“Don’t let people walk all over you”: Migrant women with tertiary education coping with essentialism in Italy and France
Although migrant women in Europe tend to be confined to jobs with low social recognition, regardless of their educational background, research has given little attention to the influence that essentialism has on limiting their access to work, and how migrant women react to it. This paper analyses how migrant women with tertiary education cope, resist, and eventually challenge the essentialist processes they face at work and in daily interactions. Six interlocking strategies are identified: distancing, surfing essentialism, proving one’s worth, resistance thinking, taking action individually, and organising collectively. The focus on migrant women with tertiary education makes it possible to complete existing typologies of coping strategies by stressing the role played by educational background as well as that of class, including cultural, social, economic and symbolic capital, when responding to essentialism. The analysis is based on fieldwork conducted in Italy and France, consisting of 33 interviews of migrant women with tertiary education.
Keywords: coping strategies, essentialism, migrant women, resistance, highly educated, stereotype.