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Explorations of Visibility and Invisibility: An Exploration of the Experiences of British Sikh Women in the Workplace

Sangha, N. (2021). Explorations of Visibility and Invisibility: An Exploration of the Experiences of British Sikh Women in the Workplace. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Over the last decade, research has emerged investigating the unique experiences of ethnic minority women in the workplace at the intersection of gender and ethnicity. In recognition of the significant challenges faced by Muslim women in the UK labour market, intersectionality scholarship has broadened in its scope through the study of British South Asian Muslim women in the workplace (Tariq & Syed, 2017). Comparatively little research has been done investigating the experiences of British Sikh women, which is partly attributable to British Sikhs being regarded as an economically successful ‘model minority’ (Wong & Haglin, 2006). Survey data suggests British Sikh women are increasingly achieving degree-level qualifications or above (British Sikh Report, 2019), heightening access to professional and skilled occupations. The absence of scholarship on British Sikh women in the workplace attests to how the masculinised representation of the Sikh identity, coupled with prevailing social representations of South Asian women as meek, docile, and apolitical (Anitha et al., 2012) render them socially invisible. To this end, this research aimed to increase the
visibility of British Sikh women through exploring the lived experiences of eight British Sikh women in the workplace, using semi-structured interviews and interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) methodology. Three superordinate themes emerged from the analysis, with corresponding subthemes denoting the intrapsychic, interpersonal, and contextual aspects of the participants’ experiences. The first superordinate theme entitled: ‘The Self: Identity Meaning and Negotiation Outside the Workplace’ encompassed the participants’ understanding of the self, which was expressed as a complex, dynamic process of giving meaning to, and negotiating, intersecting identities. The second superordinate theme: ‘Being With Others in the Workplace’, reflected the participants’ experiences of interpersonal engagement with managers, peers and clients which included the experiences of otherness and belonging, appraisal of sameness and difference, and experiences of feeling distinctive or indistinctive. The final superordinate theme: ‘Working Out and Managing Experiences of Discrimination’ captured the participants’ reflections on barriers to career ascension, their process of discerning elusive forms of discrimination, and experiences of coping. The findings draw upon the intersectionality framework (Crenshaw, 1991) and identity process theory (Breakwell, 1986); illustrating how organisational practices can either perpetuate or dismantle social systems of domination which can be either threatening or conducive to identity. It is proposed that increasing access to ethnic minority role models and promoting White allyship can help foster inclusive work environments. Counselling psychologists can enhance their practice through eliciting discussions on identity and power in therapy, to demonstrate their understanding of the unique challenges faced by British Sikh women as a minoritised and marginalised group.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Departments: Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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