Bodies of/at work: How women of colour experienced their workplaces and have been expected to ‘perform’ during the COVID-19 pandemic
Journal of Intercultural Studies
Taylor & Francis
School of Arts and Humanities
Almost 50 years ago, Edward Said wrote on ‘the other’ in relation to race and gender in his path-breaking book Orientalism (1978). While much has evolved around notions of gendered and racialised otherness since then, Said’s conceptualisation still resonates today. Our paper reports on a 2020/2021 survey of Women of Colour in the Australian workplace. The survey was conducted during the pandemic by Women of Colour Australia, a not-for-profit group, working with the lead author. We focus on the qualitative answers from participants, many of which detail sometimes painful and extremely personal workplace experiences. More than 500 Women of Colour, including seven per cent who were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, completed the survey. Sixty per cent said they had experienced discrimination in the workplace, despite 59 per cent of participants saying their workplace had a Diversity and Inclusion policy. Participants had to ‘perform’ their identities whilst being subjected to intersectional issues of racism and sexism, some of which the pandemic exacerbated. Our paper describes the harmful ramifications of gendered othering of Women of Colour for Australian organisations and society in the years of the pandemic.