This article will feature in issue 38: Language and Culture

In 2017-2018 the UK government introduced its commitment to a ‘Equality diversity and Inclusion’ initiative in their employment structure for the HS2 project. This commitment incorporated an employment system known as ‘Blind Auditioning’ which is an Affirmative Action method of screening job applicants based strictly on the candidate’s skills and qualifications. Therefore, employers have no access to information surrounding their age, gender, race or socio-economic status. 

More significantly, Blind Auditioning means employers/admissions teams have no access to a candidates’ name until the recruitment process is finished. This stops well-known discrimination surrounding names. In 2019, Dr Valentina Di Stasio (Utrecht University, The Netherlands) undertook a study which concluded: ‘regardless of the occupation considered or the information included in the application, employers may simply read no further as soon as they see a Middle Eastern or African-sounding name.’ A Blind Auditioning system counters this problem completely through omission of the candidate’s name. Furthermore, it is used to reduce the levels of discrimination towards minorities, such as disabled or female candidates. 

In turn, the employment pool for HS2 when using Blind Auditioning saw a success rate for women increase from 17% to 47%, and from 14% to 50% for BAME people. The higher equality in gender is prominent as 36% of HS2’s core staff are women, in comparison to the Infrastructure Sector average of 21%.

Previous widespread Affirmative Action methods have included the Quota System. For example, in Norway the law requires a mandatory quota of 40% female representation on senior boards. This law is enforced through strict sanctions for companies who don’t comply. Quota Systems have also been effective in higher education institutions in America where some Universities reserve up to 15% of admissions for ethnic minorities. Although this method goes a long way to tackle inequalities in the workplace and higher education, the Quota System has been strongly criticised by opposers who note that applicants may be evaluated on their race or gender instead of competence. Hence, quotas have been surrounded by cries of tokenism instead of promoting a genuine increase in equality. 

In addition, quotas retain problems of long-term success. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development found that there was a direct correlation between stopping the usage of Quota systems and the immediate decline of representation of minority groups in the workplace. 

Therefore, following movements such as last years’ Black Lives Matter campaigns, systems such as Blind Auditioning are examples of pragmatic methods to further diversity and equality within the workplace, education and general society. It is the responsibility of the UK government to advocate systems such as this to be adopted on a wider scale to combat discrimination and the diminished employment/admittance chances of minority groups.

By Holly Gardiner