Parental Control and Career Decision-making Among Arab Women in the United Arab Emirates


This article in Arabic is a reprint translation of "Parental Control and Career Decision-making Among Arab Women in the United Arab Emirates," which originally appeared in Volume 1, Issue 2 of GESPR. The purpose of this translation is to make the article accessible to Arabic-speaking readers.

This article draws on an analysis of interviews with a group of young women from diverse Arab backgrounds in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to examine the roles their parents played in their higher education and career decision-making (CDM). A constructivist grounded theory (CGT) methodology guided the study and enabled the examination of the career decision-making experiences of these women within their wider sociocultural context. Parents were found to play significant roles in co-constructing career decisions with their daughters. These decisions were joint and interactive where career goals and the means of attaining them were shared and negotiated, however, generally under the control and direction of parents. This article aims to demonstrate the implicit and explicit ways in which parents controlled their daughters’ CDM, and how this occurred within the parameters of gendered and cultural conformity. The article concludes with recommendations for education policymakers in the UAE, particularly in regard to involving parents in career guidance programs in order to help young women actualize their career goals.


Parental control, Arab women, Career decision-making, UAE

[1] Al Marzouqi, A., & Forster, N. (2011). An exploratory study of the under-representation of Emirati women in the United Arab Emirates’ information technology sector. Equality Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 30(7), 544–562.

[2] Al-Bitar, Z. B., Sonbol, H. N., & Al-Omari, I. K. (2008). Reasons for choosing dentistry as a career by Arab dental students. European Journal of Dental Education, 12(4), 247–251.

[3] Aswad, N., Vidican, G., & Samulewicz, D. (2011). Creating a knowledge-based economy in the United Arab Emirates: Realising the unfulfilled potential of women in the science, technology and engineering fields. European Journal of Engineering Education, 36(6), 559–570.

[4] Ausman, J., Javed, A., Ahmed, S., Abdul Samad, M., Pour, A. S., Mathew, E., . . . Sreedharan, J. (2013). Social factors influencing career choice in a medical school in the United Arab Emirates. Education in Medicine Journal, 5(1), 14–20.

[5] Barakat, H. (1993). Arab world: Society, culture, and state. University of California Press.

[6] Blustein, D. L., Fama, L. D., White, S. F., Ketterson, T. U., Schaefer, B. M., Schwam, M. F., . . . Skau, M. (2001). A qualitative analysis of counseling case material: Listening to our clients. The Counseling Psychologist, 29(2), 242–260.

[7] Ceja, M. (2006). Understanding the role of parents and siblings as information sources in the college choice process of Chicana students. Journal of College Student Development, 47(1), 87–104.

[8] Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing Grounded Theory (2nd ed.). SAGE.

[9] Creamer, E. G., & Laughlin, A. (2005). Self-authorship and women’s career decision making. Journal of College Student Development, 46(1), 13–27.

[10] Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. SAGE.

[11] Dietrich, J., & Kracke, B. (2009). Career-specific parental behaviors in adolescents’ development. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 75(2), 109–119.

[12] Dwairy, M., Achoui, M., Abouserie, R., & Farah, A. (2006). Adolescent-family connectedness among Arabs: A second cross-regional research study. Journal of Cross- Cultural Psychology, 37(3), 248–261.

[13] Dwairy, M., Achoui, M., Abouserie, R., Farah, A., Sakhleh, A. A., Fayad, M., & Khan, H. K. (2006). Parenting styles in Arab societies: A first crossregional research study. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 37(3), 230–247.

[14] El Safty, M. (2004). Women in Egypt: Islamic rights versus cultural practice. Sex Roles, 51(5–6), 273–281.

[15] Elamin, A. M., & Omair, K. (2010). Males’ attitudes towards working females in Saudi Arabia. Personnel Review, 39(6), 746–766.

[16] Fouad, N. A., Kantamneni, N., Smothers, M. K., Chen, Y. L., Fitzpatrick, M., & Terry, S. (2008). Asian American career development: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 27(3), 136–152.

[17] Gallant, M., & Pounder, J. S. (2008). The employment of female nationals in the United Arab Emirates (UAE): An analysis of opportunities and barriers. Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues, 1(1), 26–33.

[18] Hamdan, A. (2005). Women and education in Saudi Arabia: Challenges and achievements. International Education Journal, 6(1), 42–64.

[19] Hamdan, A. (2006). Arab women’s education and gender perceptions: An insider’s analysis. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 8(1), 52–64.

[20] Hofstede, G. (1984). The cultural relativity of the quality of life concept. Academy of Management Review, 9(3), 389–398.

[21] Hou, Z. J., & Leung, S. A. (2011). Vocational aspirations of Chinese high school students and their parents’ expectations. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 79(2), 349– 360.

[22] Hui, C. H., & Triandis, H. C. (1986). Individualism-collectivism: A study of cross-cultural researchers. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 17(2), 225–248.

[23] Jabeen, F. (2010). Attitudes towards career women roles in outlook of family-social surroundings: Perspectives from the UAE. The Business Review, Cambridge, 16(2), 209–215.

[24] Jamal Al-deen, T. (2018). Class, honour and reputation: Gendered school choice practices in a migrant community. The Australian Educational Researcher, 45(3), 401–417.

[25] Jung, J. Y. (2013). Amotivation and indecision in the decision-making processes associated with university entry. Research in Higher Education, 54(1), 115–136.

[26] Keller, B. K., & Whiston, S. C. (2008). The role of parental influences on young adolescents’ career development. Journal of Career Assessment, 16(2), 198–217.

[27] Maxwell, J. A. (2005). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. SAGE.

[28] Mazawi, A. E. (1999). Gender and higher education in the Arab states. International Higher Education, 17(11), 18–19.

[29] Metcalfe, B. D. (2008). Women, management and globalization in the Middle East. Journal of Business Ethics, 83(1), 85–100.

[30] Metle, M. (2002). The influence of traditional culture on attitudes towards work among Kuwaiti women employees in the public sector. Women in Management Review, 17(6), 245–261.

[31] Moghadam, V. (2004). Patriarchy in transition: Women and the changing family in the Middle East. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 35(2), 137–162.

[32] Mostafa, M. (2003). Attitudes towards women who work in Egypt. Women in Management Review, 18(5), 252–266.

[33] Mostafa, M. (2005). Attitudes towards women managers in the United Arab Emirates: The effects of patriarchy, age, and sex differences. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 20(6), 522–540.

[34] Omair, K. (2010). Typology of career development for Arab women managers in the United Arab Emirates. Career Development International, 15(2), 121–143.

[35] Otto, L. B. (2000). Youth perspectives on parental career influence. Journal of Career Development, 27(2), 111–118.

[36] Oweis, A., Gharaibeh, M., Maaitah, R., Gharaibeh, H., & Obeisat, S. (2012). Parenting from a Jordanian perspective: Findings from a qualitative study. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 44(3), 242–248.

[37] Paa, H. K., & McWhirter, E. H. (2000). Perceived influences of high school student’s current career expectations. The Career Development Quarterly, 49(1), 29–49.

[38] Phillips, S. D., Christopher-Sisk, E. K., & Gravino, K. L. (2001). Making career decisions in a relational context. The Counseling Psychologist, 29(2), 193–214.

[39] Ridge, N. (2014). Education and the reverse gender divide in the Gulf States: Embracing the global, ignoring the local. Teachers College Press.

[40] Ridge, N., Jeon, S., Shami, S., & Chung, B. J. (2018). The role and impact of Arab fathers. Journal of Women in the Middle East and the Islamic World, 16(1–3), 333–361.

[41] Rutledge, E., Madi, M., & Forstenlechner, I. (2014). Parental influence on female vocational decisions in the Arabian Gulf (MPRA Paper No. 47521). MPRA.

[42] Schultheiss, D. E. P., Kress, H. M., Manzi, A. J., & Glasscock, J. M. J. (2001). Relational influences in career development a qualitative inquiry. The Counseling Psychologist, 29(2), 216–241.

[43] Schvaneveldt, P. L., Kerpelman, J., & Schvaneveldt, J. D. (2005). Generational and cultural changes in family life in the United Arab Emirates: A comparison of mothers and daughters. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 36(1), 77–91.

[44] Sidani, Y. (2005). Women, work, and Islam in Arab societies. Women in Management Review, 20(7), 498–512.

[45] Tlaiss, H., & Kauser, S. (2011). The impact of gender, family, and work on the career advancement of Lebanese women managers. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 26(1), 8–36.

[46] Triandis, H. C. (2001). Individualism-collectivism and personality. Journal of Personality, 69(6), 907–924.

[47] Whiston, S. C., & Keller, B. K. (2004). The influences of the family of origin on career development a review and analysis. The Counseling Psychologist, 32(4), 493–568.

[48] Williams, A., Wallis, J., & William, P. (2013). Emirati women and public sector employment: The implicit patriarchal bargain. International Journal of Public Administration, 36(2), 137–149.

[49] World Bank. (2010). Bridging the gap: Improving capabilities and expanding opportunities for women in the Middle East and North Africa Region. World Bank. capabilities-expanding-opportunities-women-middle-east-north-africaregion

[50] World Bank. (2013). Opening doors: Gender equality and development in the Middle East and North Africa. World Bank. equality-development-middle-east-north-africa

[51] Young, R. A., Valach, L., Ball, J., Paseluikho, M. A., Wong, Y. S., DeVries, R. J., . . . Turkel, H. (2001). Career development in adolescence as a family project. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 48(2), 190–202.

[52] Young, R. A., Marshall, S., Domene, J. F., Arato-Bolivar, J., Hayoun, R., Marshall, E., . . . Valach, L. (2006). Relationships, communication, and career in the parent– adolescent projects of families with and without challenges. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68(1), 1–23.