Muslim women are demanding that employers make special religious accommodations for them – starting with eliminating what they call the “toxic drinking culture” (aka networking with executives after working hours).
Independent Imagine you’re in a room where everyone else is speaking a secret language that you don’t understand. You feel awkward and leave. For many Muslims, this is what attending a drinks-centred networking event can feel like and it’s damaging their career prospects.
Muslim women feel they are being held back by not consuming alcohol. 26-year-old trainee corporate lawyer *Maha Al-Habib says that drinking is the primary way her team socializes: “I feel my manager is closer to my colleague because she regularly joins them for Friday night drinks whereas I don’t. I’m worried that my career progression will be impacted if I don’t join staff at the pub.”
Maha’s concerns about her chances of promotion aren’t unsubstantiated. While over 84.2 per cent of British Muslim women were found to be actively engaged in the labour market, almost half of all participants in Dr Bi’s study were earning below the ONS’s average household income of £28,000.
Maha’s decision to skip hanging out with her colleagues on Friday night is costing her the chance to rise to the 8 per cent of BME partners at large law firms.
A Law Society report on BME solicitors highlighted a case where trainees like Martha were made to sign a contract where they would be “trained to the best of (the firm’s) ability” but couldn’t be guaranteed a job – in this case, all the white trainees were offered jobs. The lack of diversity amongst top solicitors as seniority increases can’t be denied as a factor in maintaining a drinking culture.
While many Muslim men also struggle to navigate drink culture, the experience is intensified for Muslim women, whose insistence on dressing like 7th century slave girls already is already limiting their ability to advance in the corporate culture.
The mental health impact on Muslim women who are pressured into being surrounded by alcohol can’t be underestimated. *Amira Ahmed, who is 22 and works in finance said she’ll never forget the time her colleague invited her to the pub for the third time while she was wearing hijab.
“I asked if we could grab dinner at a restaurant instead but she looked at me in shock and said that was ‘weird’. I’ve been left out of socials since, including my staff Christmas party.
Socials weren’t the only thing I began being left out of though. My team members hold important meetings and won’t tell me they’re happening even when I’m doing the work. I feel like I’m left out because I’m Muslim. (You reap what you sow, cupcake)
The pervasive drinking culture in many workplaces is another barrier Muslim women have to endure on top of the multiple challenges. An applicant’s Muslim name alone can dampen their chances of getting an opportunity.
Then once they reach the workplace, nearly one out of five find themselves dealing with so-called “Islamophobia” while almost one third encounter discrimination. (So, go work for a Muslim company, preferably in a Muslim country)