Kim O’Grady becomes “Mr. Kim O’Grady” and Gets the Job

I missed this one when I was off on vacation last week. A management consultant in Perth, Australia — Kim O’Grady — told the story of how perplexed he was back in the late 1990s when he shipped out his impressive resume to employer after employer, but received nothing but rejection letters.

So he studied his CV to see what might be putting people off. “A horrible truth slowly dawned on me,” he wrote. “My name.”

That is, potential employers were probably figuring that  ”Kim O’Grady” was a woman, not a man.

So he says he made a single change — “Kim O’Grady” became “Mr. Kim O’Grady” — and canvassed potential employers all over again. “I got an interview for the very next job I applied for,” he wrote. “And the one after that.”

(I’m awaiting a reply from Mr. O’Grady to understand why he’s revealing a story from the late 1990s all these years later.)

I wish I could say that things have changed in the two decades since Mr. O’Grady’s apparent epiphany. Academics at Yale University asked professors in the biology, chemistry and physics departments at six major universities to evaluate applications from recent graduates looking for jobs as lab managers, slapping the name “John” on half the applications and “Jennifer” on the other half. (There was no difference in the copy other than the first names.) “John” got an average score of 4 out of 7 for competence while “Jennifer” got only a 3.3.

Similarly, a female website developer who was having a tough time drumming up new business changed her name to “James Chartrand” and business picked up nicely. I wrote about that in a blog post on September 24.

There are no doubt neanderthals out there who consciously exclude a woman when they’re evaluating job applications, but the problem is more complicated than that. A New York Times story about the Yale study said that while scientists found bias to be pervasive, it “probably reflected subconscious cultural influences rather than overt or deliberate discrimination.”

Translation: Pay attention when you’re evaluating job applicants. You may not even be aware of what’s motivating you to proceed with some applicants, but to reject others.

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