Processes of Social Exclusion within the Professions: "You're Not Really Supposed to be Here."

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 15:30
Oral Presentation
Tameera MOHAMED, Dalhousie University, Canada
Brenda BEAGAN, Dalhousie University, Canada
Kim BROOKS, Dalhousie University, Canada
Brenda HATTIE, Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada, Dalhousie University, Canada
Bea WATERFIELD, Western University, Canada
Merlinda WEINBERG, Dalhousie University, Canada
In Canada, formal commitments to improving ‘diversity’ within the professions begins with affirmative action admissions to professional education programs, and employment equity hiring. Despite these measures, it is important to examine the everyday work experiences of those who have been traditionally under-represented in the professions. In this paper we examine the social processes through which exclusion and marginalization occur in three professions: law, social work and academia. We draw on qualitative interviews with almost 100 professionals who identify with groups traditionally marginalized by race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, sexual or gender identity, social class background, and/or disability. Semi-structured interviews were conducted by phone or in person, transcribed verbatim, and iteratively coded through regular team discussions using software AtlasTi.

For some groups, a major concern was normalization and self-surveillance, navigating disclosures of stigmatizing social identities, and constant concern with proving themselves ‘good enough’ professionals. Members of some groups entered the social field of the professions lacking valued social and cultural capitals, as well as habitus, which left them fighting a pervasive sense of dis-ease with institutionally encoded rules. Isolation was the norm across groups and across professions. For those who were most visibly ‘Other’ overt hostility was startlingly common, in addition to everyday ‘microaggressions’ that reinforced marginality. Vicarious experiences were often extremely painful. Many participants took on extra work – often invisible and uncounted – to promote equity for others. People struggled with essentialism and tokenism, reducing them to their social identities, yet also with dismissal of their knowledge, experience, authority and critiques. Examining experiences across social groups, within the relatively elite context of three different professions, highlights similarities and distinctions in contemporary mechanisms of social exclusion within the professions.