Thursday, 14 February 2013

Muslim women’s workplace experiences: implications for strategic diversity initiatives

an article by Terrie C. Reeves (University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA), Arlise P. McKinney (Coastal Carolina University, Conway, USA) and Laila Azam, (Froedtert Hospital, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA) published in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal Volume 32 Issue 1 (2013)


The purpose of this paper is to examine Muslim women’s decisions to wear headscarves, known as hijab, in the workplace. The decision to wear hijab may result in a stigmatised identity, so the paper also aims to examine perceived or experienced discrimination and impact on employment outcomes.

Using qualitative methodology to capture nuances, the study was based on demographic responses and semi-structured interview questions by 79 Muslim women physicians and other healthcare professionals.

The paper finds that many factors influenced their decisions, but Muslim women had a wide variety of views in terms of the hijab and adherence to Islamic precepts. Those who wear hijab reported negative experiences of intolerance and discrimination. The decision to wear hijab was subsequently associated with perceived discrimination that would limit one’s employment opportunities.

Practical implications
Religion is one diversity categorisation that can be invisible yet still has a significant impact on workers and their engagement in the workplace. Organisations engaged in strategic diversity initiatives may need to better understand specific nuances of diversity concerning religious expression and the potential psychological toll hiding those expressions may have on workers. The paper's findings have implications for personnel selection, training, and managing interpersonal relationships in the workplace.

Religious expression is an under-studied workplace diversity facet, especially when disclosing religion is a choice that may result in being stigmatised. There has been research on workplace treatment of Muslims and the influences of spirituality, but no research that examined the decision to wear hijab and the associated workplace consequences.

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