Learning and development experiences of self-initiated expatriate women in the United Arab Emirates

Brenda Stalker, Sharon Mavin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


The article explores self-initiated expatriate women’s experiences of working and learning in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Adler’s (Adler, N. 1987. Pacific basin managers: A Gaijin, not a woman. Human Resource Management 26, no. 2: 169–91) seminal study and Tung’s (Tung, R.L. 2004. Female expatriates: The model of the global manager. Organizational Dynamics 33: 243–53) research suggest that expatriate women operating in a foreign host culture are categorized as a ‘Third Gender’: host nationals would perceive them as ‘foreign’ first and ‘women’ second, consequently according them different privileged treatment in workplaces than host national women colleagues. This qualitative study of self-initiated expatriate women highlights how the women’s constructions of themselves as ‘foreign’ and ‘female’ in the UAE provide a lens through which they reflect upon their own experiences of learning and development. In the absence of support from their own organizations and/or driven by their own aspirations, the women embarked upon their professional development initiatives; networking, coaching and formal qualifications. Key themes of vulnerability in being a foreigner, gendered workplaces, informal learning and women’s agency in their own learning and development emerge from the analysis. The women’s experiences suggest that their ‘Third Gender’ identity frames both constraints and opportunities within their social and work environment. The research focus on self-initiated expatriate women developing their professional practice, without the organizational Human Resource Development (HRD) support normally provided for assigned expatriates, is a key contribution to HRD, expatriate and international management literature where gender has tended to be ignored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-290
JournalHuman Resource Development International
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


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