CV gender bias: What’s in a name?

by Cameron Edmond17 Jul 2013

The resume is, invariably, the first meeting point of a candidate outside an employer’s networking circle.

The document that attempts to sell a candidate for an interview is all important, and job-seekers often pour a lot of time and effort into making sure it demonstrates who they are appropriately.

HC reported yesterday ( the unconscious bias that prevents gender diversity in the workplace, but one professional experienced blatant discrimination first hand.

Posting on his Tumblr blog, Kim O’Grady, a management consultant from Perth, stated that in the 1990s, despite his qualifications, he found himself unable to find work.

After searching for four months in the business and tech management industries without receiving a single phone call, O’Grady scoured his resume to see if he could identify the problem.

The horrible truth? It was his name.

Although gender neutral, the name ‘Kim’ is often associated with females, and O’Grady’s choice to place it on the resume in bold font made him realise what the problem was. Additionally, the lay-out of his resume could be construed as more feminine, and his mention of being married with children – which he saw as a demonstration of stability – simply turned more biased employers away.

In an almost absurd turn, O’Grady’s addition of “Mr” to his resume meant he started getting call backs frequently, and he soon landed a position.

It was a bittersweet win, as he became aware of the shocking bias that runs rampant in organisations.

“Where I had worked previously there was a woman manager. She was the only one of about a dozen at my level, and there were none on the next level. She had worked her way up through the company over many years and was very good at her job,” O’Grady wrote.

“She was the example everyone used to show that it could be done, but that most women just didn’t want to. It’s embarrassing to think I once believed that. It’s even more incredible to think many people still do.”

While a single case may appear anecdotal, HC reported earlier this year on a number of studies which utilised CVs with information pertaining to gender or ethnicity removed. It was found that women and those from minority groups were often not considered for an interview, but when certain information was removed from CVs it changed things for the better.

“Companies have a vested interest in employing the best person for the job, regardless of gender and ethnicity,” Neil Morrison, group HR director at Random House commented, stating that the research was “A sad reflection of how ethnic minority groups feel about their treatment by employers, and collectively we should be looking to change both perceptions and treatment.”


  • by HW The Ethicos Group 17/07/2013 3:54:25 PM

    Hmmm.."in the 1990's". I wonder if the same thing would happen today.

    On the other hand, I suspect that 'Age-ism' is a far more widespread (and more damaging) practice, which undermines merit-based employment and in so doing undermines competitiveness and productivity.

    What most organisations fail to recognise is that Age-ism can arise as a rsult of an unacceptable conflict of interests: where older competent workers are deliberately excluded from consideration by younger, less experienced managers who fear being 'shown up' by an older worker, (and yes, it happens), that exclusion can amount to misconduct.

  • by Glenda May 17/07/2013 6:13:13 PM

    I believe it, even today. I have a coachee with the surname Lee. After many rejections, we added a photo to show she was Anglo-Saxon. I am ashamed of Australian recruiters to say her invitation rate for interviews doubled!~

  • by Howard Whitton 18/07/2013 10:41:43 AM

    Agreed: shame is a positive response here.
    btw: my comments on Age-ism (above) amounting to misconduct on the part of the HRM/recruiter also apply to racism, ethnicism, religionism, and tribalism, because this sort of bias ultimately damages the employer's interests.

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