Work experiences of Polish women in the Scottish hospitality industry – an intersectional study
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A growing body of research examines the experiences of women and migrants in the workplace; however, the academic literature offers a limited insight into migrant women’s experiences of both privilege and disadvantage. The purpose of this study is to reveal the roles of intersecting social identities in migrant women’s work experiences, specifically (hetero)gender, migratory status and whiteness. To achieve its aim, the study investigates the case of Polish women in the Scottish hospitality industry, with the use of life history interviews with 20 women and 14 semi-structured follow-up interviews. Data was analysed using a thematic analysis approach providing an in-depth exploration of work experiences of the largest non-UK born group of women in Scotland and furthering our understanding of gender inequality in the hospitality industry. The findings indicate that while research participants experienced a combination of privilege and disadvantage, disadvantage significantly outweighed the partial advantageous treatment which Polish women received. The data also provided an account of Polish women’s reflections on episodes which can be recognised as instances of inequality. Through an intersectional lens the relationships between (hetero)gender, migration status and whiteness can be seen. By presenting new findings on Polish women’s working experiences the thesis helps hospitality employers to understand and identify discriminating and privileging practices targeting a group of employees that is valuable for the industry. The study brings practitioners’ attention to inequality forming practices between Polish women and other groups of employees but also within the studied population. The thesis contributes to the intersectional understanding of work inequality in a twofold manner. Firstly, it demonstrates the importance of incorporating (hetero)gender in intersectional studies of organisations. Drawing on Ingraham’s call for the exposure of the “heterosexual imaginary” the study incorporates (hetero)gender along with other vectors of social categorisation to explain the roots of migrant women’s disadvantage and privilege. Secondly, the thesis identifies contextual factors shaping migrant women’s experiences of inequality. Situational influences catalysing migrant women’s privilege and disadvantage were revealed at individual, organisational and international levels.