Migrant Women Continue To Face Barriers In The Australian Workplace

"These women are capable, knowledgeable, and qualified - but are not given the same opportunities."

Migrant Women

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On International Women’s Day, when gender inequality is questioned and prodded, women of colour — especially those who have recently arrived in Australia — are often left out of the conversation.

Unfortunately, migrant women continue to be overlooked and underestimated in the Australian workforce.

The most recent stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics state that just under 60 percent of recent migrants are female, and are less likely to be employed full time than their male counterparts. Meanwhile, they are also seven percent less likely to be employed than women born in Australia as well.

A federal strategy plan to boost women’s workforce participation by 2025 acknowledged that culturally and linguistically diverse women have a significantly lower rate of workforce participation at 47.3 percent, in comparison to nearly 70 percent for CALD men.

They identified barriers such as language, lack of local work experience, the unfamiliarity of Australia’s workplace culture, and limited recognition of their skills and qualifications as playing a large role in these figures.

Issues At Front

Founder of organisation Professional Migrant Women Fabiola Campbell, said that unconscious bias or overt discrimination are also a key driver in why migrant women are discriminated against once they get their foot in the door.

“We have encountered many women who get a job but face other individual and systemic barriers such racism, elitism, exclusion, lack of recognition of their skills, as well as microaggressions, such as subtle comments or actions that make migrant women questioning if there is something wrong with them, or if this happens to everyone else,” she said in a statement.

“These women are capable, knowledgeable and qualified — but are not given the same opportunities,” she said. “And because migrant women often lack the skills and social context to appropriately and confidently raise the issue, the trend in workplace bias behaviour is affecting the way these women act and contribute. They have aspirations but find it difficult to be heard, be seen, and be valued.”

Need For Change

Having experienced first hand the issues migrant women experience trying to break into the workplace in their area of expertise, Campbell knows the importance of advocating for widespread equality.

She told Junkee she would like to see more women and people of colour in leadership and executive teams so that change can be enacted from the top-down. “One of the most effective ways to reduce bias is to normalise diversity at all levels, starting were decisions are made, and leading by example.”

Campbell said that on International Women’s Day, it’s important to shine a spotlight on systemic disadvantages and challenges for intersectional identities. “It is about lifting each other up, and leaving no one behind. IWD provides a platform for us to be heard,” she said.