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Study: Companies Seeking Diversity Might Still Discriminate

Close-up of a pen resting on a newspaperRacial discrimination continues to be a problem for minority job applicants, according to a new study published in Administrative Science Quarterly. Researchers found even diversity-friendly employers engaged in discriminatory hiring practices.

Racial discrimination is evident in many workplace issues, including race-based wage disparities. According to 2013 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average weekly earnings for white men totaled $896, compared to $728 for white women. Black men had average weekly earnings of $646, compared to an average of $621 for black women. Latino men and women experienced the greatest wage gap, with men averaging just $594 per week and women earning $531 each week.

‘Resume Whitening’ and Racial Discrimination

The study explored “resume whitening,” the act of removing racial cues to make a resume look “whiter.” Applicants may accomplish this by altering their names to sound less ethnic or removing work or memberships related to their racial group. For example, a lawyer might not list a membership in an African-American bar association.

Researchers looked at interviews and a laboratory experiment in addition to auditing real resumes. They found resume whitening was common, with a third of black or Asian job-seekers adopting at least one whitening practice. Two-thirds of participants reported knowing someone who intentionally whitened job application materials.

Applicants applying for jobs at companies that purported to be “diversity-friendly” were less likely to engage in whitening, making it easier for employers to discern their race. Employers responded more favorably to whitened resumes, regardless of whether they claimed to be committed to diversity. Thus, minority applicants seeking jobs at “diversity-friendly” companies might actually face more hiring discrimination at these organizations.

Are White-Sounding Resumes More Effective?

Previous research has found employers may discriminate against applicants who have names that do not sound white. A 2003 study looked at how employers responded to identical resumes with either “black” or “white” names. The study’s authors sent nearly 5,000 resumes in response to 1,300 employment ads. Though the resumes contained the same credentials, “white” applicants needed to send 10 to get a callback, while “black” applicants had to send 15 to get a single returned call. This suggests employers might discriminate on the basis of unconscious racial bias.


  1. Ashton, D. (2014, June 10). Does race or gender matter more to your paycheck? Retrieved from
  2. Bertrand, M., & Mullainathan, S. (2003, July). Are Emily and Greg more employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A field experiment on labor market discrimination. Retrieved from
  3. Even diversity-friendly employers discriminate against racial minority job seekers. (2016, March 17). Retrieved from
  4. Kang, S. A., DeCelles, K. A., Tilksik, A., & Jun, S. (2016). Whitened Résumés: Race and self-presentation in the labor market. Administrative Sciences Quarterly. doi:10.1177/0001839216639577

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  • glenda

    March 22nd, 2016 at 10:30 AM

    How awful! If these companies are looking to diversify then they have to be willing to open their minds a little more to the creativity and intelligence that could lie beneath what they see on the surface. There is so much more to most people that what you think that they are. Give them a chance and get to know them a little better and who knows? You might just find that diamond in the rough that you have been searching for but have been too blind to see.

  • FeeltheBern

    March 22nd, 2016 at 2:29 PM

    Why do we even still have to be having this conversation?

  • LaVandra

    March 23rd, 2016 at 11:14 AM

    It goes against everything that I believe to leave these things out just because I think that they will indicate that I am African American.
    They don’t like me for who I am, then why would I even want to work for a company like that?

  • Theresa

    March 23rd, 2016 at 2:29 PM

    And what about those who have experienced the opposite end f the spectrum , that they did not get the job because they were maybe not as diverse in sound or appearance as what the company wanted to go with but they were qualified? This is a problem too.

  • JQ

    March 25th, 2016 at 7:29 AM

    good for you LaVandra! Standing up for what you believe in!

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