Project Title

Female Labor in the Arab Gulf: Towards a Feminist and Intersectional Understanding of Women’s Empowerment in Oman

Presenters

Academic department under which the project should be listed

RCHSS - Conflict Management, Peacebuilding and Development

Faculty Sponsor Name

Darina Lepadatu

Abstract (300 words maximum)

Development agencies, governments, and researchers alike often associate a rise in the female labor force rate with democracy, modernization, economic growth, and greater gender equality. The implicit assumption is that an increase in female labor has an overall positive multiplier effect on women’s empowerment. However, the concept of “women’s empowerment” as nearly synonymous with economic growth and gender equality does not entirely align with transnational feminist and intersectional approaches to “empowerment”. The primary difference between the two notions is that the latter, feminist intersectional empowerment, recognizes additional inequalities including race, class, and more, that compound power imbalances on women; whereas the former, the economic-focused notion of women’s empowerment, largely considers only one aspect of disempowerment: gender inequality. In the absence of a feminist and intersectional framework, existing patriarchal structures and gendered relationships of power may be reinforced as other embedded hierarchies remain. Drawing on the work and growing debate laid out by feminist scholars, sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists, the aim of this interdisciplinary research is to question a dominant development paradigm by introducing more contextualized variables that contribute to a more robust notion of women’s empowerment. Therefore, this research questions the extent to which the formal female labor force participation rate, an often cited variable of empowerment, is associated with transnational feminist and intersectional notions of women’s empowerment. The paper takes Oman as case study because, despite structural limitations, the female labor participation rates have soared in recent years, while feminist and intersectional empowerment of women remains dubious.

Project Type

Oral Presentation (15-min time slots)

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Female Labor in the Arab Gulf: Towards a Feminist and Intersectional Understanding of Women’s Empowerment in Oman

Development agencies, governments, and researchers alike often associate a rise in the female labor force rate with democracy, modernization, economic growth, and greater gender equality. The implicit assumption is that an increase in female labor has an overall positive multiplier effect on women’s empowerment. However, the concept of “women’s empowerment” as nearly synonymous with economic growth and gender equality does not entirely align with transnational feminist and intersectional approaches to “empowerment”. The primary difference between the two notions is that the latter, feminist intersectional empowerment, recognizes additional inequalities including race, class, and more, that compound power imbalances on women; whereas the former, the economic-focused notion of women’s empowerment, largely considers only one aspect of disempowerment: gender inequality. In the absence of a feminist and intersectional framework, existing patriarchal structures and gendered relationships of power may be reinforced as other embedded hierarchies remain. Drawing on the work and growing debate laid out by feminist scholars, sociologists, anthropologists, and political scientists, the aim of this interdisciplinary research is to question a dominant development paradigm by introducing more contextualized variables that contribute to a more robust notion of women’s empowerment. Therefore, this research questions the extent to which the formal female labor force participation rate, an often cited variable of empowerment, is associated with transnational feminist and intersectional notions of women’s empowerment. The paper takes Oman as case study because, despite structural limitations, the female labor participation rates have soared in recent years, while feminist and intersectional empowerment of women remains dubious.