Gender, Race, and Precarity

Theorizing the Parallels Between Early Childhood Educators and Sessional Faculty in Ontario


  • Zuhra Abawi University of Toronto
  • Rachel Berman Ryerson University
  • Alana Powell Ryerson University


feminist political economy, precarious labour, anti-intellectualism, racialization, neoliberalism, education


This paper critically examines the parallels of devaluation encountered by early childhood educators and sessional faculty members in Ontario as reflective praxis. The three authors’ experiences are diverse and include a tenured professor and two sessional faculty members, both of whom have worked in the field of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC). The narratives of the authors inform the concerning trend of precarity and devaluation embedded within two polarizing spectrums of the Ontario educational landscape: Post-Secondary Education (PSE) and ECEC. Although these aforementioned areas of education rarely intersect, the authors centre them on the frontline of the neoliberal assault on education transpiring in Ontario today. The three authors self-identify as female settlers; two have doctoral degrees; one has an MA and is an early childhood educator (ECE). One author self-identifies as a racialized and white-coded cis-gendered woman, and two self-identify as white, cis-gendered women. All of the authors have worked in Ontario’s post-secondary landscape, one as sessional faculty member and then a tenured professor, and two as sessional faculty members. The paper will problematize the neoliberal assault on higher education and ECEC through a Feminist Political Economy (FPE) conceptual framework in order to draw on the multifaceted ways feminized discourses devalue the work of ECEs and perpetuate the overrepresentation of women, particularly racialized women in precarious faculty positions.


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Author Biographies

Zuhra Abawi, University of Toronto

Zuhra Abawi is a Senior Lecturer at Niagara University’s College of Education, Ontario Educational Studies. She completed her Doctor of Education in Social Justice Education at OISE/University of Toronto. Zuhra also holds a Master of Education, Bachelor of Education, and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Additionally, she has a Diploma in Early Childhood Education and is both an Ontario Certified Teacher and Registered Early Childhood Educator. Her research interests include Critical Race Theory, teacher education, reconceptualist approaches to Early Childhood Education, and educational policy. Zuhra has also worked as an elementary teacher for five years in the Peel District School Board.

Rachel Berman, Ryerson University

Rachel Berman is Graduate Program Director and Associate Professor at Ryerson’s School of Early Childhood Studies. Prior to joining the School of Early Childhood Studies, Rachel taught feminist research methods at both York University and McMaster University. Rachel has a PhD in Family Studies from the University of Guelph and an MA in Human Development and Family Relations from the University of Connecticut. Her research interests include mothering, parenting, family engagement and perspectives of youth and childhood, race and childhood, and critical qualitative inquiry. Rachel is also a member of the Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education Association, Association for Research on Mothering, the Canadian Sociology Association, and the Women's and Gender Studies et Recherches Féministes, and an adjunct member to the graduate program in Gender, Feminist & Women's Studies, York University.

Alana Powell , Ryerson University

Alana Powell is Policy and Special Projects Officer at the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario. Alana completed her MA in Early Childhood Studies from Ryerson University and is a Registered Early Childhood Educator. Prior to her role at the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario, she was a contract lecturer at George Brown College’s School of Early Childhood. Her research engages in critical exploration of care discourses in early childhood and she has played an active role in the Ontario child care advocacy movement for several years.






Original Research