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  • 2015ShehlaRizaArifeenPhd

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Ethical selves and glass chains: a complex understanding of career experiences through the voices of British Pakistani women

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Shehla Arifeen
Publication date2015
Number of pages402
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis begins with an intellectual puzzle (Mason, 2002): why are there so few British Pakistani women (BPw) in managerial and professional positions in organizations in the UK? (EOC, 2007:9). A literature review based on the context: gender, ethnicity, religion and nationality, as well as the social phenomenon: career experiences, revealed a number of blind spots. These blind spots were theoretical, methodological and empirical. I theorize for an approach that links structures that create intersecting identit(y)ies to organizations, and then further. I posit that as identities are under construction, the identity of ethnic minority women in managerial and professional roles can be shaped in organizations and by organizations. However, being a woman is still an area of concern (Calas et al., 2014). Thus, gender needs to be in the forefront among all social categories (Broadbridge and Simpson, 2011).
The research findings reveal three insights. The first is linked to the discussion on choices that women make with respect to careers and employment (Hakim, 2002). The participants’ in this research make choices based on ethical selves, borrowing on Foucault’s technologies of self and ethical subject. Ethical selves focus on both structure and agency as playing a role in choices. The second insight is linked to the notion of free choice. Underpinning ethical selves is the insight of glass chains. The glass chain is a metaphor I am using to elucidate invisible links to a moral code. I posit the individual is never free from Discourse because she is linked to moral codes (Foucault, 1991a). While disciplinary power gives no room for manoeuvring, I propose that glass chains do. It is self-exercised by an individual to keep herself within her moral codes, yet allows her freedom, although limited. Glass chains allow individuals to see themselves as ethical subjects and transform their lives ethically. The third insight is linked to the literature that postulates that identity is in process and the argument of Ely and Padavic (2007) that identity work continues in organizations. I demonstrate the identity of an individual is affected by organizations and their “inequality regimes” (Acker, 2006a). In addition, intersecting identities and glass chains working simultaneously within inequality regimes result in invisible barriers (the inability to fit in or merge and become invisible), further re-producing feelings of being the other. This creates a situation that perpetuates and reproduces inequalities.