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Success and agency: localizing women’s leadership in Oman

Maia Hallward (School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)
Hania Bekdash-Muellers (School of Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia, USA)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 20 September 2019

Issue publication date: 11 October 2019

359

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to examine women’s leadership in Oman, seeking to empirically determine whether and how local perceptions of “success” and lifestyle preferences are related to women’s agency and propensity for leadership.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on the literature, this paper qualitatively analyzes 32 semi-structured interviews of diverse Omani women leaders, identifying their conceptions of success as predominantly subjective or objective. At the same time, the study uses Hakim’s (2006) lifestyle preference model to explore women's agency.

Findings

Contrary to the literature on the central importance of domestic responsibilities for Arab Muslim women, more women in leadership positions are identified as career-centered (14/32, 44%); those who did identify as family-centered (6/32, 19%) did not cite Islam to justify that preference, and success is envisioned more subjectively (19/32, 59%).

Research limitations/implications

The sample has an urban bias and does not claim to be representative of all Omani women. Interviews were conducted in English; most women leaders in Oman are required to speak English.

Practical implications

By analyzing work-life balance preferences as a proxy for agency and interrogating Omani women's own conceptions of success, the study may lead to more robust and culturally aware policies to support women’s leadership.

Social implications

Defining in subjective terms suggests that success is not necessarily equated with achieving a high level position for Omani women. Further, only 6/32 were identified as home-centered, thus indicating the critical importance of domestic support from hired labor or family members.

Originality/value

This study contributes new empirical findings on women leaders in Oman that illustrates the role of personal agency and lifestyle preference in contrast to many studies that treat culture as a constant.

Keywords

Citation

Hallward, M. and Bekdash-Muellers, H. (2019), "Success and agency: localizing women’s leadership in Oman", Gender in Management, Vol. 34 No. 7, pp. 606-618. https://doi.org/10.1108/GM-11-2017-0162

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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