“I Was a Woman. I Was Skilled. I Had a Doctoral Degree and [I Was] a Foreigner“. Migrant Coping Strategies of Women in Highly Qualified Areas

Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Distributed Paper
Marita HAAS, Vienna Technical University, Austria
Coming from a Southern European country with restricted career opportunities and reduced economic possibilities, Elena leaves her hometown and family for an international career in science. Her initial motivation to “make more of her” is combined with a high pressure from her parents. Her journey and the acceptance of positions in industry and university research, however, also refers to a process of being marginalized in various aspects: As a woman, she is exposed to stereotypical role-expectations and normative concepts of what is believed to be socially appropriate for men and women (West and Zimmermann, 1987; Ridgeway, 2009). In organizations where maleness is regarded as a superior trait; believes about the “inferior” lead to specific expectations of an individual’s ability and performance (Acker, 1990; Gherardi, 1994).

How do these normative expectations - which are, partly, contradicting each other - determine the process of her professional identity formation? And how does she, as a female migrant, working  in a highly qualified area, deal with experiences of xenophobic discrimination?

Professional identity is formed through accumulated individual experiences within a profession over time and is strongly influence by norms, attributes, and motives for the profession (Ibarra, 1999). Biographical narratives make individual and institutional processes as well as their interrelation visible. They depict the continuous negotiation process how to deal with different role expectations and the question how to integrate them in the own biography. A particular focus on the self-presentation of Elena (cf. Rosenthal 1993; 1995) demonstrates that narrating and thus constructing the own biography are closely related with the process of professional identity formation. In her account we learn about the way how she used her biographical experiences to develop a coping strategy how to succeed.