gender

What's in a name change

April 26, 2011 at 2:20 PM ET

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Most women probably assume that the decision whether or not to take your husband’s name is a personal one, but new research suggests it might also affect their chances of landing a job, as well as how much they are paid.

A woman who changes her name when she gets married is less likely to get hired and is assumed to make less money than a woman who keeps her name, according to the researchers at Tilburg University in the Netherlands.

The Dutch researchers also found that married women who keep their maiden names were viewed as more competent and intelligent than those who take their husband’s name. On the other hand, women who changed their names were more likely to be viewed as caring, dependent, emotional and less ambitious.

For the 2010 study, called “What’s in a Name?”, the researchers asked 90 students to imagine that they have been invited to a party where they were either introduced to a married couple as Peter Bosboom and Helga Kuipers or Peter and Helga Kuipers.

The students were then asked to judge Helga on certain attributes. The Helga who had the same name as her husband was deemed more caring, dependent and emotional, while the Helga who had a different name was deemed more competent and intelligent.

In another part of the study, 50 students were asked to evaluate an applicant for a human resources position based on an e-mail that also included information about whether she had taken her partner’s name.

The applicant who had changed her name was deemed more dependent and less ambitious and less intelligent than the one who had kept her name. She also had a lower chance of being hired and received a lower estimated salary.

The findings are eye-opening, but it’s hard to know how extensive the real-world implications are. As SmartMoney noted in a piece on the research earlier this week, the researchers polled students rather than hiring managers. The researchers also note that prospective employers may not know a woman has changed her name.

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