How Identity Informs the Bicultural Context of South African Indian Women Engineers




This qualitative study articulated the voices of 25 South African Indian women engineers through the exploration of their identities in a bicultural context. Data extracted from their life stories provided elucidation of participants’ bicultural identity navigation. This applied firstly in a personal context, historically known for its culturally driven patriarchal undertones. Secondly, their professional context, in a career dominated by men and deeply rooted in gender partiality against women engineers. Findings of this research indicated the transformed application of Indian cultural norms evidenced by (a) growing family support of a career that would – under Indian culture – be deemed unsuitable for an Indian female, and (b) an unexpected finding: the rise of a paternal motivator that contributed to positive socialisation informing autonomous career decision-making by participants. The continued dominance of men in the profession presented as a strong negative indicator adversely impacting fluid navigation. This article contributed to the literature on identity and biculturalism by considering an insufficiently studied sample of women. The findings and recommendations of this article provided previously untapped information about the identity challenges faced by bicultural female engineers in a male-dominated profession.