The world of advertising sales can be cut-throat. But a new 10-week study reveals that the sector is rife with discrimination, with candidates with “English” names winning out over those who sound Muslim.
Inside Out London sent CVs from two fake candidates, “Adam” and “Mohamed”, who had the same skills and experience, in response to 100 job opportunities in ad sales. After two and a half months, Adam was offered 12 interviews, while Mohamed was offered four.The two CVs were also uploaded to four job sites. Adam was contacted by five recruiters, but Mohamed only two.
“More than half of Muslim households are in poverty, higher than any other social group, according to the Muslim Council of Britain.”
Last year, a study carried out by “name-blind” headhunting platform, Nottx.com, revealed similar results. A quarter of female executives who work in the City have reportedly adopted “white” names to get hired, at the brunt of ethnic and gender discrimination. Research from the job marketplace estimates approximately 50,300 minorities may have changed their name in the IT and finance sectors alone, of which 28,300 of them are female.
A study carried out by the Research Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship at the University of Bristol cemented the BBC research; Muslim men are 76% per cent less likely to be employed than their white Christian counterparts, which could be disastrous for cities like London where a significant proportion of the population are Muslim.
According to the last census in 2011, Muslims make up just over 1 million of the London’s 8.2 million residents. However, more than half of Muslim households are in poverty, higher than any other social group, according to the Muslim Council of Britain. The BBC study reveals that British Muslims are less proportionately represented in managerial roles and within professional occupations than any other religious group.
Plot twist: “Adam” is as Muslim a name as “Mohamed”.
The name-blind approach also has loopholes, according to research from Dr Louise Ashley of Royal Holloway, London. Cutting candidates’ names and educational background out of CVs still reveals room for discrimination. According to Dr Ashley, name bias is indicative of deeper problems in the hiring process. She believes interviewers sought out other indicators of social status in name-blind CVs, suggesting an endemic problem in the way minorities and women are viewed in corporate Britain.
“After twelve years auditing recruitment processes for some of the UK’s largest employers, we know that what lies beneath the surface of policy, process and behaviour is the real issue.”
Diversity recruitment firm, The Clear Company, believes that disability and inclusion policies such as blind CVs often fail when put into practice as they are rarely supported by an understanding of true inclusion problems. The issue for employers is that failure to achieve lasting change means these well-intended policies become ineffective, they are viewed as hollow gestures of tokenism, and are rarely supported by the workforce for long.
“It’s common to see solutions such as the introduction of blind CVs developed to address the symptoms, but not the causes, of bias in the hiring process. CV based shortlisting is one of the most common places where bias can have an adverse impact on inclusive assessment, so removing personal data from CVs is a positive step, but it’s like using a plaster to cover a wound,” The Clear Company’s Kate Headley explains. “After twelve years auditing recruitment processes for some of the UK’s largest employers, we know that what lies beneath the surface of policy, process and behaviour is the real issue.”
Headley believes this is often made worse by the simple fact that recruitment is an assumed competency for hiring managers, but only few are actually trained in best practice, including how to be inclusive and what adjustments to make to accommodate those with protected characteristics. “If an environment of real inclusion and diversity is to be created, businesses need to really invest in assessing their own recruitment processes and identifying what the true barriers are. Only then can they get the entire company to embrace change and ultimately shift mind-sets to support new processes.”
The business benefits of organisational diversity are indisputable, according to Headley. “Consequently, organisations which fail to recognise and address unconscious prejudice and bias in the workplace ultimately risk missing out on valuable skills, experience and expertise.”