There are certain names that reveal a lot about a person’s racial and cultural background and then there are names that are so neutral and common that anyone from any race, culture or country could walk through the door. But what if your name was causing people to make a decision about whether or not they wanted to hire you before they even read your resume or even called you for an interview? What if a simple thing like using your more “neutral” middle or made-up name could result in more calls for interviews? And what if your name was just a small part of a much bigger problem?
In my experience, working and living in the U.S., “Noma Moses” certainly got many more calls for interviews than “Nomalanga Mhlauli” or “Nomalanga Mhlauli-Moses”. The sad part is that even if you do get hired, there are many more obstacles and steep hills to climb because you then have to work harder to prove that all the negative assumptions, stereotypes and low expectations that people attach to your name are actually not true.
Below, Kianta Key, a self proclaimed social entrepreneur, discusses the “Minority Pay Gap” which she thinks is “The Other Wage Gap We Should Be Talking About”:
While I was unemployed, my day job was applying for jobs. While I tried to remain positive about my name on my resume, there were times I considered using my middle name because it is racially ambiguous and easier to pronounce. I never went through with it and I did land a job with my real name, but there are countless stories about name discrimination during the application stage of the hiring process.
Last year, ABC’s 20/20 posted identical resumes on a career website but used the “blackest” and “whitest names” as determined by the book Freaknomics. The resumes with the “whitest names” were downloaded nearly 20% more than the resumes with the black-sounding names. Two professional women, one African-American and the other Latina, frustrated by the lack of call backs and interviews, devised an experiment where they replaced their more “ethnic” names with “whiter names.” Sadly, when they changed their names, they received more attention from employers.
Women of color, specifically black women and Latinas, are discriminated against during the initial stage of hiring, just for having first names like Keisha or last names like Castillo. As a result, it often takes them a long time to find jobs that they are, in fact, qualified for—and they’re rarely competitive for the best ones.
Between living in long-term unemployment and being forced to take lower-paying jobs just to have a paycheck, it makes sense that there is a stark pay gap between women of color and white women—and an even wider gap between women of color and white men. Recent census data shows that while white women earn 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, black women earn 64 cents and Latinas earn 55 cents compared to the earnings of white men. In the C-suite, not only are women of color practically absent (black women make up 1% of corporate officers), but they also earn 42% less than their male counterparts.