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    Leader identity construction among Saudi Women academics: how does readiness matter?

    Alharbi, Tahani Ibrahim H (2023) Leader identity construction among Saudi Women academics: how does readiness matter? PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    This study focuses on Saudi women’s construction of their leader identity, specifically within the context of political and sociocultural constraints. Women in Saudi Arabia (KSA) account for 49 percent of the population (GASTAT, 2016) and 45.4 percent of academia (Ministry of Education, 2018a). However, only 3.3 percent have attained top leadership positions in the public sector (GASTAT, 2018a). Research suggests that sociocultural constraints may affect Saudi women’s developmental readiness to hold high-ranked leadership roles (Kattan et al., 2016). It is therefore important to view leadership practises through a contextual lens, to gain insights into the unique experiences leaders encounter in leadership roles (Radomski, 2014; Avolio et al., 2009b; Antonakis et al., 2003; Osborn et al., 2002; Steers et al., 2012; Lord et al., 2001). Accordingly, this study will adopt the social constructionism paradigm in its construction of the leader identity through narratives. The main argument in this study is that women’s academic advancement as leaders in KSA is entangled with sociocultural constraints, suggesting that leader identity is fundamentally intrapersonal. This study reviews leadership developmental readiness literature (Avolio, 2016) and the role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders (Eagly and Karau, 2002), and applies a social identity lens to developmental leadership readiness in the context of KSA. Qualitative research methods were employed to facilitate an in-depth understanding of each participant’s unique lived experience. The study consisted of two phases, the first completed in January 2017, and the second a year later. Participants in the first phase were thirty Saudi women academics who attended a women-only leadership development programme. Fifteen of these women participated in the second phase. Semi-structured interviews were conducted; the data captured Saudi women’s self�concept concerning their readiness to hold prominent leadership roles. The effect of new socio-political reforms in KSA was explored in phase two, including and if and how they affected the women’s self-perception as leaders. A narrative analysis using a combination of categorical content and structure analysis was employed (Lieblich et al., 1998). The categorical content analysis highlighted main themes from participant narratives, while the structural analysis analysed the story as a whole. Key themes from the categorical content analysis regarding the factors that shaped women’s leader identity developmental readiness included self-readiness, higher education (HE) organisational readiness and sociocultural context readiness. The holistic content analysis identified three leader identity narratives Stories of leader identity construction emerged from the analysis of the phase one and two interviews with Saudi women academics and which formed three narratives. These were: the “I am not a leader”; “I am a leader: capable and motivated”, which indicates a steady narrative. Progressive narrative “Ambivalent leader identity to I am a leader narrative”, “Being a leader was not a choice of mine, now it is”, “I am not a leader narrative to I am a leader”, and regressive narrative “why not to it is only a show”. Participants’ stories revealed the ways in which subtle, institutionalised gender practises stemming from the sociocultural context shaped Saudi women’s leader identity construction, which contradicts the study’s previous argument. Some participants misplaced their gender identity in favour of academic identity, concealing leader identity unless positive social identity had been constructed.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 23 Aug 2023 14:09
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 16:16


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