3 Facts and 5 barriers regarding religious diversity (part 2 of 3)

This is the second part of a three-part blog series that explores religious diversity: key concepts, facts, barriers and enablers. Although this is a theme with many legal implications, I’m focusing on the knowledge and leadership behaviours, beyond minimum legal requirements, that will empower you to attract and engage people of all faiths, including people with no faith.

Today, we’re looking at key facts and barriers regarding religious diversity.

Three facts about religion

1- Religious hostility is on the rise

For instance, in the US, the number of charges related to religious discrimination rose by fifty percent between 2005 and 2015.[i] In the UK, between 2014 and 2015, there was a 43 percent increase in religion-related hate crimes.[ii] The 2015 Eurobarometer on discrimination notes an increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Europe.[iii]

2- Most religious requests are easily accommodated

For instance, in France, in 85 percent of cases, religious requests are easily managed.

3- Taking time off for religious reasons is the most popular request

For instance, in Belgium (21 percent of accommodations) and France (forty percent of accommodations), this is the top type of accommodation reported by companies.[iv]

Five key barriers to building a faith-friendly environment

1- Religious bias

Fifty percent of Europeans (76 percent of French and 48 percent of British) believe religious discrimination is widespread. One in eight Europeans (thirteen percent) say they would be uncomfortable working with a Muslim person. This is higher than for any of the other religious groups.[v]

2- Judgmental attitude

Religion can be a delicate topic, as some people have strong views about it. In the workplace, some people tend to judge others’ behaviours according to their own personal values. If they agree with a practice, they will accommodate it; if they think it doesn’t make sense, they will reject it.  This is not a good attitude. As an inclusive leader, you should analyse religious practices objectively (see framework above), independently of your personal views.

3- Lack of guiding principles

Many managers facing religious requests feel lost. They tend to either accommodate all practices for fear of discriminating, even when such practices disadvantage other employees and the business. Or they reject all accommodations in order to treat everybody the same, without realising the negative impact on those who have specific religious needs. Sometimes managers discriminate employees and candidates on behalf of their clients or their employees, believing that’s a valid reason, when it’s not. A few years ago, a Moroccan colleague of mine told me that as she was looking for a job, recruiters would tell her that although she was a good fit for the job, their clients wouldn’t appreciate dealing with a woman wearing a veil.

4- Assumptions about religious practices

Often managers don’t know much about other religions or tend to make assumptions. During a manufacturing site visit in the UK, I met a Sikh team leader who told me his manager had created a prayer room for him, believing Sikhs needed to pray like Muslims when it’s not the case. Also, not everyone who holds a religion follows the same practices and may differ considerably in their level of observance. For instance, not all Muslims practice Ramadan, not all Jews practice Sabbath, not all Christians rest on Sundays.

5- Misconceptions about secularism

In countries like France, secularism is an important value. It means that the State has no religion and it guarantees the freedom of religion for everyone. Thus, civil servants, as State representatives, are required to be neutral, i.e., not to display any visible religious signs. This doesn’t apply to employees of private companies. However, many people believe that visible religious displays are not allowed in companies, or even in public spaces, which is incorrect.


Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below!

This is an excerpt from one of the chapters of my bookSucceed as an inclusive leader – Winning leadership habits in a diverse world”. You can download for free the sample chapter “Supporting work-life integration” by clicking hereThis article was also published on my blog and on Huffington Post. To get my articles and updates directly in your inbox, sign up for my newsletter.


Contact me and find out about the Inclusive Leadership Think-tank, an innovative workshop that empowers business leaders to role model the leadership behaviours to drive inclusion and performance.


THAIS COMPOINT is a multiple award-winning author, speaker, trainer and consultant specialising in inclusion and diversity for the past 18 years. She helps organisations build inclusive cultures and diverse teams so that they can increase engagement, productivity, innovation and sales. She is the CEO of Déclic International, a global consultancy that she created in 2016, after having led the inclusion and diversity strategies of three Fortune 500 companies. She’s also the author of the book “Succeed as an inclusive leader”, a TEDx speaker, the founder of the 1s Inclusive Leadership Global Conference, and a regular Huffington Post contributor.


[i] http://enar-eu.org/IMG/pdf/anti-semitism_briefing_2017.pdf

[i] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/religion.cfm.

[ii] http://www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk/campaign/racism-and-religous-discrimination.

[iii] Eurobarometer – Discrimination in the EU in 2015, European Commission, 2015.

[iv] Pratiques religieuses en entreprise : Quelle réalité? Quelles remontées du terrain ? IMS – Charte de la Diversité, Septembre 2013.

[v] Eurobarometer – Discrimination in the EU in 2015, European Commission, 2015.

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