What's In A Name ?







Blog by Sandra Kerr, National Director of Race for Opportunity

One of my top priorities is the work that Race for Opportunity board and our partners do to break down the barriers to employment for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people. 

I recently came across a national action programme in Finland called Equality is the Priority (YES), and it found that, in Finland, job seekers with a Russian name had to send twice as many applications as those with a Finnish name before being invited to a job interview. 

This reminds me of the findings from the Department for Work and Pensions research in 2009, where there was significant coverage of their discovery that an applicant who appeared to be white because of their name,  would send nine applications before receiving a positive response of either an invitation to an interview or positive telephone call. However, British people from an ethnic minority background with names that sounded African or Muslim with the same qualifications and experience had to send 16 applications before receiving a similar response. 

Our work on race and recruitment provides guidance for employers on how they can ensure that their recruitment processes are fair.  We also know from our Race to Progress: Breaking down Barriers survey British workers from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds in the UK show high levels of ambition and motivation. More than three quarters of BAME employees describe themselves as ambitious and say that career progression is important to them. There is no ceiling to ambition: a majority of workers hold aspirations to lead an organisation. However, there is still a ceiling for BAME workers’ career progression. They enjoy fewer promotions over their career than their white counterparts.   

So what’s in a name?  Of course we would all say as the great British public with our sense of fair play that there is no barrier at all.  However, research and numerous mystery shops over the last few years show that challenges do exist.  I think there are three actions that employers can take to ensure they get to see the best talent in their organisations: firstly remove names from job applications at the sift, secondly ensure that their recruitment personnel have  unconscious bias training see our unconscious bias tool and thirdly monitor and track the progress of applicants during each stage of the recruitment process from sift through to appointment. Further information on good practice can be found in our Business in the Community Gender and Race trends survey 2012 and throughout this website.