity and choosing not to engage in paid work.


This study provides: a better mapping of the individual woman’s daily cognitions concerning the legitimacy of (not) engaging in paid work; and a unique multilevel analytic framework that can serve as a useful example of contextualizing career research.



The authors would like to acknowledge that this research was made possible through an Olayan School of Business OFFER grant awarded to the second author.


Karam, C.M. and Afiouni, F. (2017), "Women and the legitimization of (not) engaging in paid work: logics from Lebanon", Career Development International, Vol. 22 No. 6, pp. 628-658.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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