On social media, it is easy for some of us to mistaken a stranger’s gender based on the name, especially if it is ambiguous (e.g. Leslie, Lee, Sam) or foreign (e.g. Jeh-Di Lee, Amitava Patel, René Dumont). Even massage educator Whitney Lowe wrote on Facebook recently that “young” people tend to mistaken him for a woman when they first meet online. Some people, however, intentionally chose a name that is usually used by the opposite gender.

Plant scientist, Dr.“Marion Morrison,” who works at an American university, shared why he chose to use “Marion” professionally. (Real name has been changed and university location not disclosed due to “Marion’s” request.)

“I have a unique name that causes confusion as to what my gender is and it has given me a unique insight into the struggles that women face online and in the workplace. To be clear, I am a big burly bearded white male (see attached pic) but often it is assumed I am a female due to my name. Early in my career as a scientist, I experienced a hard time finding a job and I am convinced that my perceived gender played a role in this. To give a specific example, I applied for a lab tech position as I was finishing my BS.

“At that point I had two years of lab experience running experiments and had won two prestigious research fellowships funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Since the job was at a university, I had to fill out an online application that included a gender question. The professor I worked for also wrote a letter of recommendation using gender-specific pronouns (he, him, etc.). I didn’t get the position and got a letter telling me of my rejection saying that after carefully examining my application they decided that I was not qualified for the position. The ironic thing is they addressed the letter to a Ms. [Marion Morrison]. One such experience can be dismissed as a fluke. They already had another candidate, etc. However, another male without any lab experience outside of classes was hired for the position and this was not the only time this happened (at least a couple of dozen times over the years). It happened a lot early in my career and has tapered off with time as I became known in my sub-field (though it still happens on occasion).

“I have also noticed how people treat me online differs based on whether or not my perceived gender. I used to think that ‘mansplaining’ was something dreamt up by ‘feminazis’ (not at all an accurate or polite term but I was young and inexperienced at the time) . Then I got ‘mansplained’ to online and had to re-evaluate my position on the matter. Again the clincher, the guy was wrong in what he was saying and my evidence backed it up but it didn’t matter because as a ‘woman’ I was naive and didn’t understand how things actually work. To say I was upset is an understatement…

“It can be hard to recognize privilege if you have always had it. I’ve been ‘lucky’ in that I haven’t had the continuous white hetero male privilege in all my dealings. I have an empathy for those who struggle and try to make it in science (and life). I work with another postdoc who should absolutely have her own lab, but because of her sex she has to have twice the papers as a male would. There is a ‘fun’ tool called the PI predictor that predicts the chances of someone becoming a principle investigator (running a lab) found here: http://www.pipredictor.com/. It is based on the number of papers, years active, the impact factor of the journals, and the sex. If you take a woman’s PubMed ID and run them as both a male and a female, the male version always has a higher chance of becoming a PI. I did it with my friend’s info and she just said yep when I told her about it.

“And finally, as a father I want both my son and my daughter to grow up respecting the other sex and succeed in life. I especially don’t want my daughter to have to experience the ugliness that I have (just based on the perception of my gender). So what can we do as men and women to combat this and bridge the gap between the sexes as we strive towards equality.”

So as massage therapists and other healthcare professional, has your name ever affected you professionally or how the public perceive you?