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Does workplace matter? Identities and experiences of Bangladeshi immigrant women operating businesses in Toronto

TitleDoes workplace matter? Identities and experiences of Bangladeshi immigrant women operating businesses in Toronto
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsAkbar, M. T.
Date PublishedAugust
UniversityYork University
CityToronto, ON

This dissertation examines how the identities of Muslim Bangladeshi immigrant women who operate ethnic businesses in Toronto are related to their work locations. The notion of intersectionality provides an analytical terrain to recognize how Bangladeshi womens diverse identities shaped their pathways to ethnic businesses. By investigating how Bangladeshi womens identities are negotiated, constructed, and reflected through their home-based and non-H-B business activities in Toronto, this study emphasizes the implications of place for identity construction and entrepreneurship experiences. The study aims to recognize the diverse roles of Bangladeshi women in places of production and social reproduction that go beyond essentialist assumptions regarding Muslim immigrant womens gender roles and the spatial patterns of their paid work. The goal is to recognize Muslim immigrant womens diverse entrepreneurial experiences, challenges and business strategies, which are often overlooked in the ethnic entrepreneurship literature. The study utilized complementary qualitative and quantitative methods that enabled me to investigate how place shapes Bangladeshi womens entrepreneurial experiences in Toronto. Using data from the 2006 census, I created a profile of Bangladeshi immigrants residing in the Toronto CMA to contextualize the entrepreneurial experiences of the Bangladeshi women who participated in the study. Conducting fieldwork in a Bangladeshi neighbourhood in Toronto, I collected qualitative data that capture the subjective experiences of ethnic entrepreneurship, including the coping strategies and negotiations of identities and gender roles from the perspectives of Bangladeshi women. The study demonstrates that in the face of downward social mobility in Toronto, Bangladeshi womens varied family roles and access to family resources, and their involvement with ethnic organizations lead to different pathways to businesses. Bangladeshi womens re-negotiation of gender, class, ethnic, racial and religious identities and place specific experiences at their business locations shape the opportunities and barriers to start and operate businesses. The social construction of feminized home and masculinized workplace is challenged as well as re-enforced in the ways that two groups of women carry out and strategize their business activities. Adding a geographic perspective, the research argues that the intersecting identities of Bangladeshi women take form and meaning differently in different work locations.

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