A ‘foreign sounding’ name will reduce your chances of landing a place with a leading firm or university.
That was the message from a BBC article published earlier this week. Reflecting on a range of academic papers, the article highlights the discrimination faced by job candidates and university hopefuls from ethnic minority backgrounds.
The academic research has prompted the Prime Minister to announce that Ucas will carry out ‘name-blind’ applications from 2017. The civil service, BBC, NHS, local government, KPMG, HSBC, Deloitte and Virgin Money have all committed to follow suit by removing the names of candidates from job applications.
Name-based discrimination is prevalent in public relations.
I attended a roundtable in Leeds earlier this year, during which a PR course leader revealed the severity of the issue.
“Postgraduate students that I’ve been teaching this semester are 90% non-European. I was shocked how many of them weren’t getting interviews when they used their original family names.
“I said, ‘Why don’t you try, as an experiment, changing your surname to an English name?’ All of them bar one got an interview”
I’m more than familiar with the lack of diversity in public relations but hearing the stark admission first-hand from a course leader was depressing. By shutting out such a vast number of candidates, public relations recruiters are starving the industry of diverse talent that can bring fresh ideas and creativity to campaigns.
Name-blind recruitment is designed to combat unconscious bias – the notion that all our decisions are influenced by implicit preferences, shaped by our social and cultural upbringing. But if this is the case name-blind recruitment may only tackle part of the problem.
“Name-blind recruitment is a misnomer as this initiative only removes names from applications i.e. affecting only one aspect of one part of the overall recruitment process” claims Harish Bhayani, Senior Partner, PRM Diversity Consultants.
“Biases occur throughout the whole recruitment process against all sorts of differences. The recruitment need is ‘diversity-blind’ recruitment’ or ‘inclusive recruitment’, something we work on every day with our clients”
Bhayani does, however, feel name blind recruitment can be “an important first step” towards tackling discrimination.
Whether the discrimination PR candidates face is a result of conscious or unconscious bias remains unclear. But it’s existance within a profession widely regarded as modern and progressive is inexcusable.
I’m interested to hear the thoughts of others on this. Should PR recruiters adopt name-blind recruitment? Would diverse candidates still experience direct discrimination at an interview stage anyway? Do organisations have a right to know the names of those applying for jobs?
Tweet your views @KorComms.