I just read a fascinating article by Derek Mong in Asian Fortune, which calls itself “an English language newspaper for Asian American professionals in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.”

The takeaway: “If you’re a minority in America’s workplaces, a name can mean the difference between the opportunity for success and rejection.”   What does this mean?

12863517_sCiting a series of studies, the article notes that a person’s name can sink her or advance her when applying for employment. An older University of Chicago study was aptly titled (and asked the question) “Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?” The answer:  very much so.   Seems that names are a proxy for race or ethnicity when it comes to being called for a job interview, with “[identical] resumes with white names result[ing] in roughly 50% more callbacks than those with African-American names.”

As the article suggests, “What’s even more intriguing is that higher quality resumes labeled with white names elicited roughly 30% more callbacks than the average resume labeled with a white name, yet high quality resumes labeled with African American names saw no similar increase in callback rate—suggesting that something deeper, and perhaps more sinister, than candidate credentials was at play.”

A similar study at Wharton found that professors who received emails from “students” asking to meet found that “Individuals with stereotypical white male names (i.e. Brad Anderson) were 25% more likely to receive a response over both women and minorities. Faculty at private, more prestigious universities were more likely to discriminate, and racial bias was more pervasive against Asian students.”

The article fears that although “forms of overt racism that were once the norm have evolved into more covert, subjugated expressions,” the use of social media to research job applicants will result in its being turned into a “weapon of workplace discrimination.”   That is, a prospective employer can determine from an applicant’s social media profile a heckuva lot more about the applicant’s race, national origin and other protected characteristics than by seeing a simple name.

Employers must be aware that although social media can, in fact, become a “weapon of workplace discrimination,” it can also imperil employers who use it to screen applicants — and the EEOC is on top of this.   Here is a link to a good article on the perils of social media, which is a hot topic these days.