Call Me Bruce

Women in the legal profession with more masculine-sounding names, like Cameron or Kelly, have better odds of becoming judges than women with feminine names, according to a new study by Bentley Coffey and Patrick McLaughlin (gated; abstract here). The study focused on women in South Carolina, but as an ABA Journal article reports, it may support the general theory that women with masculine names have more successful law careers. One of the study’s authors was so convinced by the results that he named his daughter Collins. Paul Caron at the Tax Prof blog and Carolyn Elefant at Legal Blog Watch offer some counterarguments: Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Ginsburg, Sandra O’Connor, and Mary Ann Cohen, to name a few. [%comments]


Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.



View All Comments »
  1. Ira says:

    This obviously begs the question how would a man named “Sue” fair in South Carolina politics?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  2. di says:

    I wonder if Orangejello and Lemonjello would hire a female lawyer with a masculine name…

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  3. Mike says:

    Before I go naming my daughter Bruce or something, is there any research to show that females with mascunline-sounding names are any HAPPIER than females with feminine-sounding names? I don’t want to predispose my daughter to having a small leg up in her career, I want to predispose her to having a small leg up in achieving happiness.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  4. Anna says:

    This seems less like sexism in the workplace rather than sexism among voters: voters generally aren’t familiar with any judges on the ticket, so they go with the more “masculine” names because they assume they are men.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. Micah says:

    I don’t know if there is hard evidence to this, but anecdotally in Minnesota, nearly every contested judicial election where one candidate is male and the other is female, the female tends to win. Is it a regional thing? Is it just that Minnesotans are more progressive-minded toward women on the bench?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  6. Susan says:

    Not having read the various arguments cited- it would seem that when one is looking for tokens (i.e., the first woman Supreme Court justice, the first Latino, the only current female justice, etc.), then having an obviously female name would be an asset.

    But in the day to day world, you may have a statistical advantage to be on a list of names of candidates and have a name that could be taken for male. That would bring less attention to your gender, and fewer reasons for misogynists to go look for reasons to oppose your nomination. Of course, then you might be mistakenly passed over in that search for the token.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  7. Anonymous says:

    Is it a causation (gender bias) or correlation

    members of families that like more masculine names are likely to have traits that also make them more likely to succeed in a certain type of work.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  8. Cory says:

    I’m a lawyer and I’ve been sentenced with a name that, roughly translated, means “washed up 80’s teen star.”

    Looking back, I should have started going by my middle name in law school.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0