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Female entrepreneurship in the UAE: a multi-level integrative lens

Rabia Naguib (College of Business Administration, University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates)
Dima Jamali (Olayan School of Business, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 13 April 2015




This paper aims to propose a multi-level integrative research framework anchored in an institutional theory that can successfully capture the multitude of factors affecting the expression of female entrepreneurship in context. Although female entrepreneurship is known to contribute to economic growth and vitality, and to enhance the diversity of employment in any economic system, there is very little research pertaining to female entrepreneurship in the Middle East. The authors use this framework to provide insights into multi-level factors enabling and constraining the experience of female entrepreneurship in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and advance knowledge of female entrepreneurship in a particular Middle Eastern context as well as cross-nationally.


Analytical framework and qualitative research methodology consisting of focus group meetings and interviews with 15 female entrepreneurs and five male partners in the UAE.


Our findings aptly highlight the salience of a complex set of entangled factors lying at multiple levels of analysis in shaping female entrepreneurship in the UAE. Our findings also accentuate the importance of the institutional and social contexts in shaping the situational opportunities and constraints that affect female entrepreneurship and its complex expressions in a particular society. Although our findings document a positive tide of change in favor of female entrepreneurship, they also reveal the persistence of various traces of stereotypes and patriarchy that continue to constrain the free expressions of female entrepreneurship in the UAE.

Research limitations/implications

This study contributes empirically by conveying the lived experiences of a sample of women entrepreneurs in the UAE, but the results cannot be generalized given the limited size of the sample investigated. Conceptually, the analytical framework proposed in this paper represents a simplified heuristic tool rather than an explanatory model of the complex dynamics and interplays between different levels of analysis and institutional pressures when examining female entrepreneurship.


The value added of this research is to present original insights into female entrepreneurship from a vibrant Middle Eastern context, namely, the UAE, a country that has attracted and witnessed increasing attention in recent years in the context of globalization. In view of the Western-centric nature of academic publication on the topic, there is a real need for fresh theoretical and empirical insights stemming from an Arab-Middle Eastern context to advance knowledge and scholarship in this area.



Naguib, R. and Jamali, D. (2015), "Female entrepreneurship in the UAE: a multi-level integrative lens", Gender in Management, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 135-161.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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