• Women change ‘foreign sounding’ names to get hired

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  • 15 Apr 2016
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One in five ethnic minority jobseekers fears CV discrimination, as skilled BAME unemployment level reaches 14 per cent

Large numbers of British women have resorted to using false names in job applications because they fear their ‘foreign sounding’ names will mean they face bias in the recruitment process, according to research.

Around one in five of 540 female black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) jobseekers said they had altered their name in applications, in a poll carried out by name-blind headhunting firm Nottx.com. Four in five believe their gender and ethnicity are barriers to employment.

More than half of 460 men polled believe they have been subjected to ethnic discrimination, but less than a tenth have changed their name.

Almost all respondents who changed their name when applying for jobs reported a higher level of call-backs from potential employers.

Nottx founder Biju Menon said: “There is an insidious culture of unconscious bias in the corporate world against professionals who are either female, an ethnic minority or both.

“Employers need to realise unconscious bias is an all-pervasive force in the recruitment sector. Only by recognising it, embracing ethical hiring and removing all reference to names in the recruitment process will we reach a point where no one will ever have to change their name to get a job again.”

The name-blind research came as the Trades Union Congress (TUC) published its own data revealing that people with BAME backgrounds were up to three times more likely to be unemployed than equally skilled white people.

Its analysis of labour force data from the Office for National Statistics showed that BAME workers with A-levels or equivalent had a 14 per cent unemployment rate in the UK – compared with 4.5 per cent for white people with the same qualifications.

BAME unemployment across all adults was 9.5 per cent, compared with 4.7 per cent for the white population.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The harsh reality is that, even now, black and Asian people, regardless of their qualifications and experience, are far more likely to be unemployed and lower paid than white people.

“Whether they have PhDs or GCSEs, BAME workers have a much tougher time in the job market.”

As well as being morally wrong, this is a waste of talent, O’Grady added: “Companies that only recruit from a narrow base are missing out on the wide range of experiences on offer from Britain’s many different communities.

“The government’s taskforce on racism must make it harder for discriminating employers to get away with their prejudices, and also ensure that far more is done to improve access to the best courses and institutions for BAME young people.”

Statistics published by the Department for Work & Pensions earlier this week showed there were now 670,000 more black and minority ethnic (BME) workers in employment in Great Britain than in 2010.

A government spokesperson said: “The BME employment rate is now at its highest since records began in 2001, and we are determined to go further and increase BME employment and apprenticeship take-up by 20 per cent by 2020.” 

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Comments (5)
  • I total agree with this report.

    This report have highlighted the unconscious/sometimes conscious bias that we BAME have to go through everyday in today's Britain. I have had to alter my name even though I was educated in England so that I can find employment a few years ago. As soon as I did so, I got an interview and that was when the employer knew that I am highly qualified and skilled for the job.

  • @ Callan, I agree with you. But like the piece said, it is unconscious bias. And unfortunately I don't see a solution because even if you change your name but still have foreign education and job experience on your CV, that's a dead giveaway. Also, it seems much worse outside of London. I'm currently trying to move jobs in Nottinghamshire (I transferred from my office in London) and I have applied for roles which I have been clearly qualified or even over-qualified for but I don't even get invited to the interview talk less of getting the job. What can one do? It's disgusting and unfair but unfortunately these things ARE still going on.

  • Not only names - employers have taken to calling potential employees so they can hear the accent and then find spurious reasons for not progressing the application ...

  • I totally agree with these findings it is happening everywhere including in universities where shortlisting for interview has just become a tick of box. The reality is you will be given interview feedback that does not support why you have not been hired though you have all the necessary qualifications, work experience, skills and competencies. It would be interesting to know how many of those increased government employed claimed BME employees got a job because of changing their names. There is no doubt that discrimination in employment is rising in Britain regardless government initiative in reducing it.

  • I would question if I would want to work for an employer who has this type of discrimination on their agenda.