Your Take: Will the UK’s Push to Remove Names from Job and College Applications Combat Racial Bias?

December 30, 2015In October, The View co-host Raven-Symoné sparked outrage after her comments about discriminating against people with “black-sounding” names. During a segment that was centered on stereotyping, Symoné said that she would indeed judge someone due to the way their name sounded. "I am very discriminatory against words like the ones they were saying in those names," she said in reference to a YouTube video titled Top 60 Ghetto Black Names. "I'm not about to hire you if your name is Watermelondrea. It's just not gonna happen. I'm not gonna hire you." When her co-hosts fell silent, she asked, "Is that mean?"

Her remarks brought to light a harsh reality for people whose names are deemed “different.” Many people believe that their birth names have hindered their advancement in their education and their careers, and there is research to prove that is the case. According to a 2003 study conducted by Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan that examined racial discrimination in the workforce, resumes with white-sounding names got 50% more callbacks for interviews than those with black-sounding names. Another study done by the University of Melbourne in collaboration with New York University's Stern School of Business discovered that people with names that were “simple” and “easy-to-pronounce” were more likely to get promoted. Additional research revealed that there is a correlation between the perceived level of trustworthiness and how easy it is to say your name.

The UK is looking to change the landscape of higher education and the workforce by implementing new legislation that would hide names from college and job applications in efforts to prevent racial bias. The new plan will go into effect in 2017. "We have managed to get some of the biggest graduate employers to pledge to anonymise their job applications—In other words, make them name-blind, said British Prime Minister David Cameron. He added, “That means those assessing applications will not be able to see the person’s name, so the ethnic or religious background it might imply cannot influence their prospect. The civil service, BBC, NHS, local government, HSBC, Deloitte, KPMG, Virgin Money, learndirect—all these and more will now recruit people solely on merit… Some research has shown that top universities make offers to 55% of white applicants, but only to 23% of black ones… So we have agreed with UCAS that it will make its applications name-blind, too, from 2017… Today’s announcement… means that a young black woman knows she’ll get a fair shot when she applies for the job of her dreams."

What are your thoughts on this policy? Do you think the change will effectively eliminate racial bias when it comes to the application process? Voice your opinion in the comments section below.


The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.