Workers push for inclusiveness by rejecting acceptance of misspelled and ‘whitewashed’ names – National

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Workers push for inclusiveness by rejecting acceptance of misspelled and 'whitewashed' names - National


When Janani Shanmuganathan was in law school, she recalls hearing misguided professional advice.
“You should take your husband’s name,” recalls Shanmuganathan someone who said to him, because his own name was difficult to pronounce. His colleague speculated that it would be more difficult to find clients.

Shanmuganathan says she remembers being angry by the comment, not only because she was proud of her name, but because it’s spelled phonetically – and she doesn’t mind helping people who ask. how it is pronounced. Plus, she says, she wants emerging lawyers to see Tamil women represented in the legal community.

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Shanmuganathan has indeed faced professional challenges over time. She says it was not uncommon for a judge to refer to other attorneys by name, but referred to her only as “lawyer,” and her racialized client as “the accused,” which raises questions about the difference in treatment from clients and their families.

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“There is something more worthy in a name,” says Shanmuganathan.

Research suggests that “whitewashed” names have historically made applicants more likely to be hired. But as many employers say they are changing course and trying to attract diverse talent, experts say companies also need to do more to respect the name a worker chooses to identify with.

Shanmuganathan wrote about her experiences with her race, including being mistaken for the interpreter in court, in a post sent to other criminal lawyers. His assessment – which described courts bypassing his name as one of many symptoms of bias in the legal system – resonated with people.









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The Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers launched a social media campaign to “make hearing Asian names more common” and to help lawyers who were ignored because someone else was uncomfortable with the pronunciation of their name. Several years ago, law firm Borden Ladner Gervais added a clickable blue megaphone to their staff webpages that play a recording of every person speaking their name in hopes of leveling the playing field for them. new lawyers. that when summer students join the firm each year, senior lawyers are more likely to contact and assign work to prospective lawyers they could comfortably call by name, says Laleh Moshiri, national director, diversity and inclusion within the cabinet. While this is far from the only answer to diversity and inclusion issues in the firm, the pronunciation tool has shifted some of the burden of learning names from students to lawyers.

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Last year, LinkedIn added a similar tool to its website, in an ad saying “Correct pronunciation isn’t just a courtesy, it’s an important part of making a good first impression and creating a inclusive workplace. ” A tool created by NameCoach is also being used for MBA students at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, says Sonia Kang, Canada Research Chair in Identity, Diversity and Inclusion at university.

Kang says the pressure on people to “whitewash” their names in many industries can stem from discrimination that begins in the hiring process. Resumes with bleached first names and extracurricular experiences led to more callbacks than unbleached resumes for black and Asian applicants, according to an article co-authored by Kang. Similar results have been repeated in several studies.








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“When I talk to hiring managers about this – put aside a second discrimination, which we know exists for sure. But sometimes the reason they don’t call someone is because they don’t want to offend them by saying their name wrong, ”Kang says. “It’s that kind of benevolent racism.”

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Shanmuganathan says things have improved in the legal world, but the problem persists. Last month, Vancouver immigration attorney Will Tao wrote an essay on how his work with immigrants and community organizers confirmed to him how many Biblical names have roots in colonialism and, for his colleagues aboriginal people, in the Indian residential school system.

“I am in a profession where marketing, presentation, professionalism and competence are everything. Why is Will Tao more competent and presentable than Wei Tao? ” he wrote.

In a recent talk explaining her perspective as a woman in banking, Laurentian Bank CEO Rania Llewellyn cited her name as one of the factors that motivated her to raise expectations. in terms of diversity and inclusion in his company.

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“My first job in Canada after graduating from a Canadian university was working at Tim Hortons. My last name was not Llewellyn. It was very Middle Eastern. No one would even call me for an interview… inclusive hiring is really, really important, ”Llewellyn said. “No one ever asked me where I was from… When I introduce myself I always say Rania, like Tanya, and all of a sudden people are like, ‘Ah.’ ‘

Shanmuganathan says she urges her coworkers to refer to her and introduce her by name, so others get used to hearing her. Moshiri, meanwhile, says she encourages her colleagues to write phonetic spellings in their notes so they don’t forget the pronunciations of the names.

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Kang says no one can expect to know every name in the world – and she says asking for name pronunciations should be considered normal, not inconvenient. At the same time, learning the sounds and spellings that commonly appear in your trade is a skill that will continue to be invaluable in relationship building, Kang says.

Encouraging authenticity – whether it’s a name given to a worker at birth or a name they choose to identify with – can be beneficial for employers, Kang says.

“It’s just about having a choice and not feeling pressured anyway,” she says.

© 2021 The Canadian Press



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