Sharon Hoosein, a nurse practitioner who works for a hospital in Mississauga, Ont., wears a hijab -- or headscarf -- as a symbol of her Muslim faith. She says she has experienced few problems at work as a result of wearing the hijab, except for the odd person making a false assumption about Muslim women being cloistered, uneducated and oppressed.
"I'm on my maternity leave now and people ask if I'm coming back. I can't help but feel people were asking that because they thought [staying home] is what my culture and religion wants me to do," she says. "I married a man from the Middle East, and when I say that he changes diapers and that I go out and leave the kid with him for hours, they're so surprised."
The hijab -- and how it is received in the workplace -- has had much more than its 15 minutes of fame. In June, the Canadian owner of a hair salon in London, England, was ordered by an employment tribunal to pay $8,000 in damages to a young stylist who was refused a job because she wears a hijab.
And in May, the Bouchard-Taylor report found that Muslim women in Quebec face discrimination in the job market for wearing the hijab, and cited the case of a young woman who "saw her job applications rejected by 50 pharmacies before she was finally able to land a job with an Arab pharmacist."
By wearing the hijab in the workplace, some Muslim women believe they are not only keeping the faith -- they are also helping tear down cultural barriers. . .
A 2002 study -- No Hijab is Permitted Here -- conducted by Women Working with Immigrant Women and funded by the Canadian Heritage-Multiculturalism Program and Status of Women Canada, found that more than 90% of study participants had an employer make a reference to their hijab while applying for work; more than 40% of these women were told that they must take off the hijab if they wanted a job.
Fadwa Benmbarek, who works with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says that getting a new job is often the toughest part. "Some sectors, like the public sector, are more kind than others. In the private sector, it depends on who is your manager and who is interviewing you." (MORE)