ted Learning Blog

ted Learning Blog

Just call me Bob, or preferably Adam

  • February 13, 2017
BBC News reported that it can be easier to get a job if you have an English-sounding name. In fact, you are 3 times more likely to be invited for an interview than someone with a muslim sounding name for example. Both applicants had an identical CV, yet Adam was invited to 12 interviews and Mohamed to only 4.
I wish I was surprised by this article, but sadly, despite delivering Inclusion and Equality & Diversity training regularly, I am still surprised by the amount of overt and more-often unconscious bias still out there. I had an interesting debate recently with a delegate who said that he agreed with the decision that a muslim woman who applied to be a hairdresser and was turned down because she refused to uncover her hair - his passionate argument was that you need to see the hair of a hairdresser to have faith and confidence in them. When I pointed out that my own hairdresser was completely bald and it didn't stop him from being an extremely talented hairdresser, he was stumped. "Good point", though he looked at my hair on the day and said "whether he is good or not is open to debate!"
I often hear, and have indeed written blogs about it in the past, "it should be the best person who gets the job. End of" and I completely agree, wouldn't society be wonderful if that was truly the only factor. Some of our clients have made huge leaps, removing candidate names, years they worked and attended uni etc so that only a candidate number appears on the application form and managers select delegates for interview based entirely on their ability and talent not what age, sex or faith they are. Of course this doesn't stop discrimination taking place once the candidate arrives for interview and this is often where our unconscious bias comes in; but its a huge step forward and I salute this progress.
I worked with a group recently and some of the delegates dismissed that they had any bias when it came to recruiting, rejecting any need for a certain number of women in management roles or disabled people only being allowed to apply for jobs, saying they always picked the best candidate. However, when we started to break it down, explored what values they had, what they looked for in friendships, how this seeped into their work lives and then started to explore the dynamic of their own teams, they recognised that they DID recruit to type, people they felt comfortable with, people that shared interests, values or indeed in some cases cultural or educational background. And that by doing this, they were potentially missing out on a huge amount of talent. They were creating a very 'safe' environment around them, but was that the best team?
I'm absolutely not suggesting that quotas are the way forward. Although passionate about inclusion and diversity, I do accept that this approach can be counter-productive. However, I do feel all managers need to explore and acknowledge their unconscious bias, the impact this is having on their business and the missed opportunity in terms of candidates. Allowing our judgements on someones background, be it faith, sex (gender), or any of the other 9 protected characterstics to determine if we interview someone has to be challenged and eradicated. There simply aren't enough women in senior management roles and it cannot always be purely because they weren't the best candidate? Disabled people are 4 times more likely to be long-term unemployed because employers feel it can be a "risk" to employ them? Google has made huge progress recognising that candidates with autism make great programmers. I recently watched an incredible video on how Google was trying to breakdown the barriers to employing people with 'hidden' disabilities and utilising their talents within their business. I hope in 5 years time, this type of news article and comment don't exist. Lets see.
ted Learning offers courses on both Inclusion, Equality and Diversity and Unconscious Bias to help and support managers in recruiting the best talent, and creating a positive culture. Get a copy of our guide here http://signup.tedlearning.co.uk and more details on our management course http://tedlearning.co.uk/equality-diversity-managemement.html
Justin Smith-Essex

About the Author:
Justin Smith-Essex

Justin is the Group Managing Director & one of the co-founders of Ted Learning. He is a very experienced trainer, facilitator and qualified teacher, having completed his PGCE Teaching Degree at the University of Greenwich. He specialises in designing and delivering training in customer service, equality and diversity, management fundamentals, team building & presentation skills.