British Muslim women's experience of the networking practice of happy hours

Date08 February 2020
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/ER-04-2018-0110
Pages646-661
Publication Date08 February 2020
AuthorShehla R. Arifeen
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour,Industrial/labour relations,Employment law
British Muslim womens
experience of the networking
practice of happy hours
Shehla R. Arifeen
Department of Business Administration, Lahore School of Economics,
Lahore, Pakistan
Abstract
Purpose Networking is deemed important for women in careers. The purpose of this paper is to draw
attention to the interaction of a specific networking practice with a religious practice and its implications on
British Muslim women (BMw). The practice happy hoursis closely linked with drinking alcohol (Flores-
Pereira et al., 2008), while alcohol consumption is forbidden in Islam.
Design/methodology/approach A qualitative research approach was used to interview 37 participants
who were in managerial or professional positions.
Findings The findings demonstrate that the presence of alcohol in work-related socializing is a norm,
making the practice of happy hoursinvisible and legitimate (Acker, 2006), thereby contributing inadvertently
to reinforcing inequality regimes in organizations. Furthermore, the interaction of contradictory religious
beliefs/practices of individual employees and organizational practices presents challenges for Muslim women,
who feel they have to participate in happy hours as a networkingpractice in order to progress in careers. While
it involves emotional effort, as they persuade themselves to join in activities where alcohol is being served, it
paradoxically results in feelings of exclusion and marginalization within the group, as they do not drink
alcohol.
Originality/value This paper focuses on the micro/individual level of analysis, singling out the Muslim
female voice while positioning happy hoursas a networking practice. It also contributes to the underexplored
area of the role of religion and individual behaviour in organizations (Tracey, 2012).
Keywords Religion, British Muslim Professional and Managerial women, Happy hours, Alcohol,
Organizations, Networking practice
Paper type Research paper
Introduction
Networking refers to activities by i ndividuals attempting to develop and maintain
relationships with those with, or p erceived to have, the potential to assist them in thei r work
or career(Singh et al.,2006, p. 459). Networking activities include both formal workplace-
oriented activities such as meet ings and work-hosted Christmas p arties, and informal
activities where colleagues opt to get to gether out of office hours, for example, at a bowling
alley or playing a football match. For w omen in careers, networking as an acti vity, in
particular, has been identified as a means to e nhance career advancement within
organizations (Kanter, 1977), and i t remains a tool for women to crack th e glass ceiling
(Hersby et al.,2009); networking for w omen in professional services in the UK is even more
important (Kumra and Vinnicomb e, 2008), as networking and self-promotion were identified
as examples of proactive career -enhancing strategies. While ear ly research demonstrated
women had difficulty integratin g into mensnetworks(Brass, 1985), rece nt research still
claims women have weaker networks (Ibarra et al., 201 3). While multiple factors contri bute to
difference between men and wome ns networking, access to appropri ate networks
(Linehan and Scullion, 2008, p. 29) or male networks ( Ibarra et al.,2013) continue to plague
women, making it a gendered organiza tional practice.
ER
42,3
646
The author would like to thank the editorial team and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive
recommendations.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
https://www.emerald.com/insight/0142-5455.htm
Received 19 April 2018
Revised 25 February 2019
16 August 2019
13 December 2019
Accepted 17 December 2019
Employee Relations: The
International Journal
Vol. 42 No. 3, 2020
pp. 646-661
© Emerald Publishing Limited
0142-5455
DOI 10.1108/ER-04-2018-0110
The networking literature in general, and womens networking literature in particular,
overlook the diverse individual. Within the body of research on womens networking, the
homogeneity of women is assumed, rather than their diversity. Diverse individuals are
defined in this paper as those individuals who are demographically categorized as a minority
among group members (DiTomaso et al., 2007) and have any categorical difference that has
significant impact on group interactional and outcomes(DiTomaso et al., 2007, p. 474).
Categorical differences can include gender, ethnicity and religion among many. Changing
labour force composition in the UK has increased the importance of managing a diverse
workforce in organizations. In England and Wales, Muslims form the second largest religious
group (ONS, 2015), albeit 4.8 per cent of the population and consequently a minority. While
gender and ethnicity in networking has been accounted for in a limited manner (see, for
instance, Kamenou and Fearfull, 2006), religion has been overlooked in management studies
(Tracey, 2012) and particularly in networking research. Understanding the role of religion in
organizations/employments needs attention, particularly given the paucity of Muslim women
in the labour force (Social Mobility Commission, 2016).
Furthermore, some practices can be problematic for diverse individuals, in particular
Muslims. For instance, in networking get-togethers in the UK, along with other beverages,
alcohol is also served. Alcohol consumption is forbidden in the Muslim religion and is a rule
that is adhered to by practicing Muslims. Additionally, alcohol prohibition is across
categories and is applicable to all Muslims, irrespective of their gender, race/ethnicity or
nationality. Whether some follow the rule (practicing Muslims) or do not follow the rule, is
their choice. Therefore, religious practices can carry implications for organizations and
employees, specifically if an organizational practice clashes with religious practice of an
employee. Indeed, (Tracey 2012, p. 112) critiques management studies researchers for not
exploring the intersection between religion and organization and concludes that
management literature does not offer a clear picture of the effects of religious beliefs on
individual values, attitudes, or behaviour in organizations.
This paper also addresses a theoretical gap in the networking literature by making a case
for considering happy hoursas a networking practice. Happy hoursis closely linked to
drinking alcohol (Flores-Pereira et al., 2008). Borrowing Berger et al. (2015)s definition of
networking practices, this paper argues for happy hours as part of the practice of networking.
While Berger et al. (2015) explored the role of genderin organizational practices such as
networking, research exploring the role of religion in organizational practices/rituals of
networking is rare. This research thus calls into question the role of networking practices and
their consequences, in particular with respect to minority individuals. DiTomaso et al. (2007,
p. 488) solidly place diverse individuals (who are part of the minority group amongst a
heterogeneous group) at a disadvantage. Given the disadvantage, and that researchers also
argue that organizations do not take into account individual differences while formulating
policies or practices (Shen et al., 2009), it is important to draw attention to mechanisms in day
to day interactions at the workplace that contribute towards the reproduction of inequality or
its mitigationDiTomaso et al. (2007, p. 492).
Drawing on narratives of highly educated second-generation British Muslim women in
employment, this research demonstrates that the interaction of contradictory religious
beliefs/practices of individual employees and organizational practices presents challenges for
Muslim women who feel they have to participate in happy hours as a networking practice in
order to progress in careers. It involves emotional effort, as they persuade themselves to join
in activities where alcohol is being served. Paradoxically, it also results in feelings of
exclusion and marginalization within the group, as they do not drink alcohol. The findings
also demonstrate that the presence of alcohol in work-related socializing is a norm, making
the practice of happy hoursinvisible and legitimate (Acker, 2006), thereby contributing
inadvertently to reinforcing inequality regimes in organizations.
Happy hours as
a networking
practice for
BMw
647

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