An Exploratory Study of Lived Experiences of Black African Highly Qualified, Highly Skilled Migrant Women’s Career Mobility in England’s Public Sector Organisations




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


This qualitative research explores how Black African Highly Qualified Highly Skilled Migrant (HQHSM) women's lived experiences have influenced their identities and likelihood of attaining leadership roles in England’s public sector organisations. Social identity, self-categorisation, and personal identity theories, fused with intersectionality, were employed as lenses for examination. Applying these lenses holistically expanded the contextual views of multiple identities interplaying as the participants experienced juxtaposition of supposed privilege (having a job unlike other migrant groups) and disadvantage (career progression challenges), paying attention to social group re-socialisation, identity meaning-making and reconstruction as drivers for career trajectories. It focused on illuminating the participants’ journeys, from restricted stay visa holders to British citizens (acquiring similar rights and freedoms as natives).

Through an interpretivist epistemology and constructivist ontology, semi-structured interviews were conducted with thirty-one first-generation Black African HQHSM women in public sector organisations in England. Thereafter, a reflexive Thematic Analysis (TA) was conducted, which revealed three career trajectories that resulted from how the women responded to their challenges. The three trajectories revealed were: (1) Self-inclusion into leadership advancement to more senior roles, (2) Entrepreneurial orientation, and (3) Tactical disengagement. The research found that though the precarious conditions in the early days became the source of camaraderie and strength, the women’s’ sense of self and personal identity reconstruction eventually influenced their trajectory.

This research contributes to the extension of the social identity approach; i.e., Social Identity Theory (SIT), Self-Categorisation Theory (SCT) and personal identity theory, to foreground how Black African women have navigated the challenges and intersecting identities they were assigned upon their arrival in the UK, and their experiences in organisations in which prior research indicated they were more likely to be deskilled, despite their high qualifications and skills. Additionally, it contributes to scholarship on the impact of international recruitment on the careers of Global South employees. Furthermore, it acts as a catalyst for more leadership and organisational studies researchers to examine this group's career progression and self-inclusion into leadership positions.





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