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Employment experiences of tertiary educated Australian Muslim women in Sydne's multicultural society and their religious identity

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posted on 2022-03-28, 10:14 authored by Gwendolyn Gai Scott
The aim of this thesis is to contribute to the anthropological understanding of the impact a religious identity may have on the expectations and experiences of tertiary educated Muslim women who are in paid employment in a Western nation. Its broader aim is to further, and deepen, our understanding of the negotiation of religious and cultural differences in the realm of paid employment. A critical investigation is conducted into forty first and second generation Australian Muslim women (the participants) in the age group 25-50 years who have been employed in the professional or corporate workplace for a minimum of four years in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The majority of these women has transcended their socio-economic origins by attaining tertiary qualifications and it is because of these credentials that they now enter their workplace environments on an equal footing with staff who hold similar professional qualifications- in particular their Anglo Australian female counterparts. Australian Muslims are largely misunderstood by the majority population and stereotypical notions about Muslims abound, largely based on assumptions regarding their religion, culture, lifestyles and aspirations. A major aim of this thesis encompassesencounters of exclusion experienced by the participants. The research analyses how theparticipants' understanding of social norms are marginalised in the context of paid employment and identifies some of the negative consequences social exclusion has for the participants' positive sense of self, as well as for the Muslim community's sense of solidarity. There is much intercultural enquiry into the integration of ethnically and culturally diverse societies that, in turn, provides a wide range of conceptual frameworks to examine the tensions and complexities associated with the inclusion and exclusion of minority groups and individuals. There is limited enquiry concerned with tertiary educated Australian Muslim women and the effects of social exclusion on the formation of the identity that they bring to their workplace environments. This thesis aims to address this gap using ethnographic research that involved 18 months' fieldwork in Sydney. In terms of this theme of identity in the workplace, three aspects are chosen to understand the experiences that have influenced the participants' identity formation,both as first and second generation Australian Muslim women and daughters of first generation immigrants: the identity that has been influenced by experiences of stereotyping and exclusion in everyday living; the role that appearance plays in negotiating an identity in the workplace environment; the identity that has been impacted by an in-group and out-group mentality and the barriers that are formed as a consequence. It is through this lens of understanding that the research explores the challenges faced by tertiary educated Muslim women in the domain of paid employment. It finds that barriers form between Muslims and Anglo Australians because of misunderstandings and misinformation regarding Muslim identities. The thesis determines that it is possible to maintain a positive Muslim identity within the challenges of this environment and identifies what that identity may be. Research supports the fact that the higher the educational attainment, the higher the likelihood of engagement in paid employment. The 2011 Australian Bureau of Statistics(ABS) figures show that Muslims now represent 2.2 per cent of the Australian population.The ABS (2001) also indicates that, in comparison to their Anglo Australian female counterparts, Muslim women attend universities in greater proportions than their numbers in the population. As these figures demonstrate, in the near future, employers will encounter more young Muslim women graduates applying for employment. It is therefore, important that these employers understand the experiences, expectations and identities of these Muslim women to preempt the loss of this valuable and emerging employment resource.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction -- Chapter 2 Australian multiculturalism, Muslim women and work -- Chapter 3 Aspects of identity formation -- Chapter 4 The dynamics of exclusion in the secular workplace -- Chapter 5 Appearance as an identity -- Chapter 6 Dynamics and boundaries of group 'belonging' in the workplace -- Chapter 7 Conclusion.


Bibliography: Pages 265-305 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Anthropology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Anthropology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Gabriele Marranci


Copyright Gwendolyn Gai Scott 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




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