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I am grateful to Likupe (2008) for providing her insightful comment to my article, placing the discussion in a wider literature related to racist and gender discrimination. It offers an opportunity to clarify the research findings further and explicate the intensions of my argument. In this response, I focus attention to Likupe’s concern that my analysis of Alex’s and Victoria’s cases is ‘gender-blind’ and I will emphasise the importance of issues of individual agency and political resistance.

As Likupe points out, statistically, men do much better than women in terms of career progression in the UK nursing profession. And it can in this way be said that Victoria as a black woman faces a double jeopardy situation of both sexism and racism, while Alex is likely to be favoured as a man, although he is confronted with racism. However, the wider data (a total of 97 interviews) that Alex’s and Victoria’s cases were drawn from did not warrant gender as determining individual nurses’ responses. As detailed in the research report (Smith et al. 2006), there were several instances where black women in fact did resist racism and took a problem-solving approach. In another paper (Larsen 2006, p. 369) I have described how, for example, a black South African woman actively intervened to resolve a situation where she was abused.

While fully acknowledging that gender is important to consider, I therefore do not find that it can be given a privileged place in the analysis. Furthermore, I am concerned that some of the arguments Likupe present risk reproducing gender stereotypes. For example when it is mentioned that Alex, as a man, needed to support the family and therefore ‘had no choice but to face the situation in some way’. As reported in a number of studies on female overseas nurses and female migrants in general, it is typical that they have taken over this responsibility to be a main provider for the family – thus challenging traditional gender roles (e.g. Ehrenrich and Hochschild 2002). This was equally the case for Victoria.

Likupe acknowledges that there is a need to pay research attention to the ways in which racism is not just expressed at interpersonal and institutional levels, but is internalised by individuals; and in this way fundamentally affects their lives and well being. The literature on ‘coping’ goes some way to address this issue, but generally remains at a rather instrumental and behavioural level, without getting to the experiential reality of the personal suffering and struggle involved.

In my analysis of Alex’s and Victoria’s experiences as overseas nurses in Britain, I attempt to redress this by not only explicating individual experiences of discrimination, but also demonstrating how individual attempts at meaning-making are fundamentally interrelated with life strategies, choices and actions. This is not a question of ‘blaming the victim’. Rather, it is a way for research to contribute to empowering individuals by demonstration how it can be possible for individuals to apply innovative and creative strategies to fight disadvantage. It also, hopefully, helps providing a better understanding of how we may seek to develop and implement policy procedures and social support mechanisms that support such efforts.

References

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  2. References
  • Ehrenrich B & Hochschild AR (eds) (2002) Global Woman: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy. Granada Books, London.
  • Larsen JA (2006) Overseas nurses: tackling discrimination. Nursing and Residential Care 8, 368370.
  • Likupe G (2008) Commentary on Larsen. Journal of Clinical Nursing 17, 25122515.
  • Smith P, Allan H, Henry L, Larsen JA & Mackintosh M (2006) Valuing and recognising the talents of a diverse healthcare workforce. University of Surrey, available at: http://portal.surrey.ac.uk/reoh