Skip navigation

Beyond borders. Gender, work, and migration in the lens of intersectionality: insights from the voices of Windrush nurses

Beyond borders. Gender, work, and migration in the lens of intersectionality: insights from the voices of Windrush nurses

Emmanuel, Myrtle ORCID: 0000-0002-7975-9751 and Rauseo, Sterling ORCID: 0000-0002-5597-0771 (2024) Beyond borders. Gender, work, and migration in the lens of intersectionality: insights from the voices of Windrush nurses. In: 17th Equality, Diversity, & Inclusion conference, 27th - 29th May, 2024, Seville, Spain. (In Press)

[img] PDF (Accepted conference paper)
46637_EMMANUEL_Beyond_borders_Gender_work_and_migration_in_the_lens_of_intersectionality.pdf - Accepted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

Download (350kB) | Request a copy


Introduction: The infamous 2018 Windrush Scandal, marked by the UK government's 'hostile environment’ unfairly targeted Caribbean migrants, leading to repercussions such as unemployment, detentions, and service denials (Gentleman, 2019). The term Windrush denotes Caribbean migration between 1948 and 1971, pivotal in British colonial history (Brathwaite, 2023). After WWII, the NHS recruited from British colonies to address labour shortages (Ross, 2023). Overseas recruitment by the NHS continued into the 1960s (McDowell, 2013). This historical narrative, that the NHS owed its early survival to the significant input of these Windrush nurses (WNs) is persistently recognised in literature (BBC News, 2023; Goring et al., 2020).bWithin the examination of migrant worker experiences, the utilisation of intersectionality has emerged as a burgeoning field of scholarly inquiry, serving as a conceptual framework to scrutinise the multifaceted and nuanced experiences of diasporic migrant workers (Olwig, 2018; Tapia and Alberti, 2019). Intersectionality, notably articulated by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989), is a theoretical framework rooted in critical race theory and feminist discourse. This offers a lens to understand the complex interplay of social categories in shaping individuals' experiences. While intersectionality has gained traction in various disciplines, its application in organisational contexts, particularly in understanding the experiences of migrant workers, remains limited.bThis study bridges this gap by applying an intersectional approach to explore the experiences of WNs within the NHS. It demonstrates how intersectional and postcolonial theory can be used as a framework to illuminate the interconnections and interdependencies associated with the working lives of marginalised groups in work and organisational studies (WOS). Drawing together the combined insights of intersectionality and post-colonial approaches in WOS (Opara et al., 2020; Ruiz Castro and Holvino, 2016), the study explores organisational practices and processes which generated work inequalities of the WNs work experiences. It also utilises identity work as a theoretical framework for studying intersectionality to illuminate the experiences of Windrush (Black female Caribbean) nurses work experiences within NHS Britain. This is particularly timely in light of calls to decolonise scholarship and to broaden research within a transnational time and space as a way of challenging existing knowledge power in the West (Dhamoon, 2015; Jammulamadaka et al., 2021; Tyszler, 2023). Hence, we address the following research questions:

i. How did multiple intersectional influences such as family, gender, class, and colonialism shape the WNs’ pre-migration identities and decision to migrate to the UK?

ii. How did the combination of colonialism and racialised experiences continue to shape the WNs’ post-migration identities in terms of their living, work, and career trajectories in the NHS?

Methodology:bQualitative methods and purposive sampling were employed to conduct semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 22 WNs from various Caribbean islands. These interviews were recorded and transcribed to provide a rich, open, safe medium (Quine and Browning, 2007) allowing the nurses, many of them over 70 years old, to have space and time to reflect on their lives. Interview schedules were designed for authentic exploration of pre- and post-migration identities, encompassing upbringing, early career, racial work, and career experiences. The interviews were thematically analysed (Braun and Clarke, 2006) through a series of iterative steps of coding the transcripts and the subsequent reflection on Gioia et al. (2013) theoretical framework of intersectional identities and influences (see figure 1 on page 4 below).
Summary of Findings: The findings reveal the intricate ways in which pre-migration factors, including familial expectations, gender norms, and colonial legacies, influenced the decision of WNs to migrate to the UK. Familial aspirations, often shaped by patriarchal attitudes and colonial legacies, played a significant role in steering women towards nursing careers. The influence of colonialism was pervasive in the lives of these women, impacting decisions based on gender and permeating all aspects of their early Caribbean experiences. Equally, colourism affected class structures, shaping career trajectories, with lighter-skinned individuals having greater social capital and job prospects. Colonial legacies therefore perpetuated colourism and class divisions, influencing career choices. High levels of education among some nurses led to aspirational choices to pursue nursing in the UK, only to face the reality of being treated as second-class workers. Post-migration experiences within the NHS were marked by racialised challenges and discriminatory practices, reflecting entrenched colonial attitudes. The canteen culture with its foundation of embedding difference, favoured positions and discrimination was underpinned by the colonialist and institutional racialised views which negatively controlled and marginalised the working lives of the nurses. For instance, nurses were channelled into lower-level State Enrolled Nurses (SEN) rather than the higher-level State Registered Nurse (SRN) roles. Despite these challenges, the WNs demonstrated resilience and determination, leaving a legacy of contribution to the NHS amidst adversity.
Discussion and conclusion: The study highlights the need to move beyond simplistic understandings of intersectionality, particularly in organisational contexts, by considering the interconnections of multiple social identities and systems (Brown, 2012; Rodriguez et al., 2016). By exploring the pre- and post-migration experiences of these WNs, the study underscores the enduring impact of colonialism on migrant workers and the persistence of racialised inequalities within the workforce. Moreover, it emphasises the importance of creating inclusive workplaces that recognise and address the complexities of individuals' intersecting identities (Holgate, 2005; Lin et al., 2018; McBride et al., 2015). Research findings also guide the UK's approach to recruiting overseas workers in light of Brexit and evolving workforce dynamics, particularly in the fields of health and social care. The emphasis lies on fostering integration, highlighting the importance of creating inclusive workplaces devoid of racial or national biases, a responsibility mainly driven by HR professionals. Integration efforts are crucial, necessitating inclusive environments free from racial or national discrimination, with HR professionals leading these initiatives. Limitations prompt future research, urging exploration of NHS policies' colonial influences on marginalising black nurses, meso-level investigations (Alberti et al., 2013; Tapia and Alberti, 2019), broader migrant contexts, and examining subsequent generations' experiences.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Paper)
Additional Information: Figure 1: Key influences of the Windrush Nurses identity transformation See uploaded extended abstract for Figure 1
Uncontrolled Keywords: intersectionality; Windrush nurses; colonialism; pre-and post-migration identities
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > RT Nursing
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2024 11:19

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics