When researchers from Sydney University sent resumes to over 1000 job advertisements, 13% of those with Anglo-Saxon sounding names were invited back to an interview, while only 4.8% of those with Chinese names were given the same chance.1
Another Australia-based study using equivalent CV’s found adding Anglo-Saxon names led to a 42% call-back rate while providing a distinctly Indigenous name brought that number down to 33%. ‘Middle Eastern’ sounding names halved the responses to 22%.2 In other words, “Charlotte” and “Jack” are statistically more likely to get an interview than “Sabreen” or “Muhammad”, even if they are equally qualified.
These results have been emulated around the world, showing that racial discrimination in the hiring process is a widespread phenomenon.3 This is compounded by discrimination at other points in the recruitment process, with some job requirements excluding applicants from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, such as English fluency instead of proficiency, or local work experience or qualifications.4 Often, these requirements are not necessary to competently undertake the job.
Of course, this is multiplied when an individual is subject to a number of forms of discrimination, such as discrimination on the basis of sex, disability, sexuality, gender diversity and/or class. Too often, hiring managers fail to consider the ‘cultural add’ that can be brought by a particular candidate, and instead look for candidates who are most like themselves, or who hold skills and attributes associated with whiteness, gender conformity, or conforming to particular social norms.
While the discrimination here may be unintended, it results from widely held cultural and racial biases and the impact is undoubtedly real. Moreover, it is multiplied by every hiring manager who fails to challenge their own biases, or whose prejudices go unchecked. This blocks the door to career opportunities and is a direct contributor to unequal representation in positions of power.
Research shows that cultural diversity throughout an organisation enhances organisational performance and profitability.5 By recognising the benefits of a diverse workforce and approaching recruitment through the lens of equity, organisations can start to challenge their own institutionalised bias and find the applicants who are genuinely right for the job.
By reflecting on the impact of racism, and taking a stand against it, we can build a fair and equal society – for all.
It stops with me.
1 Shyamal Chowdhury, Evarn Ooi and Robert Slonim, ‘Racial discrimination and white first name adoption: a field experiment in the Australian labour market’ (Working Paper, The University of Sydney, June 2017) 19 <http://econ-wpseries.com/2017/201715.pdf>.
2 Alison L Booth, Andrew Leigh and Elena Varganova, ‘Does Ethnic Discrimination Vary Across Minority Groups? Evidence from a Field Experiment’ (2011) 74(4) Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics 547.
3 Lincoln Quillian et al, ‘Meta-analysis of field experiments shows no change in racial discrimination in hiring over time’ (2017) 114(4) PNAS 10870.
4 Diversity Council Australia, Racism at Work: How Organisations Can Stand Up To and End Workplace Racism (Report, 2022) 72 <https://www.dca.org.au/research/project/racismatwork>.
5 Thomas Barta, Markus Kleiner and Tilo Neumann, ‘Is there a payoff from top-team diversity?’, McKinsey & Company (Web Page, 1 April 2012) <https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/is-there-a-payoff-from-top-team-diversity>.