GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Where are the women? Examining gender differences in work motivation across the GCC.
Paper Proposal Text :
The motivation to work varies considerably by gender. Studies suggest that men tend to place importance on instrumental values such as basic salary and bonuses, while women prioritize interpersonal relationships and reconciliation of work and family (European Foundation, 2007). Despite such differences, gender-specific policies tailored to work motivation are lacking. This is especially true in the Gulf region, where women are largely absent in the labor force. Policy research focuses on the “Arab world” as a generic regional bloc at the expense of country- and gender-based differences (Hofstede, 1980). This paper endeavors to fill the gap in the policy research. It analyzes gender differences in work motivation in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries in an attempt to advise policy encouraging local women to enter the labor force.

Background and literature

Studies on work motivation are important for all levels of society. Luthans (1998) defines motivation as “a process that starts with a physiological deficiency or need that activates a behavior or a drive that is aimed at a goal incentive”. Having motivation to work helps render an individual industrious and self-fulfilled. Motivated employees are also likely to be loyal to their organization, augmenting its human capital base and efficiency (Stiles and Kulvisaechana, 2007). On a macroeconomic level, countries with high levels of work motivation are thus likely to be productive and sustainably develop.

Designing a psychological theory of behavior, Fiske (1992) argues that social relations and motivation can be categorized into one of four models. Of these, the market-pricing model is arguably most prevalent in the workplace today. The model suggests that motivation arises, for example, from the exchange of work for a quantifiable value such as wage (Fiske, 1992). Heyman and Ariely (2004) develop the model to include social markets alongside traditional monetary markets. However, gender differences receive little attention in Fiske’s model and subsequent literature. This paper focuses on such differences in work motivation specifically. It will explore whether GCC women prioritize the social market undervalued in the workplace, thus resulting in low work motivation and untapped potential.

Investigating gender differences in work motivation is especially imperative for the Gulf. The region’s drive towards localization policies for the labor force has achieved limited success to date, threatening to distort its social fabric and jeopardize its sustainability. A significant obstacle is that many women simply do not take part in paid labor. Women in the GCC today represent just 26.9 percent of the labor force, a participation rate almost half of the world’s average. This is unusual given that women in the region surpass men in education by sheer numbers of graduates and often also in terms of academic achievements (ALCML, 2012).

Given this discrepancy, it is worth investigating why local women opt out of paid labor, and ways to encourage them to enter the labor force. Women comprise 41 percent of the GCC population, while local women constitute an even larger portion of the population of nationals (ALCML, 2012). Increased economic participation by local women could reduce the region’s reliance on foreign labor. It would also alleviate the increasing financial burden men face in supporting their families (Al-Nasr, 2011). Thus, formulating policies cognizant of gender differences in work motivation would help create an enabling work environment for local women and ensure the Gulf’s socio-economic sustainability.


The study will be organized as follows. Section 1 will survey the existing literature, using Fiske’s model as an analytic framework. Section 2 will then briefly review gender differences at the undergraduate level in the Gulf, focusing on number of graduates and academic achievements. This will be compared to gender dynamics in GCC employment, highlighting women’s participation in different tiers of the labor force.

Section 3 will refine the review by surveying local students at one or more universities in the UAE. The questionnaire will investigate student plans upon graduating. It will inquire into which variables students perceive would affect their work motivation, and include data on their demographic profiles. The study will potentially employ regression analysis of survey results via a probit model, to assess the effect of various variables or determinants on work motivation. An interaction term capturing gender differences in determinants will be included in the model, defined as follows:
Work motivation = personal + education + determinants + gender*determinants
where personal includes a student’s age, gender, potential age of marriage, and family willingness for the student to work;
education consists of controls pertaining to the student’s education; and
determinants comprises variables of interest that could affect work motivation.

Ethnographic interviews will be conducted in Section 4 on a small sample of GCC nationals, to extend the analysis to the labor force. Based on the findings from theory, survey results, regression analysis, and interviews, gendered determinants of work motivation will be analyzed in Section 5, using Fiske’s model and Heyman and Ariely’s modifications. Finally, Section 6 will detail potential policies that would tailor gender differences in work motivation to employment. It is hoped that the paper will advise policy encouraging GCC women to enter the labor force, and become productive assets and self-fulfilled individuals in their respective economies.


Al-Nasr, T.J. (2011). Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) women and Misyar marriage: Evolution and progress in the Arabian Gulf. Journal of International Women’s Studies 12(3).
ALCML. (2012). GCC women: Challenging the status quo. Al Masah Capital Management Limited.
European Foundation. (2007). Quality of working life in the Czech Republic. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.
Fiske, A.P. (1992). The four elementary forms of sociality: Framework for a unified theory of social relations. American Psychological Association 99(4).
Heyman, J. and Ariely, D. (2004). Effort for payment: A tale of two markets. Psychological Science 15(11).
Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-related Values. London: Sage.
Luthans, F. (1998). Organizational Behavior. Boston: Irwin McGraw-Hill.
Stiles, P. and Kulvisaechana, S. (2003). Human capital and performance: A literature review. UK: Department of Trade and Industry.