Muslim women facing barriers in the workplace

Misconceptions and stereotypical assumptions about Islam or assumptions made about gender expectations can make it difficult for Muslims to integrate in the workplace, according to a new report.

The research by the Social Mobility Commission looks at barriers to Muslims in the workplace and in education and finds that young Muslims feel a real challenge in maintaining their identity while seeking to succeed in Britain.

It says young Muslims feel worried about being different and unsure about whether getting on is compatible with their
identity as Muslims. Some have responded by asserting their Muslim identity, although in some cases this has constrained the career choices they made, says the report. Others have felt there was a pressure to hide their Muslim identity and so have avoided the issue that way, it says.

The report says Muslim women are particularly affected and adds that attitudes towards the role and place of women within the family can have a negative effect on the social mobility of Muslim women, particularly concerning their employment opportunities.

It states that young Muslims are more likely to be unemployed, underemployed, in insecure employment and/or in receipt of low pay. Their career progression is also affected.  For instance, they feel obliged to defend their faith in the face of negative discourses in the media, which inhibits integration and limits aspiration over time. The report says
failures to accommodate religious norms or develop understanding of Muslims’ needs impact on young Muslims’ sense of belonging at work, compounding feelings of isolation and limiting aspiration and notes that some individuals have sought self-employment as an empowering response to these difficulties, but some had been forced to take this route due to lack of opportunities in employed work.

The report notes that Muslim women felt that wearing the headscarf at work was an additional visual marker of difference that was perceived and experienced as leading to further discrimination.

It also covers barriers in the education system, both at school and university, including low expectations from teachers, Islamophobia/racism on campus and a lack of attention to the social and academic needs of young Muslims.

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