Archived: Do Ethnic Names Help or Hurt Employment Chances

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.


This is something I always wanted to ask but couldn’t because of the racial thing. What impact does an “ethnically inspired” name have on someone’s chances for employment (Condoleezza, Oprah [obviously bad examples]).


The purpose of ATWG is to have a place to ask those questions you always wanted to ask, so thank you for asking.

There are surveys on this question and they have somewhat contradictory results. In my opinion, that’s because employers aren’t equal.

Progressive companies, such as those in The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity, are seeking people of diverse backgrounds because they have found that a diverse market requires diverse people to serve it, and since the talent pool has also become very diverse, you need to manage diversity in order to gain the maximum benefit from it.

An “ethnically inspired” name may actually be a plus at those companies because it would indicate the potential of the applicant coming from a group that is less common in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, I estimate 80 percent of Fortune 1000 companies have no meaningful diversity management. At those companies, an “ethnically inspired” name could very well be a negative.

So the answer to your question is dependent on what company you’re looking at.

By the way, even white men with non-ethnically inspired names are better off employed with progressive companies. They are the ones positioned for growth.

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