Over the past four decades since the Federation of the United Arab Emirates, the country has undergone rapid social, human and economic development. The issue of sustainability of social progress has been at the forefront of recent meetings including the Federal National Council and the Dubai Women’s Establishment. Of significance also is the creation of various foundations with goals to research and develop social, human and economic agendas, women and youth issues, leadership and administration. In addition, the Emirates’ leaders and key educational authorities have been focused on administrative and curricular reform in the nation’s schools to ensure the sustainability of educational development. While there has been considerable research into educational leadership internationally, there has not been much attention paid to women in the Arabian Gulf, their culture, leadership and learning. Placing issues in the national context, this paper discusses the way UAE women’s identities and roles are developing within the framework of contested meanings, shifting with time and context. The developing identities of participants in the three projects were the result of their interaction between their internal values,beliefs and assumptions and the contexts in which they lived their experiences. This development parallels and is a vital factor in the sustainability of the broader social, economic and educational development that is shaping UAE society.