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Sunaina Gowan explores experiences of Indian-Australian professionals through her new book

This book is an in-depth examination of inclusionary and exclusionary organisational practices that impact the experiences of first-generation Indian professionals in Australia.

A new book entitled The Ethnically Diverse Workplace: Experience of Immigrant Indian Professionals in Australia by Dr Sunaina Gowan aims to highlight real and imagined discrimination against Indian immigrants through marginalisation based on accent, colour, or ethnic background.

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Book cover: The Ethnically Diverse Workplace: Experience of Immigrant Indian Professionals in Australia (Image supplied)

Dr Gowan is a seasoned higher education leader who has worked in the education and management fields for over two decades. She has also taught a range of business and communication courses at several colleges and universities in Australia. Her research interests include student development and belonging, cultural diversity, environmental concerns, principles of responsible business and education, inclusiveness, and emotional labour.

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Dr Sunaina Gowan with Neeraj and Simran Gowan (Image supplied)

Dr Gowan told The Australia Today that this book is based on in-depth interviews and anecdotal evidence. She adds that the book would not have been conceivable if her husband, Neeraj, and daughter, Simran, had not encouraged her to publish it. Explaining her choice of the research topic for this book, Dr Gowan observes:

“I’ve always wanted to write a book. When I finally chose to pursue it, I had no idea it would lead me on a journey of personal highs and lows while writing about immigrants’ experiences, particularly immigrant Indian professionals in Australia.”

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Further, Dr Gowan adds that the Australian workplace continues to become more ethnically diverse as the number of skilled or professional migrants from India keeps arriving each year. 

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has found that India has overtaken China and New Zealand to become the third largest country of birth for Australian residents. As per Census 2021, 673,352 people living in Australia reported India as their country of birth – an increase of 220,000, or 47.9% per cent, since the previous census in 2016.

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Dr Sunaina Gowan with Neeraj and Simran Gowan (Image supplied)

Dr Gowan, who grew up in North Dakota, USA, arrived in Australia from New Delhi, India, in 2004, to join her husband, Neeraj, who had been accepted into a leading business school in Sydney. She adds:

“Family and friends had questioned our choice to immigrate and leave behind our secure, well-paying careers for student life in Sydney.  It was my idea to migrate. I had a strong yearning to return to ‘western civilisation.’ Why Australia, specifically? I’m still unsure.”

Dr Gowan says while she has not personally experienced any racism or prejudice in Australia, it doesn’t mean that her spirit and ambitions as an ethnic immigrant woman have not been smothered on several occasions. She observes:

“I have encountered the well-known glass and bamboo ceiling. Despite my degrees and job experience, I have often been passed over for top management positions. I have gone through what some of the respondents in this book have gone through and am slowly coming to terms with it.”

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Dr Sunaina Gowan (image supplied)

Like many other skilled and professional Indian immigrants who wish to call Australia home, despite having qualifications and extensive experience, Dr Gowan too had to invest time and energy in studying for additional degrees and looking for local work experience before the Australian employers considered her for a role in higher education. She says:

“When you find yourself in a mostly white setting, you will feel strange and doubt your abilities. You will go through everyday emotional labour if you are not ‘like them.’ Do not get burned out. Persist and never second-guess yourself, and you will shine, since Indians are diligent workers who are loyal and trustworthy.”

Dr Gowan notes that more than a million migrants arrived in Australia in the past five years. She is hopeful that her research would encourage and promote greater awareness amongst Australian management and boards to better serve the skilled migrant, especially the highly valuable Indian professional diaspora.

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