Current Affairs

The trials and tribulations of a British Asian woman in 2014

You’ve probably read that title thinking, “It’s the 21st we’re living in a multicultural and diverse country; no women should have any trials and tribulations related to her gender or her ethnicity.” Either you view life through rose-tinted glasses (in which case, could I borrow them for the weekend?) or you’ve never really understood your British Asian female peers.

The mass influx of Asian immigrants in the 1960s has resulted in an entire generation of well-integrated British-born Asians. These individuals play vital roles in society; from police officers to members of Parliament, your trusty GP to your reliable corner-shop owner (casual stereotypical reference). These young, vibrant individuals have benefited hugely from the fruits of their parents’ labour. Many of them have had the opportunity to pursue higher education courses at University.

British Asians are second highest achieving ethnic group when it comes to education [1]. Everyone knows the stereotypical view of the pushy Asian parent wanting nothing but perfect marks from their dearest child [2]. The benefits of education are seen beyond the academic setting as the knowledge gained whilst studying also influences personal opinions and social interactions [3].

Women of the world 2014

Because of this the British Asian woman living in the year 2014 is able to reach heights her mother and grandmother would never have dreamt of. She can do anything from working as a lawyer or a broker to running her own business, even being able to choose who and when she marries. Despite having all the benefits that a well-rounded education can give [3], cultural barriers are still holding British Asian women back.

I am definitely not saying that British Asian families are forcing their daughters to conform to a backwards ideology where women are routinely supressed and unappreciated. But what I am saying is that the expectations of the wider Asian community in the UK and the subsequent pressures to settle down and be the dutiful wife can stifle a British Asian woman’s drive to succeed. Thus, imploring her to conform to the constraints of cultural barriers by keeping parts of her life secret from her family, shying away from travelling alone or holding back from the next promotion. Yes, these women are making waves across the board when it comes to education and the workforce.

But wouldn’t it be great if the education that helped them get that far was able to allow the communities to support them to really achieve and challenge gender stereotypes in South Asian culture. This needs to be the future for our daughters.

Education has no doubt allowed British Asians to progress through society and embed themselves in the changing face of this country. But education should not end at academia. Education of the British Asian communities is needed to encourage progression in the cultural sense too.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” –The Late Nelson Mandela

By Kiran Nandra

Medical communications consultant from London who likes to dispel stereotypes


1. Department of education and skills (2003) Aiming High: Raising the Achievement of Minority Ethnic Pupils. Available at:
2. Typical Asian Parents, Goodness Gracious Me. Available at:
3. Department for business, innovation and skills (2013) Things we know and don’t know about the Wider Benefits of Higher Education: A review of the recent literature. Available at:

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