Perceptions of Job Applicants Wearing Hijab

Strabac, Z., Aalberg, T., Jenssen, A. T., & Valenta, M. (2016). Wearing the veil: Hijab, Islam and job qualifications as determinants of social attitudes towards immigrant women in Norway. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 39 (15), 2665-2682.

This study, conducted in Norway, was aimed at separating the effects of religion and traditional dress in attitudes toward immigrant women. Strabac and colleagues (2016) administered a survey in which participants were given a photo and description of a hypothetical immigrant from Lebanon, which varied on three dimensions: (1) religion — either “Maronite-Christian” or “Alawi-Muslim” (these specific faiths were chosen with the assumption that they would be relatively unfamiliar to the participants), (2) wearing a hijab or Western dress, and (3) having an intermediate or high level of job qualifications. This resulted in six conditions (due to the absence of Christian–hijab conditions). In ratings of job qualifications, there was little difference between the Christian immigrant and the unveiled Muslim immigrant regardless of level of qualification. However, the immigrant individual wearing the hijab was evaluated less positively than the Christian immigrant or the unveiled Muslim immigrant, and this difference was significant when described as having intermediate job qualifications. Thus, Muslim background itself was not associated with negative attitudes, though wearing the hijab appeared to be. The authors suggested that this study be replicated in other settings and with immigrants portrayed as having different geographical origins.

Making Connections

Factorial Design
Institutional Discrimination
Social Perception

Media Supplement

In this NPR podcast American Muslim women discuss why they choose to wear – or not wear – traditional headscarves. (2 min 47 sec)

Following the European Union ruling that employers can ban visible religious symbols, The Guardian newspaper filmed Muslim women discussing their experiences applying for work while wearing a hijab in this video . (5 min 18 sec)