You're Less Likely To Get Paid Well If You Have One Of These Names

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Stressed Businesswoman

© michaeljung / Adobe Stock

AnnaMarie Houlis
AnnaMarie Houlis
July 14, 2024 at 1:10PM UTC
A recent global survey by job site Adzuna revealed that the highest-earning female name, Liz, typically earns more than $30,000 less than the highest-earning male name, Ed. Specifically, Liz earns a salary of about $52,000 on average, while Ed earns about $82,000.
In fact, the first female name to appear on the list of the highest-earning names ranks in 317th place, which clearly exposes the gender pay gap that adversely affects women.
Enter: The Name Game.
The job search engine’s ValueMyName tool took first name and data salary from half a million résumés to provide an average salary for 1,200 first name, and they found that nine out of 10 of the lowest-earning names are female. These names included Paige, Chelsea and Bethany.
A wealth of research suggests that your name could make or break your career. While the aforementioned survey suggests that having a female name might earn you less, we also know that having an uncommon female name might earn you less and make you less likely to be hired. A 1986 Marquette University study found that names that are viewed as the least unique are more likable and, therefore, people with common names are more likely to be hired; on the contrary, people with uncommon names are least likely to be hired. This may be because, if you’re a younger woman with an uncommon name, people tend to associate you with criminal activity. That’s according to a 2009 study carried out at Shippensburg University.
Moreover, if you’ve got an uncommon female name that’s difficult to pronounce, chances are that you’ll be less likely to get hired and, if you do, you may just earn less and people may not like you quite as much. A New York University study found that individuals with easier-to-pronounce names are often afforded higher-status opportunities. Adam Alter, one of the study’s psychologists, has put it this way: “When we can process a piece of information more easily, when it’s easier to comprehend, we come to like it more.”
And we can keep going. Having an uncommon female name that’s difficult to pronounce and doesn’t sound white means you might earn less and people might not like you as much, but none of that matters if you can’t get a job; you’ll be the least likely to get hired. A 2014 study published on the American Economic Association found that white-sounding names like Emily Walsh and Greg Baker got nearly 50 percent more callbacks than candidates with black-sounding names such as Lakisha Washington and Jamal Jones. The researchers actually concluded that having a white-sounding name is worth as much as eight years of experience.
Let that all sink in.
But don’t sweat the name game too much — there are some steps you can take to stem the tides, or you might just want to considering quitting your job to get paid more. You know, because this is your burden to bear, not systematic sexism...
For example, apparently, using your middle initial makes people think you’re more competent. The European Journal of Social Psychology published findings that using a middle initial actually increases people’s perceptions of your intellectual capacity and performance. This, in other words, makes you sound smarter. How do the researchers know? They asked students to rate essays with one of four styles of author names and, not only did the ones with middle initials receive top reviews, but the ones with the most initials actually received the most rave reviews.
But don’t just use your initial; use your whole name — that’s what successful female CEOs are doing, anyway. In a 2011 LinkedIn study, researchers realized that the most common names of female CEOs include Deborah, Cynthia and Carolyn, and these women used their full names unlike men in the same positions. The researchers posit that using one's full names projects professionalism.
If all else fails, go to court and obtain an order from a judge to change your birth certificate and other documents to represent the noblest of names. Well, at least your last name will need to be noble. In a study of German names and ranks within companies, published on SAGE Journals, researchers found that individuals with last names such as Kaiser (which means emperor) or König (king) occupied more managerial positions than those with last names like Koch (cook) or Bauer (farmer).
As for your first name, it doesn’t have to be quite as drastic. But if you’re a woman with a gender-neutral or more masculine name in male-dominated fields such as engineering and law, you’ll fare a lot better. You just don’t want to be a woman in a male-dominated field with a feminine name — especially a woman in a male-dominated field with an uncommon, hard-to-pronounce, black-sounding feminine name.
Because that’s logical, right? 
Here's a better idea: Let's all stop name-shaming, shall we?
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at by night.

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