Monday, August 15, 2022

Indian-Australian author looks at first-gen Indian professionals Down Under

The book takes a look at the inclusionary and exclusionary organisational practices that first-generation Indian professionals face in Australia

PRAVASISAMWAD.COM

Indian-Australian Sunaina Gowan has written a book that details the experiences of Indian-Australian professionals, reported theaustraliatoday.com.au. The book takes a look at the inclusionary and exclusionary organisational practices that first-generation Indian professionals face in Australia.

The book, ‘The Ethnically Diverse Workplace: Experience of Immigrant Indian Professionals in Australia’ highlights real and imagined discrimination against Indian immigrants through marginalisation based on accent, colour, or ethnic background.

Dr Gowan, a higher education leader, has worked in the education and management fields for over two decades. She has also taught a range of business and communication courses at several colleges and universities in Australia. Her research interests include student development and belonging, cultural diversity, environmental concerns, principles of responsible business and education, inclusiveness, and emotional labour. Dr Gowan told The Australia Today that the book was based on in-depth interviews and anecdotal evidence. She added that the book would not have been conceivable if her husband, Neeraj, and daughter, Simran, had not encouraged her to publish it.

Explaining her choice of the research topic for the book, Dr Gowan said: “I’ve always wanted to write a book. When I finally chose to pursue it, I had no idea it would lead me on a journey of personal highs and lows while writing about immigrants’ experiences, particularly immigrant Indian professionals in Australia.”

Dr Gowan pointed out that the Australian workplace continued to become more ethnically diverse as the number of skilled or professional migrants from India keeps arriving each year. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has found that India has overtaken China and New Zealand to become the third largest country of birth for Australian residents. As per Census 2021, 673,352 people living in Australia reported India as their country of birth – an increase of 220,000, or 47.9% per cent, since the previous census in 2016.

Dr Gowan, who grew up in North Dakota, USA, arrived in Australia from New Delhi, India, in 2004, to join her husband, Neeraj, who had been accepted into a leading business school in Sydney. She said: “Family and friends had questioned our choice to immigrate and leave behind our secure, well-paying careers for student life in Sydney.  It was my idea to migrate. I had a strong yearning to return to ‘western civilisation.’ Why Australia, specifically? I’m still unsure.”

“When you find yourself in a mostly white setting, you will feel strange and doubt your abilities. You will go through everyday emotional labour if you are not ‘like them.’ Do not get burned out. Persist and never second-guess yourself, and you will shine, since Indians are diligent workers who are loyal and trustworthy.”

—  Sunaina Gowan

Dr Gowan said while she has not personally experienced any racism or prejudice in Australia, it did not mean that her spirit and ambitions as an ethnic immigrant woman had not been smothered on several occasions. She observed: “I have encountered the well-known glass and bamboo ceiling. Despite my degrees and job experience, I have often been passed over for top management positions. I have gone through what some of the respondents in this book have gone through and am slowly coming to terms with it.”

Like many other skilled and professional Indian immigrants who wish to call Australia home, despite having qualifications and extensive experience, Dr Gowan too had to invest time and energy in studying for additional degrees and looking for local work experience before the Australian employers considered her for a role in higher education. She said: “When you find yourself in a mostly white setting, you will feel strange and doubt your abilities. You will go through everyday emotional labour if you are not ‘like them.’ Do not get burned out. Persist and never second-guess yourself, and you will shine, since Indians are diligent workers who are loyal and trustworthy.”

Dr Gowan said that more than a million migrants arrived in Australia in the past five years. She was hopeful that her research would encourage and promote greater awareness amongst Australian management and boards to better serve the skilled migrant, especially the highly valuable Indian professional diaspora.

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Roma Ghosh
Roma Ghosh has recently retired as Associate Professor for Media Studies from an international university. She was with the Times of India as a correspondent for many years. Her passion is cooking and she has been doing recipes and photo shoots for Women's Era for the last 15-odd years.

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