An exploration of female leadership language
: case studies of senior women in Bahrain

  • Haleema Ebrahim

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This is a multiple case study of the leadership language of three senior women working in a large corporation in Bahrain. The study’s main aim is to explore the linguistic practices the women leaders use with their colleagues and subordinates in corporate meetings. Adopting a Foucauldian (1972) notion of ‘discourses’ as social practices and a view of gender as socially constructed and discursively performed (Butler 1990), this research aims to unveil the competing discourses which may shape the leadership language of senior women in their communities of practice. The research is situated within the broader field of Sociolinguistics and
    the specific field of Language and Gender. To address the research aim, a case study approach incorporating multiple methods of
    qualitative data collection (observation, interviews, and shadowing) was utilised to gather
    information about the three women leaders and produce a rich description of their use of language in and out of meeting contexts. For analysis, principles of Qualitative Data Analysis (QDA) were used to organise and sort the large amount of data. Also, Feminist Post-
    Structuralist Discourse Analysis (FPDA) was adopted to produce a multi-faceted analysis of the
    subjects, their language leadership, power relations, and competing discourses in the context. It was found that the three senior women enact leadership differently making variable use of a
    repertoire of conventionally masculine and feminine linguistic practices. However, they all
    appear to have limited language resources and even more limiting subject positions; and they
    all have to exercise considerable linguistic expertise to police and modify their language in order
    to avoid the ‘double bind’. Yet, the extent of this limitation and constraints depends on the
    community of practice with its prevailing discourses, which appear to have their roots in Islamic
    and cultural practices as well as some Western influences acquired throughout the company’s
    history. It is concluded that it may be particularly challenging for Middle Eastern women to
    achieve any degree of equality with men in the workplace because discourses of Gender
    difference lie at the core of Islamic teaching and ideology.
    Date of Award12 Jun 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Aston University
    SupervisorJudith A Baxter (Supervisor)


    • language and gender
    • case study
    • Middle East
    • Arab world
    • patriarchy
    • Islam
    • community of practice
    • FPDA

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