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Is Your Accent Affecting Your Business Opportunities?

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Accent Bias: Impact on Business Travel Opportunities

The Role of Accents in Business Travel

According to a survey conducted by SAP Concur, nearly one in five workers globally believe that their accents have affected their opportunities for business travel. This perception was most prominent in the Asia-Pacific region, with countries like Australia/New Zealand, Taiwan, and Singapore/Malaysia reporting the highest percentage of individuals feeling disadvantaged due to their accents. Surprisingly, more participants believed that their accents played a bigger role in their travel opportunities than their physical appearance, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

Accents and Speaker Selection

In some cases, companies have admitted to considering accents when selecting speakers for events in the Asia-Pacific region. For example, a former marketing manager at a global tech company revealed that her department chose speakers who spoke in a way that was easily understandable to the audience. While this may seem like a practical approach, it can unintentionally limit opportunities for individuals with accents that deviate from the majority.

The Subjectivity of Easy Accents

Determining whether one accent is easier to understand than another is subjective. Tracey Derwing, an educational psychology professor, emphasizes that comprehension is influenced by a listener's native language. For example, English and Dutch speakers find it easier to understand each other due to their linguistic similarities, whereas Vietnamese speakers may struggle with English due to significant differences in the languages' structures. It's important to recognize that accent biases are not solely based on ease of comprehension.

The Negative Impact of Accent Bias

Accent bias goes beyond communication difficulties. Studies indicate that individuals with non-native accents are often perceived as less intelligent, less loyal, and less competent, regardless of their actual skills. This bias can result in hiring discrimination, lower-status job assignments, and lower earnings for those with accents. Employers may choose to avoid sending individuals with accents on business trips, fearing negative reactions from clients or partners.

Accent Hierarchy and Stereotypes

There is an existing accent hierarchy in the globalized world, with accents from British, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, and American speakers being perceived as more favorable. In contrast, Asian accents, from regions such as East Asia, South Asia, and West Asia, tend to be treated less favorably due to racial biases and stereotypes. Accent bias, therefore, extends beyond speech and encompasses nationality and ethnicity.

Overcoming Accent Bias

The presence and severity of accent bias in the workplace can vary by industry, location, and company culture. Speakers with accents that align with particular industries may have an advantage, while those with less commonly heard accents may experience self-consciousness or bias. Accent bias can also be reinforced by stereotypes associated with certain nationalities. To combat accent bias, organizations should focus on inclusivity and diversity training, ensuring fair treatment of employees regardless of their accents or backgrounds.


Accent bias affects business travel opportunities for individuals around the world. Accents should not be a reason to limit career growth or access to professional opportunities. Appreciating the diversity of accents and embracing cultural differences can lead to a more inclusive and supportive work environment. Addressing accent bias is crucial for fostering equality and ensuring that everyone has an equal chance to succeed in their careers.

Hot Take: The Impact of Accent Bias on New Businesses

The issue of accent bias holds significant implications for new businesses, especially those operating in an increasingly globalized world. In today's interconnected marketplace, where international collaboration and business travel are essential for growth, overlooking the consequences of accent bias can have detrimental effects. For a new business, establishing a strong presence in diverse markets often involves sending representatives on business trips to forge relationships with potential clients and partners. However, if accent bias persists, it can hinder the opportunities for these representatives, limiting the growth potential of the business. When selecting speakers or representatives for events or meetings, new businesses must be mindful not to let accent biases influence their decisions. Instead, they should focus on attracting diverse talent with diverse perspectives, irrespective of their accents. By embracing accents and cultural differences, new businesses can tap into a wider pool of talent, fostering creativity and innovation within their teams. Additionally, it is crucial for new businesses to be aware of their own biases and actively engage in inclusivity and diversity training. By creating a supportive work environment that values and appreciates diverse accents and backgrounds, new businesses can ensure that all employees, regardless of their accents, feel included, valued, and motivated to contribute their unique skills and perspectives. In conclusion, for new businesses to thrive and prosper in a globalized world, they must recognize and address the impact of accent bias on business travel opportunities. By actively combating these biases and embracing diversity, new businesses can increase their chances of success, build robust international networks, and foster a culture of inclusivity that attracts top talent from diverse backgrounds. Article First Published at: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/07/27/passed-over-for-another-business-opportunity-it-may-be-your-accent-.html

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