According to Harvard Business Review: “earlier this year the European Union’s highest court ruled that employers could prohibit employees from wearing visible religious symbols at work, as long as they banned all religious wear, and did not single out a particular religion. However, the case centered on two Muslim women who had been fired for refusing to remove their headscarves while on the job, and the ruling was seized on by politicians in Germany, France, and the Netherlands as a ‘headscarf ban.’ It’s the latest event in Europe’s long-simmering tensions over the various forms of Muslim veiling.”
Scholar Doris Weichselbaumer (a professor at Johannes Kepler University Linz) recently wrote a paper on the issues that women who wear the hijab may face when applying for a job, and talks with the Harvard Business Review about her findings. Here are some snippets from the interview:
The Hijabi Experiment: I created job applications for three fictitious female characters who held strictly identical qualifications. While all of the photos showed the same woman, I gave one applicant a German name, “Sandra Bauer,” and two applicants a Turkish name, “Meryem Öztürk.” One of the Meryems was shown with a headscarf. About 1,500 applications were sent out in response to job advertisements during the course of the experiment. We found that when “Meryem Öztürk” wore a headscarf, she had to send 4.5 as many applications as “Sandra Bauer” to receive the same number of callbacks for interviews.
When the Turkish applicant did not wear a headscarf, was she treated the same as the German applicant? No. “Meryem Öztürk” without a headscarf still had to send 1.4 as many applications as “Sandra Bauer.”
Were you surprised by these results? I was surprised by a couple of things. First, the level of discrimination was very high, but maybe that was to be expected, given the current climate toward Muslims. Second, discrimination against the headscarf was highest in the occupation with the highest status and the highest qualification necessary, even though firms had problems filling vacancies there. So neither higher levels of qualifications nor a tighter labor market seem to help women with a headscarf. Instead they seem to be more accepted in low-status jobs.