Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Headscarf and Women's Employment

The Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) has released a new study authored by Dilek Cindoglu and Ebru Ilhan documenting discrimation faced by female employees wearing the headscarf. Bianet gives a summary of the results:

* According to research conducted by KONDA and MetroPOLL in 2008, 71-72 percent of all women cover their head, while only eleven percent of female university graduates wear headscarves. A study by World Bank and the State Planning Organization revealed that these women's participation in labour dropped from 50 percent in 1998 to 35 percent in 2006.

* The two working areas in which women are represented the most are as unpaid family workers in agriculture and as trained professionals.

* The women wearing headscarves at university are not a homogenous group. Religious affiliations of these women differ as well as their level of political interest, adoption and level of traditional values, the level of individual religiosity and their economic and social capital.

* The headscarf ban is the most basic field of conflict for young professionally trained women with headscarves.

* Wearing a headscarf at work is part of these professional women's religiosity and individuality. They are respected by their colleagues and especially by men in lower positions. The headscarf makes them feel safer on the street and at work.

* When women wearing headscarves have to include a photograph in their CV, they are more likely to face difficulty related to salary policies or when they are made redundant. They hear things such as "It is anyway a blessing to work here" or "You do not have to financially support a family", respectively.

* Employers want women wearing headscarves to be 'invisible'. They should either be 'invisible', take off their headscarf or should not publicly represent the company. This means that they are not participating in meeting with clients or in training courses and that they are kept away from work related to state offices.

* Employers focus on traditional patriarchal patterns thinking that even though the woman is working, she does not actually have to support the family. This way, employment of women wearing headscarves is being marginalized.

* Women wearing a headscarf in business perceive that they experience discrimination and obstructions almost entirely by reason of their "headscarf".

See also this report from Hurriyet Daily News that includes pieces of an interview with Cindoglu.
The headscarf has long been seen as an obstacle to women's employment, though camps on both sides of the issue face the issue differently. Pro-headscarf advocates argue that limitations on headscarved women entering university poses a serious hindrance to their position in higher-level unemployment, and that once out of university, women continue to face discrimination, and often, outright ridicule. Proponents of restrictions on headscarves, including some women's rights groups, argue the headscarf is a function of conservative, patriarchal attitudes, and that frequently it is the attitudes of headscarved women's families, most importantly, their husbands, that keep them out of the workplace.

This study very much disputes this notion in documenting cases where women choose to work, and in many cases, where their employment is necessary to the livelihood of their family.

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