Accent discrimination in the workplace

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Yoosufani, Ayesha Kausar

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Purpose: The purpose of the present study was to determine if accent related discrimination exists in the work place for persons who speak with an Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi accent. An additional purpose was to explore the participants’ knowledge and willingness to enroll in accent modification therapy and their general feelings regarding this type of therapy.

Method: A 57 item survey that was developed to address our research questions was distributed through Survey Monkey to various listservs, organizations and personal contacts. These methods yielded a total of 279 participants, with 110 participants included in the present study.

Results: Majority of participants reported that they do not think their accent is difficult to understand and also felt that their accent was accepted. No significant trends were found between length of time living and working in the United States and accent discrimination. However, per participant report, discrimination appears to be more prevalent in the initial part of the employment process (applying for a position and during the beginning portion of their employment). Most participants had never heard of and/or previously enrolled in accent modification therapy. In addition, approximately half said that they would not voluntarily enroll in accent modification therapy, but the remaining participants either responded that they would consider enrolling or they would definitely enroll. Further, half the participants reported that they would not have negative feelings if it was recommended by their employer that they enroll in therapy.

Conclusions: This preliminary data suggests that accent discrimination towards individuals who speak with an Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi accent does exist in the workplace. Results also indicate a disconnect between existence of discrimination and awareness of discrimination, either due to the survey limitations or an emerging awareness on the part of the participants. Additionally, few participants reported knowledge of accent modification therapy. Negative feelings towards enrolling in accent modification therapy were within in minority. This data, in addition to reasons to enroll in therapy provided by participants, will aid speech-language pathologists in creating appropriate therapy programs for this unique population.



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