Recently, I met for the first time an International Researcher (IR) in a field similar to mine. Our fields of research are just different enough that somehow the years went by without our ever actually meeting or even seeing each other in person. The IR was shocked upon meeting me, and said so; i.e., words to the effect of “You aren’t ANYTHING like I thought you would be.” I don’t think I had any particular pre-meeting mental image of what this IR would look like, but I was curious about why I was apparently so different from expected. Was it the usual thing involving my dumb blonde hair or my young-for-my-age appearance? No, as it turns out. It didn’t even have anything to do with my appearance. When we first met, the IR and I had a friendly conversation, and we were both laughing about something or other, after which came the statement about my being different from expected The IR thought that, based on my NAME, I would be “snooty”, serious, perhaps even unfriendly, and would have no sense of humor.
I have a very ordinary name.
Of course I asked what about my name was so unfriendly, thinking perhaps one of my names signified something dire in the IR’s native language, but no, it was just a random impression by the IR, based on nothing in particular. We laughed about it, and that was that.
I was thinking about names this week because it turns out that I am involved in a research project with a young woman with a ‘cute’ name – a name like Kandi or Brandi or Muffy or Coco. When I first heard her name, I thought to myself “And I think I have trouble being taken seriously..” At least I have a serious (perhaps too serious) name.
There are studies about the effect of names on later professional success. I am very curious to know what her parents were thinking when they gave her that name. Are they surprised she turned out to be a scientist? Is she ever tempted to use a middle name (assuming it is not a Kandi/Brandi kind of name as well), or does she enjoy surprising people and turning their assumptions upside down when they find out what she does for a living? I think it’s great -- she is kind of a pioneer for cute-named career women of the world, and for every woman scientist who doesn’t fit the lingering stereotypes about Scientists.
8 months ago