CEPP Research Fellow Lunch Presentation
NOT working 9 to 5: Refugee women and the U.S. workforce
Women make up more than half of the estimated 50 million refugees globally and are both agents of change and sources of continuity and tradition. They often bear the primary responsibility for reconstructing domestic life and social connections in their new contexts. They play important roles in resettlement, often remaining responsible for domestic activities while adapting to new familial and community configurations in refugee camps and resettlement countries. According to the objectives mandated in the Refugee Act of 1980 many must enter the workforce as soon as possible. Yet, like other women migrants, their economic contributions are often overlooked and understudied as they remain responsible for domestic activities.
Forced migration leads to new gendered demands, and while some aim to rebuild and recreate the work they did in their native countries, others embrace employment opportunities unknown or unavailable to women pre-resettlement. Some attain benefits from resettlement; others reconstruct gender roles and gendered spaces; and some create new roles and enjoy enhanced power in their relationships. Women can utilize the skills they have learned through taking care of family such as cleaning, cooking, and childcare and transfer that to the professional world, whereas men’s skills are often less transferrable.
In this talk, Jill Koyama and Molly Short Carr examine the experiences of local women refugees.
Drawing on her 26 month ethnographic study of refugee networks, Dr. Koyama, an anthropologist, reveals the ways in which refugee women access and participate in social networks, share social capital, and both access and create new resources and knowledges. She challenges analyzing refugee experiences in the workforce with the long standing dichotomy of function-specific weak ties (acquaintances) and strong familial and friendship ties often utilized in the study of migrants. Instead, she demonstrates through the study data that the organizing notion of assemblage, which does not comparatively distinguish between different connections provides greater insights into the seemingly disparate linkages accessed and shared by newcomers, whose previous ties have often been severed.
Molly Short Carr, the Executive Director of Journey’s End Refugee Services (JERS) will talk about her work with women through the resettlement context and her research as a doctoral student at Niagara University. As an organization, Journey’s End works to provide all refugees with the opportunity to achieve success regardless of gender. Ms. Short Carr will talk about the challenges and successes of building a women’s focused micro-enterprise program around in home daycare centers, an easily transferable domestic skill that translates into the professional world. She will share her experiences of working with an extremely diverse workforce and how the organization has to push past cultural norms regarding women to effectively provide equitable services in employment and education.