Over half of ethnic minority adults feel they have been judged on their name alone

Nearly a third of adults have felt judged by their name alone – and this figure rises to 53 percent among ethnic minorities, a study has found. A poll, of 2,000 UK adults, found nearly half (48 percent) of those who are not white, have felt they have been treated differently based on their name.

One in six (17 percent) of these respondents believe their name has put them at a disadvantage when getting a job interview – and 14 percent have even experienced bias or prejudice in social settings, when making friends or joining clubs, because of their name.

The research, commissioned by Samsung, also found that 14 percent have felt uncomfortable at work, after having questions asked about their name.

Professor Pragya Agarwal, a behavioural and data scientist, visiting professor of social inequities and injustice at Loughborough University, and author of “SWAY: Unravelling Unconscious Bias”, said: “Names, much like our gender or racial identity, can be first triggers for stereotypes and assumptions about people, sending signals about who we are and where we come from.

“It is laziness, yes, but people very easily fall back on these assumptions. In my research and consultancy, I have seen how name discrimination is very widely spread during hiring and recruitment, through to career progression and leadership opportunities in the workplace.

“Such discrimination is often rooted in our implicit cognitive biases – but that does not mean that the impact is any less harmful.

“For many of us, names signify our cultural heritage, our histories, and our family values. It is important that organisations and workplaces do more to see people as individuals, and names are an integral part of people’s identity.

“Addressing name-based microaggressions, and its intersectional impacts, is an important step towards creating a culture of belonging and respect for everyone.”

The study also found that, when making a new acquaintance, 26 percent of those in ethnic minorities have been asked to repeat their name multiple times – and 16 percent have even been asked if it’s their “real” or “full” name.

Among the most frequent misconceptions made about the names of those in ethnic minorities are where they are from (39 percent), and their cultural heritage (31 percent) – as well as a false assumption that English isn’t their first language (27 percent).

It also emerged 24 percent of all respondents have witnessed others on the receiving end of discrimination in the workplace, because of their name.

As such, more than one in 10 (12 percent) of those who are not white have felt the need to use different names in job applications or interviews.

To address this, more than a fifth (22 percent) believe promotion of correct name pronunciation, and understanding of cultural significance, will help to reduce name bias in the workplace.

And 19 percent would even like to see anonymous job applications, where names are removed from CVs to help alleviate prejudice, according to the data, conducted via OnePoll.

To coincide with the research, Samsung UK conducted a social experiment, “The Fine Line”, in which six people were asked their views on nicknames and name bias in the workplace.

Jessie Soohyun Park, a spokeswoman for Samsung UK, said: “Embracing cultural difference, and the value that different perspectives can bring, is intrinsic to building a positive, inclusive society, that ultimately brings people together.

“I believe that names are not just labels to identify us, but important emblems that carry stories of heritage and identity. Let’s build a culture where no-one feels judged or silenced by the syllables that shape their identity.”

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