Neoliberal Pressures, Neoliberal Responses: The Strategic Utilization of Gender in the Canadian Settlement Sector and Implications for Immigrant Women’s Service Organizations
This dissertation examines the effects of neoliberalism within immigrant women’s service organizations and the delivery of gender-specific programs in the Canadian settlement sector. The influence of neoliberalism within the settlement sector is well-documented. However, little study has focused on immigrant women’s service organizations, programs addressing gender, and the influence of neoliberal practices upon both. This research identifies currently operating immigrant women’s service organizations and women-only program offerings, creating a national map of gender-specific service provision in Canada. Data was obtained via an online survey administered to 189 settlement organizations across Canada, detailing organizational structure, provision and types of gender-specific services, funding experiences, and overall financial outlook, revealing precarity and instability for marginalized and underfunded immigrant women’s service organizations. This research additionally evaluates the prevalence of neoliberalism within settlement organizations and the development of gender-specific programs. Qualitative interviews with 36 employees from mainstream settlement and immigrant women’s service organizations uncovers the incidence and deep infiltration of neoliberal practices, and tactics deployed to counter neoliberal effects. Finally, this research explores “idealized” framings of newcomer women in Canadian society as articulated by newcomers and organizational staff. Qualitative interviews with nine newcomer women were undertaken to inform analyses of neoliberalism within conceptions of the “ideal” newcomer woman. The findings of this research reveal connections between neoliberalism, settlement programs, and gender. Drawing upon Jamie Peck’s theory of “roll-back” and “roll-out” neoliberalism, this dissertation identifies a strategic prioritization and utilization of gender within mainstream settlement organizations for the express intent of organizational gain and survival, rather than an ongoing commitment to the advancement of newcomer women. In contrast, immigrant women’s service organizations remain dedicated to gender-specific services for newcomer women even as their organizational work becomes increasingly more difficult due to neoliberal pressures. Findings also suggest neoliberalism influences notions of what is deemed the “good” newcomer woman in Canada, engendering discourses of the idealized newcomer as self-sufficient and market oriented. Collectively, evidence of the strategic prioritization of gender and discourses extolling the virtue of key neoliberal tenets suggests Canadian settlement organizations, programs, and services are entrenched in, and active operatives of, neoliberal practices, ideas, and norms.