Indian Migrant Women Managers’ Experiences of the Glass Ceiling in New Zealand

Bhaskaran, Savita
Ravenswood, Katherine
Ofe-Grant, Betty
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Master of Business
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Auckland University of Technology

Indians first began to immigrate to New Zealand (NZ) in the late 1800s. Immigration numbers increased after 2000 (Ho, 2015) and, as of 2018, the census recorded 239,193 Indian migrants living in NZ (Statistics New Zealand, 2018). This was in response to NZ governments promoting a better quality of life, professional opportunities, and better educational prospects, which encouraged the migration of many highly qualified middle-class Indian families to NZ. Although Indians have lived in NZ for the last 150 years, they continue to face many challenges with assimilating into the NZ culture.

This research examines the glass-ceiling experiences of Indian migrant women (IMW) managers in New Zealand using a qualitative methodology. The ‘glass ceiling’ is a metaphor used to explain the invisible barriers which prevent women from reaching professional success, despite having relevant accomplishments or qualifications (Purcell et al., 2010). There is ample literature internationally that has documented the struggles of immigrants. However, research on IMW managers and their glass-ceiling experiences is scarce, particularly within NZ organisational settings.

One significant contributor to the field was Professor Emeritus Edwina Pio, who found that many IMW in NZ experienced discrimination in workplaces based on their race, ethnicity, language, work experience, qualifications, age, language, appearance, and religion (Pio, 2005a, 2005b, 2006, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c). Therefore, this study aims to understand these experiences further to mitigate their glass-ceiling barriers.

Twelve Indian-born migrant women managers with at least two years of managerial experience in NZ organisations were recruited and interviewed to learn about their experiences. Data collected from one-on-one semi-structured interviews were coded and categorised into three main themes. Eight out of 12 participants reported the existence of a glass ceiling in their NZ workplaces.

The findings of this thesis identified racism as a major barrier for IMW managers in NZ, which impacted their ability to advance professionally. However, this study‘s findings showed that, despite managerial experience in NZ, two participants could not continue their management careers. Moreover, one of the participants, as a manager, became a victim of repeated bullying and harassment at NZ workplaces that negatively affected her mental, physical, professional, and financial well-being. Participants shared several strategies they successfully applied to become managers and offered some recommendations to NZ organisations that they believed could help the cohort of aspiring IMW managers in NZ.

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