As Shakespeare wrote, “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But there is in fact much to a name–a name can convey a sense of identity, culture, and family history. But a series of viral tweets recently raised the question of how much something as simple as a name could affect an individual’s employment.
One man and his female co-worker conducted an experiment whereby they switched their e-mail signatures for two weeks. The series of tweets describe the man’s struggle over the next two weeks in gaining respect from clients using his female co-worker’s e-mail signature.
The experiment started when the male co-worker accidentally e-mailed a client with his female co-worker’s signature line and received a lot of pushback and attitude from the client. Upon realizing the mix-up with the e-mail signature because of a shared inbox, he switched back to his name and continued communicating in the same way with the client. Upon reverting to his name, he said he noticed an immediate improvement and positive reception from the client. The man claimed his advice to the client never changed, only the fact that he was signing the e-mails with a man’s name instead of a woman’s name.
The man described his negative experience over the next two weeks, tweeting that everything he asked or suggested was questioned and that one client even asked if he was single. Meanwhile, he reported his female co-worker had the most productive weeks of her career. The man stated he learned his female co-worker had to convince clients to respect her, whereas he had an “invisible advantage” as a man. The woman also wrote her own account of the experiment and described sexism that many women face in the workplace.
While this is only one account, and by no means a scientific study, it is an interesting reminder to be conscious of gender bias and other biases in the workplace. Other Twitter users chimed in agreeing with this experience, and adding their own experiences where they had been concerned about how others would perceive them because of their name. For example, some Twitter users described concerns with how employers would perceive their names on their resumes. Some wondered if they should change their names to have a greater likelihood of success in obtaining employment because of unconscious biases.
Unconscious bias is a huge issue in the workplace and can affect who is hired, promoted, and valued at work. Discussing issues like biases can help bring the issue to light and create a company culture that acknowledges the problem and improves decision-making.