What’s In A Black Name? Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 23 2015 @ 9:25am

Readers ramp up the thread:

About the discussion on discriminating against black names, there is also this research, where the researchers sent out emails to professors from many disciplines seeking help/information about their PhD programs. The emails were signed by generic White, Black, Hispanic, Indian, and Chinese male/female names. Then they measured the response rate: how fast the professors responded and how willing they were to help the student. Regardless of the professors’ discipline, sex, race, White males had it the best, and the Asians the worst. This only changed with Chinese professors responding to Chinese students. So, there you go.

A few readers also point to a study entitled “Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal?” The abstract conclusion states, “White names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews.” Another redirects to the real world:

I read your post and thought perhaps employers need to institute anonymous application processes. A quick search online revealed that some organizations (and governments) have done just that with positive results.

Here is a link to a recent article summarizing the efforts of the City of Celle, which is in Germany. I find it encouraging that the data suggests that hiring process becomes fairer when applications are judged only on their work histories, levels of education, skills, and accomplishments. Seems like a strategy we could all embrace, does it not?

Another makes a broader point:

I think there’s something off about the post about how employers are making “not an entirely unreasonable assumption” when discounting the educational achievements of black applicants. The evidence presented is that of SAT scores, that black students scored less on average than the mean scores accepted to universities. The implication being, universities are accepting less-than-optimal students for the sake of affirmative action. And, ok, there may be some argument or debate there.

However, the purpose of SAT scores are as a predictive measure of how students will do in college. Beyond the college application, they have absolutely no relevance. Why not? Affirmative action as a policy may help students with lower SAT scores get into college, but it doesn’t go to class for them, or write their papers, or take their final exams. Graduating college is an achievement that is mostly up to the student. So, a college degree on a resume stands on its own. My point is, affirmative action is actually not a plausible explanation for discrimination, at least not where education is concerned. If it was, then employers would ask for SAT scores on resumes. Guess what? They don’t.

Another shares an anecdote:

Many years ago I was a state civil rights investigator.  I remember one college-educated long-time head teller at a bank who was finally upset enough about the young white guys with no college and no experience heading straight into management tracks that she filed a complaint.  I talked to the branch manager about it.  He told me that the young guy he’d just hired reminded him of himself when he was just starting out and he wanted to give the new guy the same chance someone had given him.  He would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that he didn’t have a racist bone in his body.  He thought the world of his head teller.  He relied on her to train all the new staff.  But in his unconscious world view, black women were tellers, white men were management.

Another attests to the often fickle nature of hiring:

I’m a hiring manager at a software company. I receive dozens or hundreds of applications for every open position. Generally I skip cover letters altogether and spend somewhere between 20 and 30 seconds scanning resumes to come to an initial decision of whether to reject or follow-up. Even if there weren’t all sorts of academic studies telling us so, it’s pretty freaking clear to any even marginally self-aware person that this process is fraught with implicit biases. Have I heard of your college? Did I go to your college? Do I wonder whether you’ll “fit in” with our other employees? Do I want to drink beer with you? Is your job experience as impressive as it seems, or did you benefit from being a “diversity hire?”

This stuff sucks, but it’s the reality of the hiring process in good old meritocratic Silicon Valley. Other industries are probably even worse.

Update from a reader, who quotes a previous one:

So, a college degree on a resume stands on its own. My point is, affirmative action is actually not a plausible explanation for discrimination, at least not where education is concerned. If it was, then employers would ask for SAT scores on resumes. Guess what? They don’t.

ummm … actually … yes they do!

Big-name consulting firms such as McKinsey and Bain, as well as banks like Goldman Sachs, are among the companies that ask newly minted college grads for their scores in job applications, …Some other companies request scores even from candidates in their 40s and 50s. Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder and CEO of Amazon, is one of the most famous proponents of using SAT scores in hiring decisions. Bezos scored highly on a standardized IQ test when he was only 8 years old, and in his early days as a manager, he liked to ask candidates for their SAT results in interviews he conducted. He has said that “hiring only the best and brightest was key to Amazon’s success.”