When it comes to naming your daughters, choosing a more masculine-sounding name can help her advance her career. At least if she's going to be a lawyer.
According to a recent University of South Carolina study that studied females in the legal field, women with masculine sounding names were more successful. This study focused on women attorneys because it is a more male-dominated field and compared prisons and potential for career advancement to becoming a judge.
This study suggests that if Sue (a traditionally female name) changes her name to Kelly (a more gender-neutral name) she improves her chances of becoming a judge by 5%. However, if Sue takes a big leap and changes her name to Cameron (a more predominately male name) she has now tripled her chances of hearing the words, "Your Honor."
Misty Harris of the Vancouver Sun noted in a recent article that even when researchers accounted for family wealth, age and experience, they still found a "statistically significant wage gap implemented in favor of female attorneys with masculine names."
Bentley Coffey, an economist at Clemson University in South Carolina said this in explaining the results, "When we see a masculine name, something in our subconscious is cued. There seems to be a minority sexist notice, even if it's not gender discrimination per se . " That's interesting, but what about people like Hillary Clinton? Hillary is a rather feminine-sounding name and she's an attorney that seems to have advanced her career quite nicely. Well, of course, we know in research these things happen; they're called outliers. Malcolm Gladwell even wrote a book about it.
Coffey himself is convinced of the consequences of this study and as a result. Harris reports that he and his wife named their daughter Collins. Beyond the legal field, the article points out that author JK Rowling opted for her initials on her books rather than her female-sounding name (Joanne) to help increase readership among boys. Female scientists have been known to do the same thing – they sometimes use their initials on papers to avoid an overtly feminine-sounding name.
Of course we could discuss the larger societal need to address sexism, but that could take awhile. In the meantime, the best baby names for girls should have some gender-neutrality to them … at least if you want them to grow up to be judges.