Asia Pacific Journal of Management

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 115–137 | Cite as

Veiled diversity? Workplace experiences of Muslim women in Australia

  • Jawad SyedEmail author
  • Edwina Pio


This study sheds light on the mobilisation of Islamic discourses in the lives of working Muslim migrant women and its interaction with Australian society in the context of diversity management as a workplace practice. Informed by a multilevel perspective on diversity management, this paper suggests that focusing exclusively on organisations and holding them solely accountable for diversity policies may be intensely inadequate as diversity management is impacted by both macro-societal and micro-individual issues. Through qualitative research by drawing on interviews with Muslim migrant women employed in the formal economic sector, the findings underscore the need for sophistication in dealing with the complexities presented by migration, ethnicity, religion and gender.


Australia Managing diversity Migrants Multilevel perspective Muslim women 


  1. ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics). 2003. Year Book 2003: Population: Religion, no. 1301.0. Australia: ABS.Google Scholar
  2. Abu-Lughod, L. 1998. Re-making women: Feminism and modernity in the Middle East. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Abu-Odeh, L. 1993. Post-colonial feminism and the veil: Thinking the difference. Feminist Review, 43: 26–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. ADB (Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales). 2003. Race for the headlines: Racism and media discourse. Report for the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales., Accessed Jul. 20, 2007.
  5. Afshar, H. 1994. Muslim women in West Yorkshire: Growing up with real and imaginary values amidst conflicting views of self and society. In H. Afshar & M. Maynard (Eds.). The dynamics of race and gender. London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  6. Afshar, H., & Maynard, M. (Eds.). 1994. The dynamics of “race,” and gender: Some feminist interventions. London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  7. Agars, M., & Kottke, J. 2004. Models and practice of diversity management: A historical review and presentation of a new integration theory. In M. Stockdale & F. Crosby (Eds.). The psychology and management of workplace diversity: 55–77. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  8. Ahmad, F. 2001. Modern traditions? British Muslim women and academic achievement. Gender and Education, 13(2): 137–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ahmed, L. 1992. Women and gender in Islam: Historical roots of modern debate. London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Allen, R., & Montgomery, K. 2001. Applying an organizational developmental approach to creating diversity. Organizational Dynamics, 30: 149–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Allen, S., Bentley, S., & Bornat, J. 1977. Work, race and immigration. Bradford, UK: University of Bradford.Google Scholar
  12. Amos, V., & Parmar, P. 1984. Challenging imperial feminism. Feminist Review, 7: 3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Anthias, F., & Yuval-Davis, N. 1992. Racialized boundaries: Race, nation, gender, colour and class and the anti-racist struggle. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Arlington, K. 2004. Children overboard the most despicable of lies: Hawke. The Age, 24 August.Google Scholar
  15. Ashforth, B., & Mael, F. 1989. Social identity theory and the organization. Academy of Management Review, 14(1): 20–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Beal, F. 1970. Double jeopardy: To be black and female. In T. Cade (Ed.). The Black Woman. New York: New American Library.Google Scholar
  17. Blair-Loy, M. 2001. Cultural constructions of family schemas: The case of women executives. Gender & Society, 15: 687–709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Bond, J., & Perry, P. 1970. Is the black male castrated? In T. Cade (Ed.). The black woman. New York: New American Library.Google Scholar
  19. Bouma, G., Haidar, A., Nyland, C., & Smith, W. 2003. Work, religious diversity and Islam. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, 41(1): 51–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Boyd, M. 1992. Gender, visible minority and immigrant earnings inequality: Reassessing an employment equity premise. In V. Satzewich (Ed.). Deconstructing a nation: Immigration, multiculturalism and racism in 1990s Canada: 279–321. Halifax, Nova Scotia, CA: Fernwood Publishing and University of Saskatchewan.Google Scholar
  21. Brah, A. 1994. “Race” and “culture” in the gendering of labour markets. In H. Afshar & M. Maynard (Eds.). The dynamics of race and gender: Some feminist interventions: 151–171. London: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  22. Brah, A. 1996. Gendered spaces: Women of South Asian descent in 1980’s Britain. In A. Brah (Ed.). Cartographies of diaspora. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Brenner, S. 1996. Reconstructing self and society: Javanese Muslim women and “the veil.” American Ethnologist, 23(4): 673–697.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Carby, H. V. 1982. White women listen! Black feminism and the boundaries of sisterhood. In Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. The empire strikes back. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  25. Castles, S., & Kosack, G. 1973. Immigrant workers and class structure in Western Europe. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Centre for Urban Research & Action. 1976. But I wouldn’t want my wife to work here: A study of migrant women in Melbourne industry. Fitzroy, AU: The Centre for Urban Research & Action.Google Scholar
  27. Chard, J., Badets, J., & Howatson-Leo, L. 2000. Immigrant women: Women in Canada 2000: A gender-based statistical report: 189–218. Ottawa, CA: Statistics Canada.Google Scholar
  28. Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. 1997. Productive diversity: A new Australian model for work and management. Sydney: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  29. Cox, T., & Blake, S. 1991. Managing cultural diversity: Implications for organizational competitiveness. Academy of Management Executive, 5(3): 45–56.Google Scholar
  30. De Cieri, H., & Kramar, R. 2005. Human resource management in Australia. Sydney: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  31. Deitch, E. A., Barsky, A., Butz, R. M., Chan, S., Brief, A. P., & Bradley, J. 2003. Subtle yet significant: The existence and impact of everyday racial discrimination in the workplace. Human Relations, 56(11): 1299–1324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Delaney, B., & Banham, C. 2004. Muslims feel the hands of racism tighten around them. The Sydney Morning Herald, June 17.Google Scholar
  33. Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). 2000. Handbook of qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  34. Dosa, P. A. 1999. (Re)imagining aging lives: Ethnographic narratives of Muslim women in diaspora. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 14: 245–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Dreher, T. 2006. Targeted: Experiences of racism in NSW after September 11, 2001. UTS Shopfront Monograph Series no. 2, Sydney, UTS ePress.Google Scholar
  36. Dustmann, C., & Fabri, F. 2003. Language proficiency and labour market performance of immigrants in the UK. Economic Journal, 113: 695–717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Dwyer, C. 1999. Veiled meanings: Young British Muslim women and the negotiation of differences. Gender, Place & Culture, 6(1): 5–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Esposito, J. 1998. Women in Islam and Muslim societies. In Y. Haddad & J. Esposito (Eds.). Islam, gender and social change: 10–27. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Essers, C., & Benschop, Y. 2009. Enterprising identities: Female entrepreneurs of Moroccan and Turkish origin doing boundary work. Human Relations, 62(3): 403–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Evans, S. L., & Bowlby, S. 2000. Crossing boundaries: Racialised gendering and the labour market experiences of Pakistani migrant women in Britain. Women’s Studies International Forum, 23(4): 461–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Fearfull, A., & Kamenou, N. 2006. How do you account for it? A critical exploration of career opportunities for and experiences of ethnic minority women. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 17: 883–901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Gabriel, Y. 1998. The use of stories. In G. Symon & C. Cassell (Eds.). Qualitative methods and analysis in organizational research: 135–160. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  43. Gergen, K. 1991. The saturated self: Dilemmas of identity in contemporary life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  44. Hage, G. 2002. Postscript: Arab-Australian belonging after “September 11.” In G. Hage (Ed.). Arab-Australians today. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Haghighat, E. 2005. Neopatriarchy, Islam and female labour force participation: A reconsideration. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 25(10/11): 84–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Hilsdon, A.-M., & Rozario, S. 2006. Special issue on Islam, gender and human rights. Women’s Studies International Forum, 29: 331–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ho, C. 2007. Muslim women’s new defenders: Women’s rights, nationalism and Islamophobia in contemporary Australia. Women’s Studies International Forum, 30: 290–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ho, C., & Alcorso, C. 2004. Migrants and employment: Challenging the success story. Journal of Sociology, 40(3): 237–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Hogg, M. A., & Terry, D. J. 2000. Social identity and self-categorization processes in organizational contexts. Academy of Management Review, 25(1): 121–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. HREOC (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission). 2004. Isma—Listen: National consultations on eliminating prejudice against Arab and Muslim Australians. Sydney: HREOC.Google Scholar
  51. Jamali, D., Sidani, Y., & Safieddine, A. 2005. Constraints facing working women in Lebanon: An insider view. Women in Management Review, 20(8): 581–594.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Janssens, M., & Zanoni, P. 2005. Many diversities for many services: Theorizing diversity (management) in service companies. Human Relations, 58(3): 311–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Junankar, P. N., Paul, S., & Yasmeen, W. 2004. Are Asian migrants discriminated against in the labour market? A case study of Australia. IZA Discussion papers 1167, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), Bonn, Germany.Google Scholar
  54. Kamenou, N., & Fearfull, A. 2006. Ethnic minority women: A lost voice in HRM. Human Resource Management Journal, 16(2): 154–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Kandiyoti, D. 1999. Islam and patriarchy: A comparative perspective. In S. Hesse-Biber, C. Gilmartin & R. Lydenberg (Eds.). Feminist approaches to theory and methodology: 219–235. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Kandola, R., & Fullerton, J. 1994. Managing the mosaic. London: CIPD.Google Scholar
  57. Kazemi, F. 2000. Gender, Islam and politics. Social Research, 67(2): 22–34.Google Scholar
  58. Kochan, T., Bezrukova, K., Ely, R., Jackson, S., Joshi, A., & Jehn, K. 2003. The effects of diversity on business performance: Report of the diversity research network. Human Resource Management, 42: 3–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Kyriacou, O. N. 2000. Gender, ethnicity and professional membership: The case of the UK accounting profession. PhD thesis, University of East London, London, England.Google Scholar
  60. Lansbury, R. 2004. Kingsley Laffer memorial lecture: Work, people and globalisation: Towards a new social contract for Australia. The Journal of Industrial Relations, 46(1): 102–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Lever-Tracy, C., & Quinlan, M. 1988. A divided working class, ethnic segmentation and industrial conflict in Australia. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  62. Lewis, S. 1997. “Family friendly” employment policies: A route to changing organizational cultures or playing about at the margins?. Gender, Work and Organization, 4(1): 13–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Liff, S., & Cameron, I. 1997. Changing equality cultures to move beyond “women’s problems.” Gender, Work and Organization, 4(1): 35–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Lincoln, Y., & Guba, E. 1985. Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  65. Mandel, R. 1990. Turkish headscarves and the “foreigner problem”: Constructing difference through emblems of identity. New German Critique, 46: 27–46.Google Scholar
  66. Mano, R., & Gabriel, Y. 2006. Workplace romances in cold and hot organizational climates: The experience of Israel and Taiwan. Human Relations, 59(1): 7–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Mehmet, O. 1994. Writing about Islam: The role of academics. Humanomics, 10(2): 58–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. MIC. 2005. My dress, my image, my choice: Evaluation report—Bringing Muslim and non-Muslim women together. Melbourne: Migrant Information Centre.Google Scholar
  69. Mighty, E. 1997. Triple jeopardy: Immigrant women of color in the labor force. In P. Prasad, A. J. Mills, M. Elmes & A. Prasad (Eds.). Managing the organizational melting pot: Dilemmas of workplace diversity. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  70. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. 1994. Qualitative data analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  71. Misztal, B. A. 1991. Migrant women in Australia. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 12(2): 15–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Moghadam, V. 1998. Women, work and ideology in the Islamic Republic. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 20: 221–243.Google Scholar
  73. Mostafa, M. M. 2003. Attitudes to women who work in Egypt. Women in Management Review, 18(5): 252–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Nicholas, S., Sammartino, A., O’Flynn, J., Ricciotti, A., Lau, K., & Fisher, N. 2001. The business case for diversity management. Research Report produced by The Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs in cooperation with the Australian Centre for International Business, Melbourne.Google Scholar
  75. O’Dwyer, B. 2005. The construction of a social account: A case study in an overseas aid agency. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 30: 279–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. OECD. 2003. Trends in international migration. Paris: OECD.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Ogbonna, E., & Harris, L. C. 2006. The dynamics of employee relationships in an ethnically diverse workforce. Human Relations, 59(3): 379–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Ogbonna, E., & Noon, M. 1995. Experiencing inequality: Ethnic minorities and the employment training scheme. Work, Employment & Society, 9(3): 537–558.Google Scholar
  79. Patton, M. Q. 2002. Qualitative research & evaluation methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  80. Pio, E. 2005. Knotted strands: Working lives of Indian women migrants in New Zealand. Human Relations, 58(10): 1277–1299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Pio, E. 2007. Gurus and Indian epistemologies: Parables of labor-intensive organizations. Journal of Management Inquiry, 16: 180–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Pio, E. 2008. Sari: Indian women at work in New Zealand. Wellington: Dunmore.Google Scholar
  83. Preston, V., & Giles, W. 2004. Employment experiences of highly skilled immigrant women: Where are they in the labour market?. Paper presented at the Gender & Work: Knowledge Production in Practice Conference, York University, Ontario, Canada, October.Google Scholar
  84. Ram, M., Edwards, P., Gilman, M., & Arrowsmith, J. 2001. The dynamics of informality. Employment relations in small firms and the effects of regulatory change. Work, Employment & Society, 15(4): 845–861.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Read, J. G. 2004. Culture, class, and work among Arab American women. New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing.Google Scholar
  86. Read, J. N., & Bartowski, J. P. 2000. To veil or not to veil? A case study of identity negotiation among Muslim women in Austin, Texas. Gender and Society, 14(3): 395–417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Robinson, G., & Dechant, K. 1997. Building a business case for diversity. Academy of Management Executive, 11(3): 21–31.Google Scholar
  88. Rozario, S. 1998. On being Australian and Muslim: Muslim women as defenders of Islamic heritage. Women’s Studies International Forum, 21(6): 649–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Rozario, S. 2006. The new burqa in Bangladesh: Empowerment or violation of women’s rights?. Women’s Studies International Forum, 29: 368–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Runnymede Trust. 1997. Islamophobia: A challenge for us all. London: The Runnymede Trust.Google Scholar
  91. SCC (NSW State Chamber of Commerce). 2005. Vital Signs: A snapshot of business in Sydney 2004-5. Sydney: NSW State Chamber of Commerce.Google Scholar
  92. Shanahan, D. 2008. Migrants the ALP isn’t game to crow about. The Australian, May 16.Google Scholar
  93. Sidani, Y. 2005. Women, work, and Islam in Arab societies. Women in Management Review, 20(7): 498–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Stockdale, M., & Cao, F. 2004. Looking back and heading forward: Major themes of the psychology and management of workplace diversity. In M. Stockdale & F. Crosby (Eds.). The psychology and management of workplace diversity: 298–316. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  95. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. 1990. Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  96. Syed, J. 2008a. A context-specific perspective of equal employment opportunity in Islamic societies. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 25: 135–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Syed, J. 2008b. Employment prospects for skilled migrants: A relational perspective. Human Resource Management Review, 18(1): 28–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Syed, J., Ali, F., & Winstanley, D. 2005. In pursuit of modesty: Contextual emotional labour and the dilemma for working women in Islamic societies. International Journal of Work, Organisation and Emotion, 1(2): 150–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Syed, J., & Kramar, R. 2010. What is the Australian model of managing cultural diversity?. Personnel Review, 39(3), forthcoming.Google Scholar
  100. Syed, J., & Özbilgin, M. 2009. A relational framework for international transfer of diversity management practices. International Journal of Human Resource Management, forthcoming.Google Scholar
  101. Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. 1986. The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (Eds.). Psychology of intergroup relations: 7–24. Chicago: Nelson-Hall.Google Scholar
  102. Teicher, J., Shah, C., & Griffin, G. 2002. Australian immigration: The triumph of economics over prejudice?. International Journal of Manpower, 23(3): 209–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  103. Thomas, R. 1996. Redefining diversity. New York: AMACOM.Google Scholar
  104. UNDP (United Nations Development Program). 2004. Human development report: Cultural liberty in today’s diverse world. New York: UNDP.Google Scholar
  105. Walter, W. 1981. Women in Islam. Montclair, NJ: Abner Scham.Google Scholar
  106. Winter, B. 2006. Religion, culture and women’s human rights: Some general political and theoretical considerations. Women’s Studies International Forum, 29: 381–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kent Business SchoolUniversity of KentKentUK
  2. 2.AUT Business & Law SchoolAUT UniversityAucklandNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations