A researcher named Claire Adida recently conducted an interesting experiment on bias in the French labor market. She constructed three CVs of single female 24 year-olds with two years of higher education and three years of secretarial or accounting work experience and sent them out. The difference is that one was constructed to seem like the CV of a Muslim of Senegalese ancestry, one to seem like the CV of a Christian of Senegalese ancestry, and one to seem like the CV of a white person.
Gwen Sharp explains:
The three chosen names were Khadija Diouf (an easily-recognizable Muslim first name, while Diouf is well-known as a common last name in France’s Senegalese community), Marie Diouf (to represent a Christian Senegalese name), and Aurélie Ménard (a common French name with no particular religious associations). To highlight the religious differences, “Khadija” had worked at Secours Islamique, a non-profit, “Marie” had worked for Secours Catholique, another religious non-profit, and “Aurélie” hadn’t worked for any religious-affiliated employers.
The fictional CVs were then sent out to employers who listed secretarial and accounting jobs with a national employment agency in the spring of 2009; the jobs were matched in pairs based on industry characteristics, size of the employing company, and the specific position. Every position was sent a copy of the CV for Aurélie; for each matched pair of jobs, one got Khadija’s CV while one got Marie’s.
Being perceived as Muslim seems to carry a significant cost:
My casual-ish impression is that in 2010 racism is generally a bigger problem in Western Europe than in the United States. We’re obviously far from perfect in this regard, but progressives can I think legitimately count substantial progress in fighting bias as a major achievement and the European experience as illustrating the fact that the challenge is a non-trivial one.