The Fine Line (c) Samsung

Our names are something that many of us take for granted yet form a fundamental part of our identities. While a rose by any other name may well smell as sweet, the concept of ‘a rose’ has connotations and impacts that are far beyond a simple label that tells it from other flowers. Our names are the same.

For many people, their names also carry also with them not only a sense of self,  but are an intrinsic part of their heritage and cultural identity, bringing with them real pride and history. They can also have a real impact on how people treat us, and those In addition, people with non-Western culturally sounding names may even face discrimination or, in fact, name bias.

At Samsung, we recently commissioned a poll of 2,000 adults in the UK to try to understand how far-reaching name bias actually is in society. The results were clear. Nearly half of the minority respondents to our poll told us they felt they’d been treated differently simply because of their names and 24% of people surveyed had witnessed other people being on the receiving end of workplace name discrimination. Even worse, 12% of the people we spoke to had felt the needed to use different names in job applications or interviews. Our team explored this more fully here:

 

With this in mind, we took a wider look at the UK tech industry and spotted an ongoing trend. At the Conservative Party Conference in 2015, then-UK Prime Minister David Cameron said, “Do you know that in our country today, even if they have exactly the same qualifications, people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to get call-backs for jobs than people with ethnic-sounding names?”

What’s more, 65% of people of colour believe there’s an ethnicity wage gap in technology and less than a tenth of senior leaders in the UK are from ethnic-minority backgrounds, according to techUK.

This is a long standing issue and it’s clear that within the business community and wider society, there is still work to be done to attain a diverse workforce. If this starts with something as fundamental as someone’s name, we face a hard road ahead to solve this problem and this will continue to cause real harm, not only to the people struggling to get the same opportunities as others, but also to the companies that are discriminating against them.

In fact, 64% of firms in the UK have lost out on tech talent from diverse backgrounds, and can’t retain talent. With the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) claiming we lose almost £63 billion to the UK economy every year because of a digital skills gap, we simply cannot keep turning talent away, just because of their heritage and the most obvious representation of that, their name they were born with.

Failing to properly attract and retain diverse talent may mean that companies are unable to succeed. Those that can maintain a properly diverse workforce often demonstrate better opportunities for creativity and problem-solving, smarter decision making, reduced rates of employee turnover and, ultimately, an increase in profits and productivity. A diverse workforce that’s respected and empowered is one that’s loyal and that will strive for success.

“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.” Jessie Soohyun Park, Head of CSR at Samsung UK

So, what’s the answer? We cannot continue with a situation where people are being denied the opportunity to grow and develop. Equally, companies won’t succeed if they are not bringing in and nurturing the right people. At Samsung, we’re making sure that no-one falls at the first hurdle. Our talent acquisition team is trained on inclusive hiring and conscious inclusion so that our talent pool represents the true diversity in society. Diversity and equality is also a major element in our talent and recruitment pipeline. Since 2018, we have integrated Textio into our hiring funnel – a system which brings the world’s most advanced language insights into our hiring and employer brand content.  In 2022, we became a signatory of the Tech Talent Charter, continuing our commitment to address inequality in the UK tech sector and drive inclusivity. When that talent emerges, our brilliant Employee Resource Groups, including the Black Professionals, Women@Samsung and True Ability teams work, with talent so they feel part of a wider support group to develop and succeed in an inclusive environment. We know there is still more work ahead.

We may ask ourselves, ‘What’s in a name?’ and think that what we call someone doesn’t affect them. However, if we don’t pay attention to these seemingly basic things then we’re not treating people with respect and nurturing them to grow. It’s a Fine Line, but names matter.

Kadesh BeckfordAbout the author

Kadesh Beckford, Smartphone Specialist Product Manager at Samsung Electronics UK, talks about name bias and how something as fundamental as our names could, in some cases, be hindering our careers and lives.