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Culturally and linguistically diverse, Human Resources

Study confirms English sounding names get more call backs from job applications than ethnic names

Monash University 2 mins read

Results from a Monash Business School study show that glass ceilings exist and ethnic discrimination is particularly pronounced in the recruitment for leadership positions.

Lead researcher Professor Andreas Liebbrandt of the Department of Economics at Monash Business School said it is the first ever study that examines the issue amongst leadership.

“Our findings provide support for the existence of pronounced discrimination in the recruitment of leadership positions. This represents a new context as prior research has been mostly focused on discrimination in the recruitment of non-leadership positions,” said Professor Liebbrandt.

During the two-year field research for the study, more than 12,000 job applications were sent to over 4000 job advertisements in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to investigate hiring discrimination against six ethnic groups for leadership positions in 12 different occupations. 

The results show that despite identical resumes, ethnic minorities received 57.4 per cent fewer callbacks than applicants with English names for leadership positions. For non-leadership positions, ethnic minorities received 45.3 per cent fewer callbacks.

Ethnic discrimination for leadership positions was even more pronounced when the advertised job required customer contact but improved if the job emphasised the need for individualism or learning, creativity and innovation.

Three applications were sent in response to each job advertisement. Each included a resume of an applicant with an English name and the resumes of two applicants with non-English names. 

Six different ethnic groups were investigated by varying resumes with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Arabic, Chinese, English, Greek and Indian names. All candidates were born in Australia, worked in Australia, and went to an Australian school or university.

“Their decision-making could be also influenced by stereotypes and general leadership prototypes, so that they would prefer applicants with English names for leadership positions,” added Professor Liebbrandt.

“This is consistent with Implicit Leadership Theory where recruiters focus on an ideal or typical leader that is likely to be successful in different contexts and refers to a general knowledge structure of typical leadership; if a leader’s characteristic matches a leadership prototype, a leader is evaluated as being a typical leader.”

To make recruitment fairer the study recommends anonymous job applications, in which the applicants’ names are hidden in the initial recruitment phase to remove ethnicity from the equation; and training recruiters to reduce ethnic discrimination and become aware of culturally endorsed leadership prototypes.

“While many organisations have successfully implemented diversity practices across the board they should also think about the context of leadership to increase the number of underrepresented groups in leadership positions,” concluded Professor Leibbrandt.

About the paper

‘Is there a glass ceiling for ethnic minorities to enter leadership positions? Evidence from a field experiment with over 12,000 job applications’. Led by Professor Andreas Leibbrandt from the Department of Economics at Monash Business School in collaboration with Dr Mladen Adamovic from King’s College London.

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