What’s in a Name? Your Job!

by Guest Contributor Sobia, originally published at Muslim Lookout

CTV News recently reported on a BC based study in which it was found that Canadians with English names have a better chance of getting a job than do people with non-English, specifically Chinese, Pakistani, or Indian, names. CTV News reports

In fact, after sending out thousands of resumés, the study found those with an English name like Jill Wilson and John Martin received 40 per cent more interview callbacks than the identical resumés with names like Sana Khan or Lei Li.

“If employers are engaging in name-based discrimination, they may be contravening the Human Rights Act,” said the study’s author, Philip Oreopoulos, economics professor at the University of B.C. “They may also be missing out on hiring the best person for the job.”

The study also found that the only way the applicants could improve their chances of a callback was to state they had Canadian or British experience.

And before one thinks this may have something to do with acculturation or language issues some new immigrants may have, the study’s author suspects that even second and third generation immigrants are at a “significant disadvantage” if they have a Chinese, Indian or Pakistani name (great – I guess my Pakistani name is going to be trouble for me after all). However, not as much as their parents or grandparents may be. I guess, it’s all in the name.

Of course, one can see how this would be problematic for those with non-English sounding names. Employers would be engaging in discrimination of applicants based on an aspect of a person’s identity that cannot indicate an individual’s competency for the job position. An aspect linked to ethnicity. In other words – racism. In the case of this study, racism toward specific groups of people, many of whom are Muslims. The findings of this study are disturbing indeed and they demonstrate the way in which “Canadian” is defined. Those with English names – yes names originating from England (which if my memory serves me correctly is now considered a foreign country in Canada) – are categorized as “real” Canadians while those with non-English sounding names are seen as non-Canadians, as others.

To begin with, the CTV article itself creates an othering of those with non-English names. By using the terms “foreign names” or “foreign-sounding names” to refer to non-English names CTV makes the assumption that only English names are truly Canadian. Those names that are not English sounding are not Canadian – including Pakistani names. Pakistanis, along with Indians and Chinese, are therefore otherized and assumed to be foreign. Even those born and raised in Canada.

And of course, the results of the study imply a similar othering. Those with non-English names, it seems, do not appear to be Canadians and as such need not be interviewed or considered. They are considered to be “foreign” and as such are seen to be less competent than “real” Canadians (or Britons it seems). Additionally, the study also found that “Chinese resumes that had English first names increased the chances of getting a callback.” All this hints that those with non-Canadian names are not seen as acculturated or Canadian enough. Take on an English name (ie name from England) and all of a sudden you’re more Canadian?

The irony of course should not be lost on readers. English names are just that – English. They are not Canadian. They originated in England. Yet names from England, and therefore people whose roots are in England (a foreign country by the way), are viewed as Canadian. And those whose roots originate in India, Pakistan, or China are not? Additionally, can we really forget that these English names have belonged to the colonizers – those who massacred Canada’s indigenous populations and stole their land? These English names arrived in Canada via extremely violent and vicious means.

How will this discovery bode for Muslim applicants? The implications for Muslims are clear. Most Muslims in Canada have non-English names. According to what this study implies, we are seen as lesser Canadians, if Canadians at all. Our names, regardless of our citizenship and nationality, are “foreign names,” as CTV would put it. We are thus seen as not “real” Canadians. The racism inherent in such discriminatory practices, whether intentional or not, has tried to define for us our place in Canada – as foreigners.

(Image Credit: CTV)