One of the UK’s leading specialist health and social care legal firms, Ridouts, has taken the unusual step of releasing a statement after the successful qualification of a Muslim colleague.
“I am so excited to have qualified to practice law with a dynamic, growing, prestigious legal practice such as Ridouts,” Amina Uddin, Solicitor at Ridouts, told AboutIslam.net.
“I want to be a mentor to the next generation and I want young girls to know that you can achieve your dreams. You simply must never give up and never lose hope.”
Uddin, who grew up in East London, originally joined Ridouts in 2013 as a Paralegal and last month qualified as a solicitor working on various aspects of health and social care regulatory law within the Ridouts Legal Practice.
In a press release, the firm’s Managing Director, Paul Ridout, expressed disappointment at the employment challenges faced by Amina Uddin, from Tower Hamlets.
The newly qualified Paralegal struggled to secure a suitable position for four years after graduating with a 2:1 from the highly prestigious, London School of Economics (LSE).
The question Uddin’s experience poses for government and business alike is one increasingly expressed by Muslim professionals nationwide.
Why does it take so long for Muslim female graduates to find work?
Born to first generation immigrant parents from Bangladesh, Uddin has always been ambitious and developed an interest in law whilst studying her degree.
She attained an excellent academic record on her Anthropology and Law course, followed by excelling in her Legal Pratice qualifications. Despite these achievements, as someone of her gender and ethnicity, Uddin would find it difficult to break into the legal profession.
Despite making over 50 applications to different firms, she did not get a single interview, in four years.
A number of recent studies have shown Muslims face discrimination when applying for jobs in Britain. In April 2015, researchers at Bristol University released findings revealing an applicant’s religion now matters more than skin color, in relation to job prospects.
Muslims suffer the most discrimination on this basis.
Dr Khattab of Bristol’s School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies found that Muslim women were 71 percent more likely than white Christian women to be unemployed. Even when they had the same education and language skills. Hindu women were 57 per cent more likely to be unemployed than white Christian women.
Uddin’s difficulty in finding employment mirrors the findings.
“I wondered whether the legal profession was simply impossible for me to break into considering my faith, ethnicity and gender,” she told AboutIslam.net.
“I felt that being a young Muslim woman had made my career prospects slim (and) that I was judged with labels affixed to me as opposed to against the skill set required for the roles I was applying for.”
In 2012, a British parliamentary report found some female members of ethnic minorities had attempted to make their names sound more “British.”
One Muslim woman legally changed her name suspecting it would improve her chances of employment. However, at interview stage such efforts to avoid anti-Muslim discrimination can backfire. These attempts to ‘integrate’ can be met with displeasure by potential employers who may feel tricked after expecting a ‘white’ candidate.
Not a positive way to begin a working relationship.
Paul Ridout, Managing Director at Ridouts Professional Services PLC, says his firm was ‘sadly unsurprised’ by the European Network Against Racism and Faith Matters report published in May 2016.
‘Forgotten women: The impact of Islamophobia on Muslim women in the UK’ found that Muslim women were experiencing the ‘double-bind’ of religious and gender discrimination.
This creates significant barriers in the workplace, including pregnancy discrimination, an enlarged pay gap and racial profiling in job applications.
The legal firm Ridouts is seeking to challenge workplace and hiring prejudice. They are committed to mentoring the best applicants whatever their faith or background.
Ridouts were looking to replace Paralegals within the firm and received over 150 applications for two vacancies. Amina was by far the most outstanding and talented candidate that was interviewed.
“We see a lot of ordinary candidates. Amina is by contrast extraordinary. We remain therefore at a loss as to explain Amina’s career to date,” Managing Director Paul Ridout said.
“We have benefitted from where other firms missed an opportunity. We are simply delighted that she has joined the growing Ridouts team.”
Meanwhile 43 per cent of Muslim women feel they are ‘treated differently or encountered discrimination at job interviews’ because of their faith. This figure rises to 50 percent amongst women who wear a hijab, who feel they have ‘missed out on progression opportunities because of religious discrimination and that the wearing of the hijab had been a factor.’
Amina Uddin and her colleagues at work are seeking solutions to the serious issue of anti-Muslim discrimination in the employment arena. Advising women seeking work and employment organizations, Uddin told Aboutislam:
“Mentoring schemes should be accessible to enable young Muslim women to gain the support and necessary goal planning to achieve what they want.”
“Mentors can look through applications and provide constructive criticism. Encouraging volunteering is also a great way to help keep focused, maintaining confidence and gaining new skills”.