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

Cite this