Thursday 11 August 2016 4:36 pm

No, name-blind recruiting won't solve the UK's bias problem

Muslim women are three times more likely to be unemployed and looking for a job than women generally, according to new research from the Commons Women and Equalities Committee.

This is an unacceptable statistic and ministers have rightly been urged to come up with a plan to tackle this inequality by the end of the year.

Read more: Inclusive leadership is not a Stalinist labour market intervention

Introducing name-blind applications has been widely touted as the answer to solve the problem. Research shows that job applicants with white-sounding names are more likely to get an interview, so if you remove names from job applications you’ve tackled the issue? Not quite.

Blind applications only work at the first stage of recruitment. So, yes, you may get more people from minority backgrounds through to the next round, but once it comes to face-to- face interviews, any biases would still be present.

Rather than papering over the bias in the first instance, we believe employers and recruiters should tackle the issue head on. At PwC, all of our 20,000 staff take part in unconscious bias training to raise awareness of stereotypes and the impact this can have in the workplace. We get our people to understand their own biases and challenge them, rather than mask that they exist.

If individuals and businesses aren’t aware of these biases, then how can they address them? We continually monitor the diversity of our applications and hires to ensure all of our processes are fair and take action if needed.

That’s why we changed our recruitment process for graduate roles last year. Just as applicants' names can prompt bias, so can university or school names.

Some organisations have addressed this by introducing blind application forms to mask university and school names. But instead of removing these from application forms, we decided to improve social mobility and widen access to our graduate roles by no longer using Ucas scores, as these are a blunt tool to measure ability and career potential.

Biases can be extremely harmful in both the workplace and wider society, and it is great that there is so much focus on tackling them. But we must be careful that we don’t take false comfort by simply covering our biases. Instead we should empower and equip recruiters and employers to make the right decision in the first place.