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]


Ira

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

di

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

Mike

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.

Anna

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.

Micah

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?

Susan

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.

Anonymous

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.

Cory

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.

Peter

Almost all the women serving in Congress or as state governors have conventionally female-sounding names. In the Senate, for example, the women are Barbara (x2), Dianne, Patty, Kay (x2), Olympia, Susan, Mary, Blanche, Maria, Debbie, Lisa, Amy, Claire, Jeanne, and Kirsten.

TsaiCMS

Given how humans have mostly lived in a male dominating society for ages, and mostly continues to be this way today, this "discovery" or theory may turn out to be true. Not placing myself in any side of the argument, but most men believe that men would do a better job in any profession involving the law. This may not increase or decrease the opportunity of becoming judges, but here is an example: when communication is done via mail, male tend to show more respect, out of fear, to males. Masculine names may lead to think that the judges are males, so they treat the matter with more respect and/or more carefully. Once they realize the judge is a woman it might be already too late to pull back all the hard work, and turns out that the judge is not a bad one after all. Then these lawyers simply respect the female job for her outstanding job, spreading the word to their coworkers.

I believe that this point is important to the fact that females with more masculine names have a higher chance of becoming judges.

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We've defiantly overcome the sexism era we used to live a few years ago. It's no news that men used to dominate the world out of the household by the only ones allowed to work or vote. The truth is that the world has evolved, and our perception towards women has changed in the modern world. I believe its nonsense that women with masculine names tend to have more successful career. It might be coincidental that such women apply more effort to they're career, but women with every kind of name has the same chance of becoming a judge. Just take at look at women working in men's job, such as firewomen, policewomen and even run for president. This clearly demonstrates that he have overcome sexism, and doesn't play a part in our lives. It all comes up to their human capital and how much her opportunity benefits prevails their opportunity costs of studying and practicing law. These kinds of articles might give disincentive to women trying to pursue a law career. It proves to her that they might not have a chance in becoming a judge and therefore making her reason that she might still live in a sort of sexist era.

P.S.--- I think that women should be judge by their reputation and skills not their name. And no you don't have to name your daughter Bruce.

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Wlad

Gut feelings and a few counter-arguments ALWAYS triumph over statistical evidence.

Becase the truth is tough to bear.

I would remind everybody writing rubbish here that there is a section in Freakonomics on names given to children.

BSK

AngelPenaCMS-

Do you REALLY think we've completely overcome sexism? Are you also going to state we've overcome racism now that we have a PoC in the White House?

YX

Of the 4 counter example, only Mary is a legitimate feminine name.

Craig

I wonder if anyone has tried the opposite of this study -- what happens to men with names that could be feminine (Tracy, Kelly, etc.)?

Adriane

As a woman in a technical field I have to say names do matter. A non-gendered or even a masculine name may not be an advantage per-se, but I agree that an overly feminine first name may be a disadvantage. My own favorite example is a woman I went to school with whose Christian and surname combined to the adorably sweet name of "Candy Sherbet." Oh so cute on a three year old, but maybe not so good on a resume. Judge Judy vs Judge Sunshine?

For contrast, look at the names of successful adult entertainment stars.

But of course, I live in South Carolina - where the paper was written.

We've defiantly overcome the sexism era we used to live a few years ago. It's no news that men used to dominate the world out of the household by the only ones allowed to work or vote. The truth is that the world has evolved, and our perception towards women has changed in the modern world. I believe its nonsense that women with masculine names tend to have more successful career. It might be coincidental that such women apply more effort to they're career, but women with every kind of name has the same chance of becoming a judge. Just take at look at women working in men's job, such as firewomen, policewomen and even run for president. This clearly demonstrates that he have overcome sexism, and doesn't play a part in our lives. It all comes up to their human capital and how much her opportunity benefits prevails their opportunity costs of studying and practicing law. These kinds of articles might give disincentive to women trying to pursue a law career. It proves to her that they might not have a chance in becoming a judge and therefore making her reason that she might still live in a sort of sexist era.

P.S.--- I think that women should be judge by their reputation and skills not their name. And no you don't have to name your daughter Bruce.

Read more...