He chalks it up to a phenomenon called homophily, the human tendency to stick to people of our own kind. “The results support the idea that discrimination arises [because] birds of a feather flock together,” he says. “It’s not so much that employers treat applicants from ethnic minorities differently due to their origin, but rather because they don’t belong to the same group as themselves.”
Changing names is drastic, but jobseekers often do other things to “whiten” their CV and improve their chances of landing an interview. In a 2016 study conducted jointly by the University of Toronto and Administrative Science Quarterly, a Cornell University journal, 40% of minority job applicants admitted to “whitening” their CVs to counter racial bias in the hiring process.
They typically do this by adopting Anglicized names, tweaking any information on their CV that gives away their ethnic identity, excluding race-based organisations and awards. People also might skip references to voluntary experience with certain community groups, or try to make them sound more generic.
Sonia Kang, lead author of the study, titled Whitened Résumés, Race and Self-Presentation in the Labor Market, was quoted in a University of Toronto report as saying: “It's really a wake-up call for organisations to do something to address this problem.”
Studied bias or subliminal block
Research done by Dr Mahzarin Banaji, professor of social ethics at Harvard University, corroborates that we are wired to be biased in favour of those who are like us. Banaji, who co-authored Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, argues that despite claims of being open-minded, most people prefer those with similar education or ethnic backgrounds and experiences.