Call for papers for a Special Issue of Gender in Management: An International Journal Women in STEM study and employment in the Middle-East North Africa region

Call for papers for a Special Issue of Gender in Management: An International Journal


Women in STEM study and employment in the Middle-East North Africa region


Guest editorial team:


Linzi J. Kemp, Associate Professor, Department of Management, School of Business Administration

(SBA), American University of Sharjah (AUS), Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

Norita Ahmad, Associate Professor, Department of Marketing & IS, School of Business Administration (SBA), American University of Sharjah (AUS), Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

Salwa Beheiry, Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, College of Engineering, American University of Sharjah (AUS), Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.


The Middle East North Africa (MENA) region was chosen as the location for this special issue because it is an under-researched geographical region, particularly for studies on women’s education and careers (Afiouni & Karam, 2017; Kemp et al., 2013; Madsen, 2010). This special issue looks to showcase conceptual, theoretical and empirical papers that explore the experiences of women who study and work in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).


The special issue has two aims. First, to expand discussions about women students and professionals in the fields of STEM.  These women’s experiences are an element of significant economic, demographic, generational, socio-cultural and political changes in the region.  Second, this special issue seeks to identify avenues for future research themes, building on work developed in the past decade about women in the Arab world, Middle East, MENA region (e.g. Afiouni, 2014; Afiouni & Karam, 2017; Ahmad et. al., 2017; Elamin & Omair, 2010; Hutchings et al., 2010; Kemp & Rickett, 2017; Kemp et al., 2015; Kemp & Zhao, 2016; Madsen, 2010; Metcalfe, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011; Metcalfe et al., 2009; Omair, 2008, 2010; Rodriguez & Ridgeway, 2018).


It is known that women are educated to a high level in most of these countries (Madsen, 2010), but yet there is a so-called leaking pipeline of women from education through management and into senior organisational roles (Afiouni, 2014; Afiouni & Karam, 2017).  Of interest for this special issue on women in STEM are figures obtained from official open data portals, which revealed statistics from 2015/16, that the majority of graduates in STEM subjects in one country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were women, and had studied at government institutions of Higher Education ( Furthermore, data obtained from the ‘Global Gender Gap Report’ (WEF, 2016) revealed 62% of the graduates from STEM disciplines in UAE were women. A positive pattern of women studying and graduating in STEM disciplines in the country is in contrast to the poor rates of female graduates in those disciplines internationally (Fouad et al., 2016; Singh et al., 2013).


However, despite increasing numbers of women studying, as economic participants in labour markets, and the rising numbers of women working in STEM industries, there remain under explored issues in academic literature.  A UNESCO report (2017, p.7) on girls and women in STEM education indicated a lower percentage of females (less than 21%) were represented in the student body within engineering, manufacturing and construction for most of the Arab Gulf states. Despite high achievements by women in education, and their enrolment in STEM studies, the ranking for women’s labour force participation in these countries remains extremely low (WEF, 2016).


The Arab world has low employment rates of women, the majority of whom are Muslim, but those rates vary across different countries (Spierings, 2015; UNESCO, 2017; WEF, 2016).  At the macro level of society, these Majority Muslim Countries contain religious and cultural influences for understanding Muslim women’s economic participation. A study of Muslim women, as wives, mothers and working professionals, was conducted in the Middle East region (Spierings, 2015). In that study, Muslim women were dependent on their spouse, and entered the labour market to meet their family economic and care needs only in the absence of his income, and many of those women chose to work from home in accordance with religious and cultural norms (Spierings, 2015). However, feminist readings of society and religious texts point to cultural barriers rather than religious factors (Metcalfe, 2008; Metcalfe et al., 2009). As well, the female population of these countries maybe diverse in nationality, social status, as well as religious beliefs.


At the meso-level of organisations, it is the institutional regimes that are of concern in the constraints on working women in the Arab world (Kemp et al., 2015). These issues pose questions around women’s opportunities to develop networks, achieve balance between life and work commitments, and take up opportunities for professional development and career progression. At the same time, many women navigate these environments so it should not be assumed that their experiences can be universalised or be simply understood in terms of how they may be framed by socio-cultural features and institutional arrangements.


In summary, there are relatively high numbers of women studying in STEM disciplines in countries of the Arab Gulf states - a small number of countries in MENA. There is acceptance in the Islamic faith of women’s education and employment, although societal values will also influence women’s career choices. In the Arab world, there are relatively low numbers of females who work outside the home, and fewer still in male-dominated environments, which cultural norms appear to contribute to low recruitment and retention of women in STEM professions.


Special issue

This special issue is interested in scholarship that engages with both established and emerging issues that explores the diverse nature of women’s experiences as students and employees in STEM in the MENA region. The diverse voices of women are not sufficiently documented, so more discussion is needed that not only problematises their lived experiences but is inclusive of differences within and between groups of women working in the region. This would help to enhance our understanding of how their experiences come to be, and how they navigate the nuances of the socio-cultural, and organisational environments to succeed as students and employees.


We invite contributions that address (but are not limited to) the following themes/questions:

  • What are the experiences of women in STEM study and professional settings in the MENA region?
  • What strategies do women use to navigate the socio-cultural context existing in STEM?
  • How do the experiences of diverse groups of women compare within and/or across STEM places of learning and working in the MENA region?
  • How do STEM women manage work-life balance demands, pressures and expectations? (e.g. limitations related to part-time work, maternity provision, etc.)
  • How do STEM women engage with, negotiate and respond to notions of respectable femininity in professional settings?  
  • What power dynamics emerge at work and beyond that to impact the lives of STEM women (e.g. gendered hierarchies in organisations, reliance on domestic help) and how do women navigate these dynamics?
  • What are the factors that influence and motivate female students to enrol and persist in STEM degree programs in the MENA region?
  • What are women’s career goals after they graduate that affect their persistence or abandonment of STEM in the MENA region?


Guest editors are happy to discuss ideas for papers with potential contributors, email


Estimated timeline to special issue:


Submissions due - May 30, 2020.  To:




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