Married Names for Women: A Career 'I Don't'?

Last Updated Apr 29, 2010 5:03 PM EDT

For many newlyweds, choosing a surname can be more complicated than selecting a china pattern. Many of us have broken with Western tradition by hyphenating, bifurcating or blending our last names. (At my house, we have one Tobin; one Rothenberg; and a pair of Tobin Rothenbergs, not counting the pets.)

How do these choices affect the job prospects of women who would historically be expected to take their husbands' names? According to a recent study by social psychologists at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, women who adopted their partners' names were perceived by test subjects as "more caring, more dependent, less intelligent, more emotional and less competent" than peers who kept their own surnames.

And how could that affect hiring decisions? In one part of the study, 50 participants were asked to judge a female candidate for an HR manager position based on an e-mail and assess her potential salary. If told the sender had taken her partner's name, participants judged the candidate less likely to be hired. Furthermore, they pegged her salary at 861 euros (about $1,140) less than a candidate who retained her maiden name.

While the researchers themselves caution that further study is required, their findings suggest that professional women should consider the influence of a name change on their personal brand -- at least in Holland.
  • Matthew TheLadders

    Matthew Rothenberg is editor-in-chief for TheLadders, the world's leading online service catering exclusively to the $100K+ job market. In addition to traditional job search services, TheLadders.com also provides a host of specialized career development resources. Previously he worked at Ziff Davis Media, ZDNet, CNET, and Hachette Filipacchi.

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