The power of femininity: Exploring the gender and ethnic experiences of Muslim women who accessed supervisory roles in a Bedouin society Academic Article uri icon


  • Purpose – The current paper aims to tell the stories of six female supervisors who have successfully managed to access this high-level position in the Bedouin educational system, putting forward some implications for understanding and exploring the lives and career of women in patriarchal, minority groups. Design/methodology/approach – Six female Muslim supervisors, who work in the Bedouin pre-school system in Israel, participated in semi-structured interviews conducted by the authors. Findings – The stories illustrated a connection between “power” and “femininity” in leading positions in a patriarchal, tribal society different from the one constructed in the western literature on leadership. Thus, in spite of the inferiority of femininity in the traditional Bedouin society, the female supervisors perceived their femininity to be an advantage and powerful in, among other things, minimizing tribal-professional conflict characterized by a contradiction between traditional and rational codes, and in taking on a social role in the empowerment of Bedouin women in all spheres of life. Practical implications – The paper puts forward some implications for the recruitment and employment of women leaders living and working in patriarchal social groups within a multicultural society. Originality/value – To the best of the authors' knowledge, this is a first attempt to document the lives and careers of female leaders in Bedouin society which is embedded with entrenched norms in respect to gender and the “place” of women in the society. The paper, then, provides insights into alternative interpretations of female leadership, power and career.

publication date

  • May 9, 2008