Disclosing Race And Gender In Job Applications?

Confident Indian businessman

Unfortunately, many job searchers in America have either experienced or witnessed at least a slight degree of racism or gender bias in the workforce and hiring process. To those who have experienced this kind of prejudice first-hand, it often might seem like a good idea to sound like a ‘white male’ in their resumes. This results in many people changing their names to sound like a white American male, hoping that it will improve chances for landing a coveted position. For instance, Olufemi would change his name to Oliver or Subramaniam might change his name to Smith.  Similarly, there have been instances where women changed their first names to sound masculine, or at least tried to conceal the fact that they were women (a notable example is the novelist J.K. Rowling).

However, the real questions here are:

  • What causes people of non-American heritage to change their CV to appear more American and/or white?
  • Do job seekers actually need to be concerned about disclosing their race or gender?

Why would people hide their race and gender?

It’s a matter of a hidden, subconscious stereotype in the minds of recruiters. Many recruiters, however liberal, may have some pre-existing bias towards certain communities. This bias is often not intentional but can be detrimental to the chances of success for a deserving candidate who may fall into a certain minority. People who are screening through applicant profiles sometimes show preference to white males.

This is a sad truth about the existence of a subtle, unstated racism that causes a fear of early rejection in the minds of people with Hispanic, Asian, or African-American backgrounds. The same goes for women, who are not the first choice for many recruiters. This fear of rejection at the initial screening stage could cause people to hide their identities in order to appear desirable to recruiters.

Do you actually need to worry about disclosing your race or gender?

Whereas this fear of rejection on account of disclosing ethnic or gender identity might have some valid reasons, changing or hiding your identity may not actually help you in the long run. In theory, hiding or changing your true identity due to fear of rejection would mean that you’re reinforcing the norms established by years of racial and gender bias in this nation’s history, from which society is currently progressing and becoming more inclusive.

More importantly, even if you think you’re increasing the chances of your selection in a company by hiding your identity, you are likely to find yourself in an environment where racism and gender bias are present. This is likely to cause more damage than good in the long run.

A better choice would be to apply to equal-opportunity employers. There are numerous organizations that are willing to accept and embrace people coming from a variety of backgrounds. They would appreciate a cosmopolitan culture, and understand the importance of having a diverse team.

In a nutshell, you should be judged by your talent, skills and experience, and not by something you don’t have control over, such as your gender or ethnicity. While you will most likely not be required to provide this information, you do not need to try to deceive recruiters into thinking that you are something that you really are not.  Employers are not allowed to discriminate due to an applicant’s gender, ethnicity, or religion, so save yourself the stress and apply for positions where you will feel like you belong and have the skills to succeed.