From the What Could Possibly Go Wrong? department comes the story of a bank that is contemplating the not-insignificant step of removing names from the résumés of prospective job applicants. The goal of this far-reaching measure, according to Business Insider, is to “improve the gender diversity” of its workforce.
Silicon Valley Bank, a bank that offers a range of financial services tailored towards technology and life science businesses, is considering whether to remove names from job candidates’ résumés in a bid to prevent unconscious bias from its recruiters.
The bank has already undergone unconscious bias training globally, which involves exercises including splitting into groups and assessing the merits of four different résumés, only to return to find they belonged to the same candidate — just with different names and genders attached.
Let’s think about this plan for a second, especially since Tracy Isacke, the bank’s corporate relationship management team managing director, seems not to have.
First, the removal of the name alone is not sufficient to ensuring “gender anonymity,” to coin a phrase. As an example, take Tracy Isacke’s own résumé on LinkedIn, the contents of which are probably quite similar, if not identical, to that of her print résumé. There you will find mention of the fact she supports Breakthrough Breast Cancer, which (at the risk of sounding sexist) is a woman’s charity. Even more revelatory would be any letters of reference bundled with the résumé. One of them for Isacke might be is a testimonial by Andres Padilla Fuentes, a former employer, who refers to Isacke on LinkedIn as “she.”
Since the point of Silicon Valley’s intitiative is presumably to hire more — not fewer — women, I can appreciate where the bank might see this as a plus. My reason, however, for mentioning this is to demonstrate that if the goal is gender anonymity, then scrubbing the name is by itself insufficient. The bank would also need to peruse the entire document and redact any telltale clues.
But other problems that have nothing to do with sex arise when candidates’ names are withheld. Consider another current employee of the bank, Ibrahima Traore.
Having access to Traore’s untitled résumé defeats another of Silicon Valley Bank’s social justice endeavors, that of hiring more African Americans. Traore, who appears to be from West Africa and is now living in Tempe, Ariz., is an African American in the true sense of the term. Yet, a glance at his résumé, which begins with a description of himself as a “foreign language ‘nerd’ with fluency in multiple languages,” might give the impression that he is white, which is to be deplored.
Maybe the best approach to ensuring the right person for the job is to select candidates on the basis of experience and skill set. It has worked for many centuries, if not millennia. There is no reason to suspect it won’t work now.