Aspiring to Lead? An Exploration of the Career Stories of Ethnic Minority Women of African Descent Working in New Zealand
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The ever-growing number of different ethnicities and cultures in the contemporary workforce is presenting various challenges and opportunities to organisations, employees and their families. According to Royal Society of New Zealand (2013) Auckland is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world with more than 160 different languages spoken, it is now more diverse than ever before with an unprecedented increase in the ethnic, cultural, social and linguistic diversity in recent years. This study focusses on a minority group living in Auckland and explores their careers stories and leadership aspirations. More specifically the research considers how the participants’ background, initial career choices and subsequent migration to New Zealand has influenced their career and leadership aspirations in their adopted country. African women who migrated to New Zealand in the past two decades have confronted challenges that have had an impact on their careers. These challenges comprise a range of complex issues that are best understood through taking an interpretive approach using an intersectional sensitive methodology that recognises the multiple identities that these African women hold. According to Crenshaw (1989) any analysis such as this that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the specific manner in which these women are subordinated because this intersectional experience is greater than the sum of racism and sexism. A qualitative study in the form of face-to-face in-depth narrative interviews was carried out with the participation of nine African women who have been resident and professionally employed in Auckland for at least five years. The purpose of the study was to explore the participants’ career and leadership aspirations in order to better understand their experiences and challenges. It was found that intersecting axes of multiple identities are adversely impacting on the career and leadership aspirations of the participants and thus causing delays and/or a lack of career progression into leadership roles for women of African descent working in New Zealand. These multiple identities have impeded their career progression, and some participants are still experiencing the fallout in their professional lives despite migrating to New Zealand many years ago. This research has contributed to knowledge by adding to the extant literature about African people who have migrated to New Zealand. The research also gives a voice to the African women participants who otherwise may have remained unacknowledged and silent without this opportunity to share their professional career stories. Finally, given the diversity of New Zealand’s population, this research study can be replicated within other minority communities in New Zealand thereby ensuring that their experiences and perceptions are also articulated and acknowledged.