South Asian Women Academics in Montreal
by Nilima Mandal Giri
During the second half of the twentieth century, women academics in Canadian post-secondary institutions have increased in number and also become more ethnically diverse. The existing research, however, considers women faculty members as one group, thus hiding the situation of ethnic minority women. By contrast, research on minority academics is limited and reflects the picture of the male academics (1).
This paper attempts to remedy this situation by reporting on a study of South Asian women academics in Montreal. South Asian women academics are disadvantaged in several ways: they are compelled to earn graduate degrees from Canadian universities in order to enter the academic profession here regardless of their previous educational and professional experiences and they face a number of obstacles during their education. As women, immigrants and non-whites, they have a triple disadvantage.
Immigration and Educational History
These South Asian women wanted to study abroad because of the inherent prestige and better career opportunities resulting from a foreign degree. The majority of them arrived with their graduate student or professional husbands because conventional South Asian parents prefer that their daughters be married before leaving for another country. A few women entered Canada as unmarried students directly from India. Even fewer women entered as professionals, their husbands joining them later. Four women in my study were sponsored by a relative.
At the time of their arrival in Canada, the majority of these women were highly educated, e.g. they already had Doctoral, Masters, or Honors Bachelor degrees. Two had only high school education. Most of them also had teaching or other professional experience. Some had acquired Western educational degrees and experiences before coming to Canada. For example, two women had research experience at the University of Copenhagen, two had received Masters degrees from the University of Chicago and Harvard University, two had attended Masters programs at the University of Maryland and Washington, one received a degree from the London School of Economics and one a diploma from the University of London.