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Misbah Khatana

Misbah Khatana

PhD student

Navigating gendered space: the social construction of labour markets in Pakistan


I have extensive research and evaluation experience of Labour Market and gender vulnerabilities in developing countries. I also have consulting experience with government, public institutions and NGO's. My current interests include globalization and transnational corporations, production and social reproduction of the labour market, genderization of space and constituents of inclusion and exclusion.


  • PhD Candidate: Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, 2015 - current
  • MILR: International Comparative Labour, Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labour Relations (2013)
  • MPA: International Development and Environmental Policy, Cornell University, Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) (2011)


  • Jan 2013- Dec 2014: Research and Evaluation Consultant, Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), Associates for International Management (AIMS), New York
  • Sept 2013-Oct.2014: Project manager, Co-teacher, Employment and Disability Institute, Cornell University ILR School
  • Aug 2009-May 2013: Graduate Research and Teaching Assistant under Professor James Gross (ILR), and Professor Richard Miller (Philosophy), Cornell University
  • Apr 2003-Dec 2008: Deputy Commissioner Customs & Sales Tax (ST) Federal Board of Revenue, Government of Pakistan
  • Apr 2000-June 2008: Communications Associate & Events Director World Wide Fund for Nature, Pakistan; Alhambra Arts Council, Lahore 

Awards and scholarship

  • Cambridge Political Economy Society Trust Award (2018)
  • Cambridge SMUTS Memorial Fund Research Grant (2018)
  • The Mary Euphrasia Mosley Fund (2018)
  • Charles Wallace Trust Doctoral Award (2017)
  • Philip Lake and William Vaughan Travel Grant, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge (2016)
  • Cambridge Commonwealth, European and International Trust Scholarship (2015)
  • Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations Teaching Fellowship (2011-2013)
  • Cornell Institute for Public Affairs Fellowship (2010)
  • Professional Development Scholarship, Pakistan (2009)


Navigating gendered space: the social construction of labour markets in Pakistan

My research locates itself at the intersection of political economy and human, economic and labour geographies, and in the discourses of gender, institutionalism and intersectionality. It explores the effects of globalization and the transformation of labour markets around the world; the surge of women's entry in the formal workforce establishing women as the backbone of the manufacturing industry. My research seeks to fill a gap by exploring why an upsurge of women workers is not found in some, more traditional societies. It examines linkages between social, economic and political processes and the fundamentals of inclusion and exclusion within societies.

Women's absence from industrial settings in Pakistan corresponds to an institutionally licensed, general deficiency of women in the formal workforce. The scarcity of women in industry is essentially a manifestation of traditional practices that inhabit Pakistani society, and indicative of gender prohibitive spaces.

Gender prohibitive forces of this society manifest in women's scarcity in industrial settings. I explore forces and processes of inclusion and exclusion that construct gender prohibitive space. Examining the nature of inclusion and exclusion can reveal particular societal hierarchies in place, indicate which traditions and beliefs have institutional sanction and are held valuable, and which may be displaced over time. Ascribed identities – notably gender – are often a source of exclusion or inclusion at the workplace and commonly manifest in the division and construction of labour markets along the lines of gender. The gendering of spaces - in the home, streets, transportation, factories - is a vital feature constraining women's position in the workforce. I assess how different forces of discrimination including mind-body dualism manifested as public-private space, interact and intersect to impact women's navigation of spaces. Particularly I examine mobility as a pursued rather than assured "good" - an enabling factor that allows those that have mobility, economic and social advancement.

In this segmented labour market all skills, even those like stitching, that around the world are deemed more suited to women's "nimble fingers", are given male attributes. Women are considered incapable of performing skills equal to men and barriers of entry for women even into the secondary segment are further raised. Homeworking women, who perform this same skill in their homes, operate in a monopsony. Capital exploits labour market monopsonies and deepens women precarious positions.


  • Conduct Supervisions for Undergraduate Students of Geography at University of Cambridge
  • Co-lecturer "Leadership and Global Service Learning: Agents of Change" at Cornell University ILR School (created syllabus and co-taught new academic course at Cornell)
  • Teaching Associate for 2nd, 3rd & 4th year Undergraduates - Cornell University ILR School, Sage School of Philosophy & Cornell Hotel School. Courses taught: Workers Rights as Human Rights; Human Resource Management; Global Thinking (Philosophy); Cross Cultural Communication

External activities

  • Graduate Community Advisor, Cornell University Graduate Housing - Communications, community development, programming for 1200 residents
  • Course Evaluator - Cornell Center for Teaching Excellence - Evaluated new Department of Anthropology course "Engaging Other Cultures: Learning How to Learn About Cultural Differences"
  • Editor "Aurora" Magazine of Civil Services Academy, Pakistan
  • President, Society for Culture, Civil Services Academy, Pakistan
  • President, Student Body Council - Kinnaird College for Women, Pakistan (2,500 students)