Parliamentary report exposes employment discrimination against Muslim women

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community has expressed concern regarding high levels of Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi female unemployment in its new report on the issue. The report follows a five month inquiry.

The report and inquiry was written and undertaken in partnership with the Runnymede Trust, which acts a secretariat for the group.

It argues that discrimination is present at every level of the recruitment process, and cites examples of women changing their names or removing religious dress, such as the hijab, for job interviews.

The report, accompanying short film and evidence submitted is available here.

The press release is available here.

For more information contact Vicki Butler, who wrote the report on behalf of the APPG: / 020 7377 9222

Runnymede Trust news report, 7 December 2012

See also “Ethnic minority women face jobs crisis”, Guardian, 7 December 2012

And “Women ‘remove hijabs to get work’ as ethnic minorities face more discrimination”, Daily Telegraph, 7 December 2012.

The APPG report states: “Muslim women who wear the hijab reported discrimination and women of all three ethnic groups reported questions asked about intentions regarding marriage and children. This was often tied to assumptions based on ethnicity – for example it was assumed that Muslim women would want to stop work after having children.”

The report says that Zamila Bunglawala, author of Valuing Family, Valuing Work: British Muslim Women and the Labour Market, highlighted some of her own research during the inquiry, which found that some Muslim women who removed their hijab for interviews were successful in getting a job, having worn their hijab to previous interviews and being unsuccessful.

The London Borough of Tower Hamlets also cited evidence from the Equality and Human Rights Commission which found that 1 in 5 Bangladeshi women under 35 experienced negative comments about wearing religious dress.

The report backs this up with oral evidence: “A group of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in Oldham mentioned a number of friends and relatives who wear hijab who have found it particularly difficult to find jobs. For some of the older women, discrimination towards hijab wearers was met with a grudging acceptance, with one woman stating that she decided to stop wearing the hijab many years ago in order to help her get a job.”

One of the women interviewed spoke about how a friend who is a recent first class graduate from a Russell Group university has struggled to find work and believes that her “decision to wear the hijab is restricting her from getting a job”. She added that because her friend experiences a bad reception at interviews she has even considered “taking the hijab off” while looking for a job and then “putting it back on once she has found employment”. The same young woman has been successful obtaining work where she has not required a face-to-face interview, such as marking exam papers.

A Pakistani woman in Oldham is quoted as saying about a friend: “From her appearance you can not tell she is a Muslim, but she has a Muslim name and when she mentions her name [to employers] that’s it – they back off.”

For Muslim women, convincing employers to allow time in the day for Muslim prayer was cited as a difficulty and lack of attendance at work social occasions in pubs was argued by some witnesses as being a disadvantage for future job prospects within an organisation.

The report states: “Yvonne Coghill from the NHS highlighted how not drinking alcohol and not entering pubs can limit opportunities for Muslim women, as it means they are not ‘part of the mix’ at work network events. This could make them be seen as outsiders and thus more vulnerable to redundancy. Whilst Coghill suggested Muslim women should consider going along to these events even if they do not drink at them, Noor Ali from Morrisons argued that Muslims should not feel as if they should enter pubs to further their career as this is not allowed under their religion. She added that it is more important to change other people’s views of Muslim culture, which has been her approach.”