What's in a Name? A WAFF 48 News special report

By Monica Rix - bio | email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - What's in a name? For some, it's just a name. For others, it's an identity. For a woman, it can be changed when you're married.

Research suggests sometimes changing your name can have negative results, especially where you work.

"I'm ready to get married. I'm excited about it. I'm excited to be Telisha McNaughton," said Telisha Montgomery. In just three months, she's getting hitched.

"Got my dress, got my shoes, got my cake on Friday, going to the florist today. So, I'm on top of it. I'm not stressing!" she said.

But, she is anxious about one thing: her name change.

She's an elementary school teacher and says the biggest hurdle after the big day will be getting everyone used to a new name.

"The kids at school are probably going to be very confused because the first seven weeks, I'll be Ms. Montgomery, then I'll be Mrs. McNaughton. I'm the only unmarried teacher at school, so I'm already different. So, it's more like I'm in with the crowd now that I'm married," said Montgomery.

Ok, so it may not be too tough for teacher to make the switch, but what about women in other professions?

According to a recent study called "What's in a Name?," researchers found that women who take their partner's name are viewed a little differently at work. They're seen as more caring people. They're also considered less intelligent, less competent and less ambitious. They're also less likely to be hired for a job and even make less money than those who kept their own name.

"They're measuring perceptions," said Dr. Nancy Finley, director of Women's Studies at UAHuntsville.

Finley says while the study has merit, researchers are also picking up the fact that women who do change their names are slightly different demographically.

"They tend to marry at a younger age, have lower education and tend to have more children. And so because of that, it makes these women different and people may perceive that there are consequences in the workforce," she said.

But Finley also says it depends on a person's work ethic and their job.

Some women thrive with their partner's name, even create a new identity for themselves with a new last name.

Others prefer to keep their maiden names, especially if they've built their careers around them, like Finley. Her work has been published and says it would be lost if she changed her name.

"It's harder for people to find you and follow your work. I know people by their work, by their last name. I don't think names are unimportant, but they're not causal factors. They're not the thing that truly will indicate whether this person will be committed to their job. They're not the kind of things that say this person would make a good spouse. It's not the prime indicator of things," said Finley.

But whether or not a woman changes her name does matter in different cultures.

In Alabama, our bride-to-be says not changing your name feels a little taboo, saying women in the South tend to not think twice about the switch.

"I don't really look at it as I'm no longer independent. I'm just married. I'm still independent, but I'm married and I'm changing my name. I'm excited to be Mrs. McNaughton," said Montgomery.

So, what's in a name? You decide.

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