“A rose by another other name would smell as sweet”, Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet.
I’d be surprised if you haven’t read at least five articles on this subject already this week. It’s a news story that has hit hard; the removal of names from application forms in an attempt to stop what is known as ‘unconcious bias’. Teach First led the way and now KPMG and Deloitte, amongst others, have followed suit. No doubt David Cameron will be pleased to see that his idea for universities to carry out name-blind applications for 2017 is gathering momentum.
But I just find this a simplistic approach to what is, in fact, a much deeper, more complex set of circumstances.
To say that simply removing a name from an application will create more open access simply shifts the bias from the first candidate touchpoint to one two or three stages down the line. It’s narrow in its attempts to define bias, looking at things in a two-dimensional view, namely gender and ethnicity. It removes the responsibility and accountability from the recruiting organisation to the individual.
My next question would be: where will this stop? Why should an applicant have to compromise their own identity in an attempt to bypass the inadequacies and unconscious bias prevalent in organisations’ screening processes?
Is there also an implicit social class bias, yet another issue surrounding access to the professions. Will this mean that more ‘Chardonnays’ or ‘Waynellas’ will have better chances of climbing the corporate ladder simply because their names have been removed from the first screening stage? Or perhaps they will find they have been rejected two stages later after a face-to-face interview.
If companies are serious about diversity and unconscious bias, they need to address the root cause of the problem internally, and move away from this surface-level approach to diversity. A recent report from the Centre for Talent Innovation in New York brought the concept of ‘acquired diversity’ to the forefront. True diversity is about working towards an ‘acquired diversity’ mindset – gaining a proliferation of perspectives, a fact that some organisations already realise and a take a view that true diversity one that is inclusive of different viewpoints and perspectives, irrespective of gender and ethnicity.
Whilst we should applaud at least the recognition that this kind of bias exists, to view it in this simplistic way will not have significant impact beyond the first stage of recruitment.
For me this simplistic name-blindness as a screening tool is an abdication of responsibility on the behalf of recruiters and only delays potential rejection to a further stage.
Is it an inconvenient truth admitted by the organisations against the discrimination of names which becomes a reassuring lie that these candidates will be treated fairly at all stages of the process?