What’s in a Name?
A recent article on The Atlantic’s website describes a study showing how someone’s name impacts their chances of success.
For instance, women with gender-neutral names (like “Cameron” or “Chris”) tend to be more successful, especially in traditionally male-dominated fields … and people with names that seem white/caucasion in origin have a statistically significant advantage in the workplace.
Why does this happen? We think we’re being fair. We mean well. We think we’re smart and open-minded – too smart and open-minded to fall prey to cultural stereotypes that we don’t consciously believe in. But just as we don’t intend to catch a cold or the flu, we may not intend to be biased, but we still end up absorbing the cultural stereotypes surrounding us.
No matter how well-meaning we may be, no matter how much we may want to be fair, these deep-seated unconscious biases are present in all of us. And they cause us to dismiss opinions, leave people out of conversations, and even ignore someone altogether.
It’s distressing to realize. Fortunately, with awareness comes opportunity – opportunity to pay attention to what we’re doing, to listen to those around us more deeply, to include everyone intentionally, to value different perspectives, and to engage freely and openly with all the people we encounter.
Sometimes simply saying “Hello!” to everyone you pass in the hallway is enough to raise their spirits – and your own.
Recommended training resource: Consciously Overcoming Unconscious Bias opens with a startling series of questions about viewers’ response to people that reveals just how deeply unconscious bias can go – even when we believe, as our article points out, that we’re being fair and open-minded.
“Who Wins in the Name Game,” on The Atlantic website at
“Google: Diversity Lacking,” on The Union-Tribune San Diego at