One of the most famous studies of workplace hiring, Bertrand and Mullainathan’s Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? demonstrated the existence of bias by sending around resumes for open job positions. Half of the resumes used stereotypically white names like Greg and Emily, the other half used stereotypically black names like Lakisha and Jamal. As might be expected, roughly a third more “white” resumes received call-backs for interviews. There’s some evidence that implicit bias helps explain this gap. A similar study in Sweden coupled the resume study (using Arab names) with testing hiring managers with implicit and explicit tests. They found that scores indicating implicit bias against Arabs correlated directly with the likelihood of a callback, and that biases against Arabs included assumptions related to workplace performance.
There’s also no guarantee once we get a job that we will be evaluated fairly. A variety of studies—including one conducted by our Research Advisors Jerry Kang and Nilanjana Dasgupta—also demonstrate that stereotyping influences people’s evaluation of excellence. Job attributes also tend to be highly racialized. Just think about all the stereotypes about Asians being good at math or African Americans’ excellence at sports. Many studies also confirm that people tend to use race-neutral justifications when explaining decisions influenced by bias.
Certain interventions have been shown to help decrease the influence of bias in hiring and evaluation. Having clear, agreed-upon, prioritized criteria for a position and reducing the number of subjective gray areas helps minimize opportunities for bias. Acknowledging that bias may be at work and inviting others to critique hiring and evaluation practices can also help. In some scenarios, like in orchestras, using blind auditions have helped increase diversity. Finally, some research shows that priming those in power with egalitarian values can lead them to pay closer attention to information that contradicts stereotypes of women and people of color, helping reduce prejudice over time.
For more on how employment of black men is affected by automatic mental processes, read our Transforming Perception report.