Culture, gender, and leadership can be closely intertwined. In most cultures, even Western cultures, leadership is associated with males. This is even more the case in many Arab Muslim countries where women play a limited role in public and business life.
As a leader of a business division, you face the choice of selecting the leader of a negotiation team to draft a new deal with a potential Saudi Arabian client. By far your best, most experienced, and most skilled negotiator is one of your female executives. She has, for many years, successfully negotiated deals within the United States and in several Western countries. Her second in command is a promising but relatively young male executive who still needs to develop his skills and experience (Nahavandi p. 27).
It is suggested that you research Saudi culture first:
It is your understanding that women in Saudi Arabia do not even drive, let alone participate in business. Is this still true, or is it changing?
What is the purpose of the negotiation? How will that affect your choice of negotiators?
Who will you send to Saudi Arabia as head of your team? Why?
If your CEO is insistent on sending the female executive, what adjustments might you make to ensure that the deal is not put at risk?
What are the implications of your decision for your business and the message you send as a leader?
It is very true that Arab society like Saudi Arabia is predominantly a male society where women are not allowed to take important business. But, with the influence of western culture and education, the situation has now started to change in Muslim countries. As cities like Dubai, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are becoming more and more cosmopoliton, Middle East has transformed itself radically and business practices and culture is changing as well to suit Western business practices.
Saudi business culture:
Doing business in Saudi Arabia is somewhat more challenging for women. There is gender separation in the Kingdom. Many public places, like hotels and restaurants, will have family rooms where women are served with their husbands. Women are expected to dress conservatively, with long skirts most appropriate, sleeves at elbow length or longer, and necklines that are unrevealing. It is generally uncommon for a Muslim man to shake hands with a woman or engage in the conversational body contact that is common when speaking to another man, although Saudis who ...
Leadership Challenge: Juggling Cultures-Women in Saudi Arabia