Giving your daughter a ‘feminine’ name could turn her away from science!
Parents are being warned to think long and hard when choosing names for their babies as research has discovered that girls who are given very feminine names, such as Anna, Emma or Elizabeth, are less likely to study maths or physics after the age of 16, a remarkable study has found.
Both subjects, which are traditionally seen as predominantly male, are far more popular among girls with names such as Abigail, Lauren and Ashley, which have been judged as less feminine in a linguistic test. The effect is so strong that parents can set twin daughters off on completely different career paths simply by calling them Isabella and Alex, names at either end of the spectrum. A study of 1,000 pairs of sisters in the US found that Alex was twice as likely as her twin to take maths or science at a higher level.
Part of the reason is that names provide a powerful image of a person and influence people’s reactions to them. An Isabella is less likely to study maths, according to the theory, because people would not expect her to. ‘There are plenty of exceptions but, on average, people treat Isabellas differently to Alexes,’ commented David Figlio, professor of economics at the University of Florida and the author of the report. ‘Girls with feminine names were often typecast.’ Figlio pointed to the controversy that arose over the first talking Barbie’s phrase, ‘math is hard’. ‘It is a stereotype, and girls with particularly feminine names may feel more pressure to avoid technical subjects,’ he said. Not that they were any less capable. When the Isabellas, Annas and Elizabeths took on their tougher-named peers in science, they performed just as well. (link)