The educational careers of high-aspiring working-class British Pakistani women

Dar, Aqsa (2014). The educational careers of high-aspiring working-class British Pakistani women. PhD thesis The Open University.



This research is concerned with the barriers and opportunities experienced by working class British Pakistani women who aspired to higher education and to obtaining professional jobs. It examines the career trajectories of nine second generation British Pakistani women who were born in a working class area of a former textile town in the north of England. These women pursued educational qualifications as the means to acquire new knowledge and experiences and in order to secure higher status jobs. This is in marked contrast to the traditional trajectory which they saw other British Pakistani women following, of marrying and having children soon after leaving school. My informants viewed a career outside the home as affording advantages in terms of personal and social development, family pride and economic rewards. While, at the time of the research, some of them were still caught up in 'making themselves' in terms of their careers, others had already secured professional jobs. The women in this study reflect on changing ideas about British Pakistani womanhood, their educational routes to social mobility, and the effects of problematic perceptions of Pakistani Muslims in schools and workplaces. In this thesis I explore the kinds of cultural capital relevant to their careers, the obstacles they faced, and how they negotiated these. I conducted in-depth biographical interviews using a qualitative approach that was designed to be culturally sensitive, revealing how relationships with parents, siblings, peers, neighbours, teachers and colleagues, as well as local contexts and opportunities, feature in informants' lives. The study is a contribution to the small but growing literature that sets out to understand social mobility through qualitative research methods, exploring the processes involved. It also illuminates the life stories of a specific group of British Pakistani women at a particular time in their community's history.

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