By Mariam Sobh
WeNews guest author
Sunday, September 25, 2011
A lack of job opportunities makes Mariam Sobh wonder if her hijab, rather than skills, is to blame. An excerpt from her story, from the book "I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim."
(WOMENSENEWS)--Can a Muslim woman who wears hijab actually be capable of reporting the news on television--in America? I always thought the answer was a strong and resounding YES! Because I was that Muslim woman wearing hijab, and I was going to do it. I was going to break the barrier and get out there and pursue my dream.
That was me in college. My mind was set. I was completely focused. I finished my master's in broadcast journalism and worked in radio and for the university television station during both undergraduate and graduate school. On paper, I seemed bound for broadcast success. I had internships in radio and television in town. I was even the commencement speaker at our graduation ceremony. People raved about my work and patted me on the back. Nothing ever made me feel I could not make it in my field.
Yet once in a while, a nagging voice in the back of my mind would make me feel self-conscious about my hijab. One of my classmates had once asked me, "What will you do if you don't get hired because of your headscarf?" I confidently responded, "Sue them!" Then a tiny seed of doubt would enter my head: What if I really don't get a job because of my hijab?
I started to realize not all was going as planned when I began applying for jobs in television. I scoured dozens of openings across the United States. Every time I sent someone my resume and demo tape, there was no response. But I kept going. I heard how some graduates had sent out 30 or more tapes before getting their first job, so I knew I had to be persistent.
I continued to send tapes and resumes; 50 tapes later, I received a phone call from a news director in Negaunee, Mich.
"Do you have a job yet?" the news director asked me.
I was literally speechless. I told him that I'd love to come out for an interview. They couldn't pay for my transportation but would put me up in a motel for the night, so I drove eight hours to get there despite the winter weather and a severe cold with laryngitis.
The news director used to work for CNN but had decided to settle down in a small town so he could write novels in his spare time. He looked over my demo tape with me and said he was impressed with my work.
"Frankly, I thought you were a lot older. You sound so mature." Inside, I was jumping up and down. Could this be my big break?
The staff at the station was nice and friendly. I felt they saw me as a professional and not as a woman wearing hijab. I was told the job offered only $17,000 a year with no benefits, but that didn't deter me. I needed a job, and I decided I needed this job. The news director put me through a screen test. I read the teleprompter as they taped me over someone else's demo tape. I felt bad about that; but at the same time, I thought it meant they were really interested in me. I was given a tour of the town and taken to lunch. I could feel my dream getting closer and closer and closer.
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