South Asian women in Canada leaving jobs more than other female groups: study

South Asian women are twice as likely to report they are treated unfairly in the workplace, that’s according to a new study that suggests Canada is undervaluing what these women bring to the table. Ashley Burr reports.

South Asian women are leaving their jobs at an alarming rate compared to women of other ethnicities, according to new data.

A study by CulturaliQ in partnership with non-profit Pink Attitude found more than half of South Asians surveyed are actively trying to leave their jobs.

They’re also twice as likely to report unfair treatment in the workplace and many report “empty promises” made by their employers about career growth.

Jasmeet Chahal is with WorkSafeBC and is the President of the Society of Punjabi Engineers & Technologists of BC. She says the results aren’t shocking and admits she has had first-hand experience with unfair treatment.

“During the earlier stages of my career, I would definitely say that there were stages when you are not really working in the same industry or the same sector that you came from. That definitely makes you feel that you should quit the job because you are undervalued based on your skillset,” she explained to OMNI News.

When Chahal moved to Canada in 2005 with a masters in computer science, she said she struggled to land her dream job in software development.

“So I had to start my career as a person who was helping in scanning the documents. And at that point of time, I definitely felt that I was underpaid. I was not really getting to what I wanted to.”

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In the last few years, 64 per cent of South Asian women are most likely to admit they’ve lowered their career salary expectations compared to the 50 per cent average of female groups and 45 per cent for all men surveyed.

Over time, Chahal landed her dream job.

“I had to work a lot for sure. Maybe a little bit extra compared to people who were born and brought up here or have done some schooling here. I definitely had to prove myself a little bit more compared to them. Now I feel like that I’m fortunate that I’m at a point where I don’t see that kind of scenario anymore.”

Chahal’s experience is echoed in the study, which suggests there is a contrast in the obstacles South Asian women born in Canada face.

“Established South Asian women, for example, can be role models of the future but say they first need mentorship to break through the glass ceiling. This group is also more likely to have confidence in their abilities and be prepared to change employers if they don’t get the supports they need,” the statement reads. “Meanwhile, newcomers are more concerned with being effectively integrated into the workforce and acknowledge that they are struggling to settle into corporate Canada.”

According to the study, the findings are significant because over the next five years it is expected that 100 per cent of Canada’s labour force growth will be from immigration.

“Especially given that in 2018, newcomers from South Asia and the Philippines comprised almost 39 per cent of all newcomers in Canada (Immigration Refugees, and Citizenship Canada),” the statement reads.

“South Asian women are also the largest female immigrant labour force and the highest educated, according to the 2016 Census.”

The pandemic also seems to be a factor. Forty-seven per cent of South Asian women asked say the pandemic has made them consider leaving the workforce.

South Asian women are also resilient and have remained committed to their professional growth, according to the study, with 71 per cent feeling like there is room for “upward mobility.”

South Asian women are the highest percentage of any female group of colour and men surveyed who feel empowered.

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