Study Shows Samanthas and Davids dominate UK manufacturing

Samanthas and Davids dominate UK Manufacturing ( Image credit: Vecteezy)
A new study by Vestd has highlighted the prominence of the name Samantha and David in UK manufacturing, indicating a lack a diversity in the sector

According to a new study by employee share scheme provider Vestd, the UK manufacturing sector is dominated by people named David and Samantha, highlighting challenges surrounding diversity in the sector. The research is based on the 25 most common male and female names in the UK combined with data from more than a million LinkedIn profiles.

The hiring bias in the UK against individuals with 'non-white' names is well documented, supported by studies undertaken by the British Sociological Association and King's College London. The study by King's College, 'The Resume Bias' found that applicants with traditionally white, English names received 26.8% of positive responses for leadership roles, while names from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds received 11.3%.

The commonality of the names David and Samantha also speaks to the age demographics dominating the industry. According to the Office for National Statistics, David was the most popular name in England and Wales during the early fifties and late sixties. 

David name popularity over time in England and Wales ( Credit: Office for National Statistics)

The popularity of this name in manufacturing speaks to the industry's ageing workforce, and the impact of the Greater Green Transition. Manufacturing professionals are overwhelmingly older white men, whose names reflect popular baby naming trends of their generation.

Contrastingly, Samantha as a name lacks as great a foundation of historic popularity, speaking to the uptick in women entering the industry over time and other factors shaping name prominence and employment. 

Samantha name popularity over time in England and Wales ( Credit: Office For National Statistics)

We see here that Samantha as a name enjoyed a fair amount of popularity in the late sixties and early seventies. So like the Davids of the manufacturing world, the abundance of Samantha's is partially down to age demographics. But this blip of popularity doesn't explain why this name is so overrepresented across manufacturing and other employment sectors.

One explanation could be how names that are either gender-neutral or capable of being gender-neutral adaptation allow women to avoid certain gender biases. A Samantha can easily put her name down on her resume and email as 'Sam' and sidestep sexist biases in the hiring and collaboration process. 

Research exploring naming trends and employment from The University of Florida and Clemson University in South Carolina found that women with gender-neutral names were significantly likelier to succeed in male dominated careers, especially in STEM fields.

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This trend begins in early education, where girls with gender-neutral names are far likelier to take maths or science at a higher level. This is despite the fact women with conventionally feminine names exhibit similar rates of positive performance.

The research suggests that gender expectations, specifically the idea that girls with gender-neutral names are likelier to excel at science and maths, is driving this decision-making. 

Subsequently, a Samantha is statistically likelier to acquire the education to pursue a career in manufacturing in the first place, in addition to having a more positive career trajectory in the sector. This is supported by how male dominated manufacturing is in the UK, full of technical manual labour stereotyped as the domain of men. 

Women account for just 26% of workers in the sector and earn 17% less on average than male colleagues. Research shows that men are seven times likelier to occupy senior roles as business leaders, managing directors or CEO's.

Overview Of The Study
  • 27% of employees were found to have the name Samantha, with 8% having the name David.
  • David was the most common male name across a variety of industries- including charity, education, finance and executive positions.
  • Across all sectors, people named David account for almost 8% of the UK workforce, Samanthas account for almost 6% and Sarahs make up more than one-in-10 employees.
  • The name David dominates the following roles: Quality Control Inspector, Manufacturing Engineer, Maintenance Technician, Process Engineer and Industrial Electrician.
  • The name Sarah dominates the following roles: Manufacturing Engineer, Quality Control Inspector, Maintenance Technician, Process Engineer and Industrial Electrician.
Ifty Nasir, CEO of Vestd

“Our exercise might have been light-hearted but the results reflect wider social trends. Lack of representation in some roles and industries demonstrate how persistent some stereotypes are, including ones relating to the types of jobs men and women have,” said Ifty Nasir, CEO of Vestd.

On the question of how to enhance diversity, Ifty had this to say. 

“Many organisations recognise the value of diversity in the workplace, both ethically and commercially. It’s led some of them, including the Civil Service, to adopt blind recruitment tactics, where candidates omit information such as their name, gender, age and ethnicity. Another way to improve diversity is through employee share schemes or enterprise management incentives (EMI schemes) – which quite literally create equity for people in a business, whatever their role or background. It’s also a powerful incentive for staff to work their way up the ranks and hopefully improve representation at a senior level in the future.”

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