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Gender Inequalities at the Work-Family Interface: Exploring the Role of Women’s Resources and Cultural Norms in Modern-day Egypt

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date1/12/2021
Number of pages204
Awarding Institution
Award date15/10/2021
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Progress in narrowing education and employment gender gaps is being observed in many countries across the world and has come to be known as the “gender revolution”. Today, women are entering higher education in large numbers and have begun to outperform men. They are spending more time in the labour market and, in some countries, the employment rates of both genders have converged. These changes are impacting women’s family and work lives globally, and Egypt is no exception. Similar
to other patriarchal Arab countries, however, is that gender relations in Egypt have remained unequal in the family, and expectations of marriage and motherhood are
commonplace. These continuing gender inequalities remain understudied.

To fill this gap, this thesis explores the ways in which resources and cultural constraints in modern-day Egypt shape gender inequalities at the work-family interface during key
life stages and events: adolescence, marriage, and reproduction. Specifically, I examine how gender inequalities persist across generations in the Egyptian family, and what
these mean for women’s socioeconomic well-being in marriage. To do so, attention is paid to three key dimensions of gender inequality: women’s employment stability, their
risk of intimate partner violence (IPV), and their household decision-making power. Using both cross-sectional and longitudinal data from Egypt permitted a quantitative
analysis of women’s resources, cultural norms, and their interaction, on women’s empowerment in the Egyptian family.

The thesis is ordered to follow a woman’s normative life trajectory in Egypt. It begins by providing the first investigation of the intergenerational link between maternal
employment during women’s own adolescence and their subsequent adult employment stability. While identifying the positive impact of maternal employment, this study finds
that this link is mediated by women’s education, and moderated by the employment sector. Next, building on existing research, this thesis explores how, if at all, the Arab
Spring has altered women’s risk of IPV in marriage. I consider whether women’s employment offers more effective protection against IPV, using data before and after
the revolution. Finally, I examine whether women’s household decision-making power is affected by women’s command of resources. Here, I move beyond considering the
resources of education and employment to also consider women’s patrilineal fertility—that is, having at least one son—and how it operates alongside women’s education and

The thesis fills an important gap by assessing how cultural, economic, and non-economic resources come together to configure power relations in the family and gender
inequalities in the labour market in a non-Western context. It uncovers the mechanisms that maintain and reinforce gender inequality within the Egyptian family. By drawing
attention to contextual changes and historic events such as the Arab Spring, it also highlights how these inequalities have remained stubborn, despite sweeping socio-political changes. Together, the findings from this study reveal a mosaic of social changes characterised by both progress and stasis. Thus, the thesis documents an
incomplete gender revolution in Egypt—maternal employment enhances women’s employment stability, and, in turn, women’s employment reduces their risk of IPV; yet
their marital power remains contingent on the birth of a son, regardless of their education and employment.