‘Your situation is critical…’

The discursive enactment of leadership by business women in Middle Eastern and Western European contexts

Authors

  • Judith Baxter Aston University
  • Haleema Al-A'ali Aston University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v8i1.91

Keywords:

Leadership, Gender, Relational Practices, Interactional Sociolinguistic Analysis

Abstract

Women remain in a small minority as business leaders in both Middle Eastern (ME) and Western European (WE) regions, and indeed, past research indicates that ME women face even greater challenges as leaders than their Western counterparts. This article explores sample findings from two separate case studies, the first of a ME woman leader and the second of a WE woman leader, each conducting a management meeting with their teams. Using interactional sociolinguistic analysis, we examine the ‘contextualisation cues’ that index how each woman performs leadership in their respective meetings. We found that both women utilise relational practices in order to enact leadership with their subordinates, but with varying results. Whereas the ME leader deploys a confident and commanding interactional style with her colleagues, the WE leader’s style is evasive and uncertain. On the basis of these two cases, the WE leader appears to face greater challenges in a male-dominated business world than the ME leader. Whereas the ME leader can rely on long-established ties of loyalty and organisation-as-family, the Western leader, within an apparently more open, democratic context, has to negotiate overwhelming turbulence and change within her company.

Author Biographies

Judith Baxter, Aston University

Judith Baxter is Professor of Applied Linguistics and Head of English at Aston University, UK.

Haleema Al-A'ali, Aston University

Haleema Al-A'ali has recently completed her PhD at Aston University, and currently teaches at the University of Bahrain.

References

Abdalli, I. 1996. Attitudes towards women in the Arab Gulf region. Women in Management Review, 11(1): 29-39.

Ali, A. 1993. Decision-making style, individualism, and attitudes towards risk of Arab executives. International Studies of Management and Organisation, 23(3): 53-57.

Ali, A. 1995. Cultural discontinuity and Arab management thought. International Studies of Management and Organisation, 25(3): 7-30.

Al-lail, J. (1996). Muslim women between tradition and modernity: the Islamic perspective. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 16(1): 99-110.

Al-Lamki, S. 1999. Paradigm shift: a perspective on Omani women in management in the Sultanate of Oman. Advancing Women in Leadership Online Journal, Spring 5.

Al-Lamki, S. 2000. Omanization: A three tier strategic framework for Human Resource Management and training in the Sultanate of Oman. Journal of Comparative Internationals Management, 3(1): 55.

Angouri, Jo, and Marra, Meredith. (eds.) 2012. Constructing Identities at Work. London: Palgrave.

Barakat, H. 2004. The Contemporary Arab Society: An Exploratory Research. Beirut: Centre for Arab Unity Studies.

Bargiela-Chiappini, Frances., and Harris, Sarah. 1997. Managing Language: The Discourse of Corporate Meetings. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Bass, Brian. (1998) Transformational Leadership: Industrial, Military and Educational Impact. Mahawah, New Jersey: Erlbaum.

Brown, P. & Levinson, S. 1987. Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge University Press

Butler, Judith. (1990). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York, U.S: Routledge.

Cameron, Deborah. 1997. Performing gender identity: young men’s talk and the construction of heterosexual masculinity. In S. Johnson and U.H. Meinhof (eds.) Language and Masculinity. Oxford University Press, pp. 47 – 64.

Cameron, Deborah. 2006. Theorising the female voice in public contexts. In J. Baxter (ed.) Speaking Out: The Female Voice in Public Contexts. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave.

Castañeda-Peña, Harold. 2008. ‘Interwoven and competing gendered discourses in a pre-school EFL lesson’, in K. Harrington, L .Litosseliti, H. Sauntson, and J. Sunderland (eds.), Gender and Language Research Methodologies. Palgrave: Macmillan, pp. 256 – 68.

CEDAW. 2002. The Supreme Council for Women in Bahrain Established. London: Gulf Centre for Strategic Studies.

Clifton, J. 2012. A discursive approach to leadership: doing assessments and managing organizational meanings. Journal of Business Communication, 49: 148 – 168.

Coates, Jennifer, 1995. Language, gender and career. In Sara Mills (ed.) Language & Gender: Interdisciplinary perspectives. London: Longman.

Copland Fiona. 2011. Negotiating face in the feedback conference: a linguistic ethnographic approach. Journal of Pragmatics 43(15): 3832 – 3843.

Drew, Paul and Heritage, John. 1992. Talk at Work: Interaction in Institutional Settings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eagly, A. and Carli, L. 2007. Through the Labyrinth: The Truth about how Women Become Leaders. Boston, US: Harvard Business School Press.

Eckert, Penelope. and McConnell-Ginet, Sally. 1998. ‘Communities of practice: where language, gender and power all live’, in J. Coates (ed.) Language and Gender: A Reader. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 484 – 94.

El-Azhary, A. 2003. Women of Jordan, Islam Labor and the Law. New York: Syracuse University Press.

El-Rahmony, S. (2002). Women in the Arab world: from role conflict to effective participation. Al-Mustaqbal Al-Arabi (Arab Future), pp. 93-107.

Fairclough, Norman. 2001. Language and power. 2ndedn. London: Longman.

Fletcher, J.K. 1999. Disappearing Acts: Gender, Power and Relational Practice. Massachusetts: MIT

Ford, Cecilia. E. 2008. Women Speaking Up: Getting and Using Turns in Workplace Meetings. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave.

Foucault, Michel. 1972. The Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Pantheon.

Grice, H. Paul. 1975. Logic and conversation. In P. Cole and J. Morgan (eds.) Syntax and Semantics 3: Speech Acts. New York: Academic Press, pp. 41 – 58.

Gumperz, John. (1982) Language and Social Identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Hammersley, Martin, and Atkinson, Paul. 1995. Ethnography. London: Routledge.

Handford, Michael. 2010. The Language of Business Meetings. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Helgesen, Sally. 1990. The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership. New York, US: Doubleday/Currency.

Hogg, M.A., Hardie, E.A., and Reynolds, K. 1995. Prototypical similarity, self-categorization, and depersonalized attraction: a perspective on group cohesiveness. European Journal of Social Psychology, 25: 159 – 177.

Holmes, Janet. 2007. Social constructionism, postmodernism and feminist sociolinguistics. Gender and Language 1 (1): 51 – 56.

Holmes, Janet. 2006. Gendered Talk at Work. Oxford: Blackwell.

Holmes, J. and Stubbe, M. 2003. Power and Politeness in the Workplace. London: Pearson.

Jefferson, Gail. 2004.Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction. In G.H. Lerner (Ed.) Conversation Analysis: Studies from the First Generation. Philadelphia, US: John Benjamins, pp.13 – 23.

Joseph, S. 1996. Patriarchy and development in the Arab world. Gender and Development, 4 (2): 14-19.

Joseph, S., & Slyomovics, S. 2001. Women and Power in the Middle East. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Kamada, Laurel. 2010. Hybrid Identities and Adolescent Girls. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. 1993. Men and Women of the Corporation. 2ndedn. New York, US: Basic Books.

Kelly, S., & Breslin, J. 2010. Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Progress amid Resistance. New York: Freedom House.

Koller, Veronika. 2004. Businesswomen and war metaphors: Possessive, jealous and pugnacious?’ Journal of Sociolinguistics, 8 (1): 3 – 22.

Labov, William. 1966. The Social Stratification of English in New York City. Washington DC: Centre for Applied Linguistics.

Metcalfe, B. 2007. Gender and human resource management in the Middle East. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 18(1), 54-74.

Moi, Toril. 1999. What is a woman? Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mostafa, M. 2005. Attitudes towards women managers in the United Arab Emirates: The effects of patriarchy, age, and sex differences. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 20(6): 522-540.

Mullany, Louise. 2007. Gendered Discourse in the Professional Workplace. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Ochs, Elinor. 1992. Indexing gender. In A. Duranti and C. Goodwin (Eds.) Rethinking context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Ozbilgin, M., & Healy, G. 2003. Don't mention the war: Middle Eastern careers in context. Career Development International, 8 (7): 325-327.

Olsson, Sally. 2006. ‘We don’t need another hero!: Organisational story-telling as a vehicle for communicating a female archetype of workplace leadership.’ In M. Barrett and M. J. Davidson (Eds.) Gender and Communication at Work. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, pp. 195 – 210.

Powell, G. (1999). Reflections on the glass ceiling: recent trends and future prospects. In G. Powell (Ed.), Handbook of Gender and Work. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 325-345.

Priola, Cinzia. and Brannan, M.J. 2009. Between a rock and a hard place': Exploring women's experiences of participation and progress in managerial careers. Equal Opportunities International, 28(5): 378-397.

Rice, G. 1999. Islamic ethics and implications for business. Journal of Business Ethics, 18: 345-358.

Robertson, C., Al-Khatib, A., & Al-Habib, M. 2002. The relationship between Arab values and work beliefs: an exploratory examination. Thunderbird International Business Review, 44(5): 583.

Rosener, J.B. 1990. Ways women lead. Harvard Business Review, 68: 119—125.

Sabbagh, A. 2005. The Arab States: enhancing women's political participation. In J. Ballington, & A. Karam, Women in Parliament: Beyond Numbers Handbook (2nd ed.). Stockholm: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.

Sacks, H. Schegloff, E.A. and Jefferson, G. 1974. A simplest systematics for the organisation of turn-taking for conversation‘. Language, 50: 696 -735.

Sauntson, Helen. 2012. Approaches to Gender and Spoken Classroom Discourse. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Schiffrin, Deborah. 1994. Approaches to Discourse. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.

Schnurr, Stephanie. 2009. Leadership Discourse at Work. Interactions of Humour, Gender and Workplace culture. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave.

Sealy Ruth. 2010. Changing perceptions of meritocracy in senior women's careers. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 25 (3): 184-197.

Sinclair, Amanda. 1998. Doing Leadership Differently: Gender, Power and Sexuality in a Changing Business Culture. Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press.

Still, Leonie. 2006. Gender, leadership and communication. In M. Barrett and M.J. Davidson (eds.) Gender and Communication at Work. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

Sunderland, Jane. 2004. Gendered Discourses. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave.

Tannen, Deborah. 1995. Talking from 9 to 5. London: Virago.

Tohme'-Tabet, A. 2001. Women, Intangible Heritage and Development in the Arab world. Retrieved February 6, 2009, from http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/doc/src/00161-EN.pdf

Vikør, K. S. 1998. The Shari'a and the nation state: Who can codify the divine law? The Middle East in a Globalising World, Oslo, pp. 13-16.

Vinnicombe, Susan. and Singh, Valerie. 2002. Sex role stereotyping and requisites of successful top managers. Women in Management Review, 120 – 130.

Weir, D. 2003. Human resource management in the Arab Middle East. In M. Lee, HRD in a Complex World. London: Routledge.

Whitaker, B. 2009. What's really wrong with the Middle East. London: Saqi Press.

Wodak, Ruth. 1997. ‘I know we won’t revolutionise the world with this, but..’: Styles of female leadership in institutions. In H. Kotthoff and R. Wodak (eds.) Communicating Gender in Context. Pragmatics & Beyond. John Benjamins, Amsterdam, pp.335 - 370.

Yin, Robert. K. 2009. Case Study Research: Design and Methods (4th Edn.). Thousand Oaks.

Published

2014-03-17

How to Cite

Baxter, J., & Al-A’ali, H. (2014). ‘Your situation is critical…’: The discursive enactment of leadership by business women in Middle Eastern and Western European contexts. Gender and Language, 8(1), 91–116. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.v8i1.91

Issue

Section

Articles

Most read articles by the same author(s)