What's in a name? For Erin McKelvey, changing her name was the key to success.
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The mid-1990s was an incredible time to be alive: Beanie Babies were in every store window, frosted tips reigned supreme, and Erin McKelvey was struggling to find a job.
Having just graduated from college, McKelvey was eager to join the tech industry, but something was standing in her way: her gender. Erin applied to countless jobs, but her resume got her no callbacks.
Then a friend provided her with a helpful tip: change her name to something more masculine. This friend, named Alexandra, couldn't find a job until she changed her name on her resume to a gender neutral sounding, “Alex.” Suddenly Alex was being called in for interviews left and right.
Erin McKelvey took her advice and changed the name on her resume to “Mack.” Suddenly, with the more masculine name Mack McKelvey, she went from getting a 0% response rate to a 70% response rate from prospective employers. She quickly got a job as a contractor for AT&T, and is now the CEO of SalientMG.
And unfortunately for us, the practice of “name bias” is not confined to the 1990s, and it doesn't only effect white women. The Financial Times recently reported a story on a woman named Kayo Anosike. Kayo couldn't get a job until she changed her name on her resume to “Kayla Benjamin.” With a more white-sounding name she was suddenly being considered for jobs that were not open to people with names that sound “ethnic.”
Kayla was no more qualified than Kayo, but by assuming a whiter sounding name, suddenly she could get her foot in the door. She knew it was a risk worth taking, saying, "All my friends said to me that if I got to the interview stage, [employers] would see I was the right person."
Our society has come a long way since the days of Pogs and Super Soakers, but name bias is still thriving and strong. Fortunately these ladies could have the careers they desired despite their names and gender, but for women and people of color, the uphill battle continues.
H/T: Fortune, Financial Times, Facebook, Twitter