British television presenter and journalist Sangita Myska (san-GEE-ta MYE-ska) wrote about the consequences of having a ‘foreign’ name for the BBC recently.
She also put together a funny audio of various people butchering her name [starts immediately].
The essay includes this story about Shahid Iqbal, who goes by Richard Brown for business purposes:
Shahid Iqbal owns an engineering company in Birmingham. It was when he began applying for jobs, aged 18, that he realised revealing his Muslim identity was proving problematic.
He took a second, very British, name – Richard Brown. When applying as his English alter ego, he says, he suddenly found that vacancies he’d previously been told were filled were now open. When he launched his company, he kept Richard Brown around.
“Changing your name was a case of opening the doors,” he says. “So in business now I approach my customers as Richard Brown and quite a few have openly admitted that if I’d approached them as Shahid Iqbal, they wouldn’t have given us the opportunity.”
According to Iqbal, things are not improving. “Just a couple of years ago, we had a very big meeting at our place where some multinational companies were present. This was in January during a major snow situation and people drove for several hours in the snow to get to our factory.
“As soon as a couple of individuals walked in and they saw that we were coloured, they literally turned round, walked back out and drove back down to London.”
That last part is really disturbing.
We’ve talked about name discrimination before, in posts like these: Asians in New Zealand Change Names to Get Jobs, Ethnic/Black Names and the Job Hunt, and Could Your Name Prevent You from Getting a Job?