Date of Award

5-1-2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Workforce Education and Development

First Advisor

Freeburg, Beth

Abstract

Although federal laws prohibit employment discrimination, potential discrimination against Muslim women wearing the hijab is possible. The purpose of this study was to describe how religious stereotypes and religious artifacts may influence hiring and what the origin of this phenomenon is. A phenomenological perspective was used in this research focusing on the participant's perceptions in comprehending the meaning of having a Muslim woman wearing the hijab in a job interview and how/why this meaning is constructed. The phenomenon studied was the nature and range of stereotypes that recruiters hold about Muslim women wearing the hijab. Qualitative interviews with nine participants were conducted in the states of Illinois and Missouri in 2010. These participants were in charge of hiring in the educational and healthcare sectors. Five main themes from the interviews data were identified: (a) fear of Muslims, (b) hijab appearance vs.hijab functionality, (c) impact of cultural and religious differences, (d) stereotypes, and (e) discrimination in the United States. The findings have offered an opportunity to investigate, illustrate and document stereotypes on Muslim women wearing the hijab that could intervene during a hiring process. They have provided a glimpse into the stereotypes that recruiters hold about Muslim women wearing the hijab and the Muslim community as well. In particular, this study confirmed that there is a need to educate people in charge of hiring on how stereotypes may shape their decisions. The most distinctive finding of this study is the aesthetic aspect of the hijab. All the participants explicitly acknowledged the beauty of the hijab. This finding showed how complex the research participants' perceptions were about the hijab. How the appearance of the hijab could be viewed so positively and how its function was perceived negatively by them.

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