New research by law firm Slater and Gordon has found that nearly one in three ethnic minority employees have been told to adopt a ‘western work name’ by their bossby Grace Holliday / May 23, 2019 / Leave a comment
There were no snakes in my husband’s hair when he’d left for an acting job that morning, but apparently, there were now.
“I introduced myself as Mudassar, but the director has been calling me Medusa for the last two hours,” he tells me down the phone. We have a good laugh about it; this isn’t the first time he’s been called something ridiculous. A few years ago, a man shook his hand with the words, “Mudassar! And you’re Asian! So, I’ll remember that by thinking of Madras!”
We laugh because a director yelling “Good, Medusa, nice work!” across a busy studio is pretty funny. But that night, once we’re curled up on the sofa, my husband sighs and says “I really think I should change my name. Asian actors and comedians always have simple, one-syllable names; Dev (Patel), Riz (Ahmed), Nish (Kumar). I need that too.”
This week, new research by law firm Slater and Gordon has found that nearly one in three ethnic minority employees have been told to adopt a ‘western work name’ by their boss. The study also found that three out of five workers felt their career would suffer if they did not westernise their name.
I’ve been friends with my 2nd generation British-Pakistani husband, Mudassar Dar, for 13 years. I’ve been his girlfriend for 3 of those and his wife for a further 3. From being a teen to an adult, his name has morphed and contorted in time with his life.
The first time we met, he was 15 and introduced himself as Muddy. This is the name his teenage friends had given him, an abbreviation that brought shocked gasps from strangers who presumed it to be a comment on his skin colour. I encouraged him to move away from Muddy after university when he finally admitted to himself (and then to me) that he didn’t actually like the name.
As he entered the workplace, he decided to start introducing himself by his real, full, undiluted name. Muh-dth-ser is the most accurate pronunciation, but blending a ‘d’ with a ‘th’ isn’t a natural sound for English speakers.
As such, Muh-duh-ser, Muh-dah-sa and Muh-de-ser are all passable. Masala, Moo-sasa, Madras, Mufasa and Medusa? These…