Why Black Women Are Hired Less & Paid Less

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female contractorBy Nomalanga Mhlauli-Moses

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.

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15 Comments

  1. here is the thing they can send there resumes with the name Ke’ on it if it is Keisha after all you don’t have to give your complete real name on a resume. be creative people!

    • So what do you do when a prospective employer asks for race? I spent months checking I didn’t want to identify, but have come to believe that it automatically makes me look like I’m Black, so I decided to simply put Black and see what happens. I’m still unemployed and seriously considering putting down that I’m white to see if it makes a difference.

  2. Ruby from NJ on

    Both Bill Cosby and Sinbad have discussed the names parents give their children. Parents could opt to give their children African or Arabic middle names. Often, applications ask only for a middle initial. Another problem raised by the use of so-called African and Arabic names is the “creative” (read misspelling) spelling of the names. There is nothing wrong with being aware of the prejudices out there and being preemptive. Other cultures choose names for their children that have specific meanings. Usually, we don’t try to know what a name means; we give a child a name because “we like the way it sounds.” Maybe that’s why boys sometimes wind up with girls’ names.

  3. Ruby from NJ on

    It helps to learn how to “talk white.” “Talking white” just means speaking regular English. It’s useful when you are applying for a job. Remember the story carried on this very site, where an African American woman spoke on the phone to a company representative and got an interview. Unfortunately, once she showed up, she was not hired. So “talking white” is helpful, because it can often let you get your foot in the door.

    • Talking White may give one a slight chance of mean getting your foot in the door. In many cases, a White person can guess that your Black regardless how proper or “white” you talk. I think it’s something relevent in the larynx.

  4. I say that it helps to know the organization to which you’re applying for a job. A funky, creative high tech firm could care less, but you may want to use “FIRST INITIAL_MIDDLE NAME_LAST NAME” on your resume for a conservative law firm. Of course, if you feel strongly, then don’t alter your name, but realize that it may have been a factor in why you didn’t get the job. No one will tell you that. You won’t be able to proove it, and that’s fine because clearl you’re not a fit for that organization. Next, as a hiring manager, I can say that a poorly written resume will eliminate your chances faster than a name that no one can pronounce. That means no spelling, grammar or format errors; no graphics or watermarks; and no unaddressed employment gaps. Lastly, most resumes I receive have zero “wow factor”. Don’t just list your duties. I know that from the job title. What were the results of your work? Did you save the company money? Eliminate a backlog of work? Get special recognition from a customer? Secure new customers? Resolve a business problem? And quantify your results with numbers. Your resume gets your toe in the door so that you can knock them out in the interview. Lastly, you’ve got to nail that interview. Arrive early, allowing time to park, get through security, etc. Speak properly and with energy. Dress conservatively and appropriately. Make eye contact. Know the company. Have responses to basic questions ready and rehearsed ahead of time. When they ask “Do you have any questions for me?” Please ask questions to show that you know about our business. I have sat in way too many interviews that, as far as I was concerned, were over before they began. IJS.

  5. Jeffrey Perot on

    Don’t feel ashamed using your middle name if your first name identifies you as black. Racism and prejudice is real. Money is real as well as the lack thereof.

    • Jeffrey Perot- All I can say is Wow. I’ve never heard such a boot lickin’, ass-kissing recommendation. ‘Don’t be ashamed to use your middle name if your first name identifies you as Black’?!?!??!? What in the hay-ell and What the eff?!?!?!
      How about we stop trying to scratch for the crumbs on the floor and come together to produce and manufacture our own goods and services. Then our names would not be a factor.
      I sincerely hope you are really a troll on this site and not any kind of African descendant.

      • So true!! This article is so stupid since when your black face shows up in person, the racists will hire you because you have a non-ethnic name? Pleez! It is time for some lawsuits and to stop accommodating racism and racists!

      • well ms.tonya d.until we make a micro soft and hire all the lakeshes cotias quineas and shantaviouses, the facts are as they are .Not saying its correct but saying it is as it is…and hell its the same on the flip and im not racist but hell you wouldnt get your hair did by a billy bob thorntonberg.!

  6. This is sad, but true. Many qualified people are not being interviewed for available jobs, because of their names. Their names aren’t the real problem at all, however. The problem is racism. If applicants don’t stand up, speak up and call out people who discriminate–and name the companies and organizations that refuse to hire people of DIVERSE ethnic backgrounds–then their temporary name change won’t make any difference. A person’s name has absolutely nothing to do with their ability. But perception of an individual’s name and perception of their ability may be linked to racist beliefs, attitudes, or values. If applicants change their names today, can they change their skin color tommorrow? No!***STOP RACISM–NOW!***

  7. I am one of those women who are qualified without jobs. I have an M.A. a 4-page resume and 18 years work experience yet I get shortlisted and get tossed aside because of my names. Racism is hard for Black, African, Asians and Latinas. Funny thing, Europeans come and get jobs immediately. I found one working in a bank from Romania and her English wasn’t that good, she had barely been here for a year. I try not to be bitter, after all, my children are getting a free education. But, if I ever had to hire anyone in Africa, I will hire a Black person first! They have taught me well and when I return to Africa, I will apply it too. I hope they will like it when the shoe is on the other foot.

  8. The only way around it is to stop making up stupid ass names.

    At this point, breeders are just making up new words with this nonsense. You, the parent are making that choice for your offspring. You want failure, then keep making up these dumb ass names.

  9. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????? WHITE PEOPLE ARE THE MINORITY NOW! THERE ARE MORE BLACKS, MEXICANS AND FOREIGNERS IN THE USA GETTING JOBS NOW THAN WHITE PEOPLE!!!! WHEN YOU CALL CUSTOMER SERVICE TO A COMPANY,,, WHO DO YOU GET ON THE OTHER END??????? ITS NOT A WHITE PERSON!!! MAJORITY OF THE TIME, THEY ARE EITHER BLACK OR CANT SPEAK ENGLISH!! I AM SO SICK OF BLACK PEOPLE CRYING ABOUT THEIR RIGHTS OR CRYING ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO GET JOBS!! LOOK AT THE LOANS THESE DAYS! THEY ARE TO BLACKS AND FOREIGNERS!!! WHITE PEOPLE NEED GOOD CREDIT TO GET SHIT BUT A M.F.ER WITH NO SOCIAL CAN GET WHAT THEY WANT! FROM O U R GOVERNMENT!!!! STOP CRYING, PICK UP YOUR PANTS, TALK RIGHT OR LEARN ENGLISH!!!
    IM NOT A RACIST! AT ALL!!!!!! IM JUST SICK OF PEOPLE USING EXCUSES TO LIVE OFF THE GOVERNMENT OR WANT SHIT FOR FREE!!! WE HAVE A ‘BLACK’ PRESIDENT FOR GODS SAKE!! YOU ARE NOT DISCRIMINATED AGAINST NO MORE THAN THE NEXT WHITE PERSON! SHUT UP ALREADY!

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