Want A Better Science Job? Get A Man's Name

Further proof we're a long way from equality in the workplace: science faculty staff show a clear bias towards hiring male applicants for a lab manager position. The potential radical solution? Choose a name which isn't self-evidently male or female.

Picture by Adam Berry/Getty Images

PNAS reports on an experiment in which 127 science faculty staff were asked to assess a job application which was identical save for a randomly assigned male or female name. "Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant," the study found. "These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant." That difference was evident regardless of whether the assessor was male or female.

Clearly, we need a change in attitude, but in the short term, the most obvious way I can think of to work around this bias would be to pick a name (either for yourself and your kids) that can be used for both males and females: Leigh, Michael, James. Yes, that's extreme, but why let bias get in the way of your career?

Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students [Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences]


    I have never met a girl named James, that's like naming your girl Boris.

    Since when were Michael and James unisex names??

    My simple answer: When in job-hunting mode, I go by (First initial) (Middle name that is an ancestor's family name) (Family name).

    I've had similar resumes out on career sites with both my first name and the above naming conventionk, and the latter got noticeably more hits. SERIOUSLY. It was disconcerting how many more hits it got.

    This also challenges a potential employer's Google Fu in researching who I am beyond what I wish to tell them, until they've expressed enough interest to ask to speak with me or ask me to fill out an application.

    So um... how does one "choose a name"? I don't know many employers that would be impressed when they found out you used a fake name in the application process. I certainly wouldn't.

      You can change your name, legally.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now