A Macro‐National Level Analysis of Arab Women's Work Engagement

AuthorJawad Syed, Muntaha Banihani
Publication Date01 Jun 2017
A Macro-National Level Analysis of Arab
Womens Work Engagement
Mutah University, Jordan
University of Huddersfield, UK and Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan
This paper reviews the macro-national level factors that influence womens work engagement in Arab c ountries.
First, it offers an overview of the notions of work engagement and gendered work engagement. Next, the macro-
national context is investigated where economic, socio-cultural, and legal factors are analyzed that may explain
differences in workplace engagement between men and women. Lastly, the discussion, implications for future
research and practice, and conclusion are offered.
Keywords: Arab countries; gender equality; Jordan; Middle East; women; work engagement
Engagement in the workplace has recently received much
attention as it is found to have desirable organizational
outcomes such as job satisfaction, productivity,
organizational commitment, employee performance, and
less intention to quit (Maslach et al., 2001; Saks, 2006;
Rich et al., 2010; Gruman and Saks, 2011; Alfes et al.,
2013; Andrew and Sofian, 2012; Li et al., 2015).
However, despite the plethora of studies on the
antecedents and consequences of work engagement, there
hasbeenlittleresearchonwomens work engag ement.
The way workengagement is constructedand investigated
in the literature is assumed, implicitly, to be gender-
neutral where women and men can equally demonstrate
their engagement in the workplace (Banihani et al.,
2013). The absence of attention to gender in
organizational research does not imply gender neutrality,
instead a male perspective is often tacitly adopted (Calas
and Smircich, 1992), which ultimately may contribute to
the perpetuation of inequalities in the workplace (Martin,
2000). Previous research has shown that the antecedents
of work engagement presented in Kahns (1990) classical
theorization, that is, psychological meaningfulness,
psychological safety, and psychological availability, are
gendered which makes it harder for women to be engaged
than for men (Banihani et al., 2013). This review paper
examines the macro-national context surrounding
womens work engagement to develop a comprehensive,
realistic and context-specific perspective of womens
work engagement.
Work engagement as a concept has been mainly
developed, explored, and researched in western countries
(Albrechy, 2010). As a result, little research has been
conducted on work engagement in Arab cultures. Yet, as
global organizations move, they bringtheir work practices
with them and may also need to adapt to local cultural
norms and values in order to attract, motivate and retain
employees (Hofstede, 1997; Greblikaite and Daugeliene,
2010). The current expansion of the global economy has
increased cross-cultural research.However, as far as work
engagement is concerned, cross-culturalresearch has also
been largely limitedto western countries (Schaufeli et al.,
2002a; Shimazu et al., 2010). The investigation of work
engagement in Arab culture is still missing and this may
affect our understanding and the generalizability of this
concept in thatregion. This is of special relevancebecause
it has been realized that research findings from western
samples cannot always be generalized to non-western
context (Scholz et al., 2002; Shimazu et al., 2010).
Hofstede (1980) found that the Arab countries share
similar societal and cultural values such as large power
distance, high uncertainty avoidance, and high
collectivism. Arab culture is also known to be patriarchal
where men have negative views of womens abilities to
succeed in the workplace (Mostafa, 2003; Whiteoak
et al., 2006). Arab culture has unique characteristics and
values that differ from western culture and research in
such culture has the potential to improve our
Correspondence: Muntaha Banihani, College of Business Administration,
Mutah University, Karak, Jordan.E-mail mbanihan@mutah.edu.jo
European Management Review, Vol. 14, 133142, (2017)
DOI: 10.1111/emre.12095
© 2016 European Academy of Management

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