Boys’ Names for Girls: A Key To Success?

Boys’ Names for Girls: A Key To Success?

Will giving your daughter a masculine name — as Heidi Klum and Seal did with their newborn daughter Lou — increase her odds for career success?

It might if she goes into the legal profession, according to a new study.  Women with masculine names make more money as lawyers than those with feminine names and are more likely to be appointed to judgeships, say researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina.

Not only that, but the more masculine the name, the better.  A woman named Kelly has a five percent greater chance of becoming a judge than a Sue, while Cameron’s odds are tripled and a female Bruce’s are quintupled.

The researchers rated each name’s masculinity by comparing the number of females versus males with that name in the state.  They also controlled for income and class, given that masculine-sounding names are more often used for girls in South Carolina by upper class parents.

Even given the controls, female lawyers with masculine names earned more money and rose to judgeships more often than their counterparts named Melissa and Amanda.

Does this mean that parents mindful of their daughters’ future career success should choose more masculine names?  Yes and no.  Remember, this is the legal profession in the south we’re talking about – in other words, a conservative milieu — and female lawyers who rose through the career ranks in a comparatively more sexist time.  More expansive views of women in decades to come will undoubtedly help girls named Emma gain credibility as easily as those named Emerson.

But the author of the study was reportedly so swayed by the results that he named his own baby daughter Collins.

In case you’re of similar mind, feminine names with masculine nicknames do the trick: Samantha to Sam or Ashley to Ash, for example.

For full names that are used for both boys and girls, we decided to construct a masculinity index of our own, dividing the number of boys who got the name in recent years by number of girls. (In most cases we used 2008 statistics, but in a few cases we used the numbers for the decade so far.)  The higher the number, the more boys currently get the name compared with girls; in the case of fractions, more girls than boys get the name.

A couple of notes: We did not factor spelling variations into our quotient, which can skew the results and also make a name seem more feminine (Rylee) or masculine (Jaden).  Also, the changing gender identity of many names means that a girls’ name that seems boyish today might seem anything but by the time your newborn gets to law school.

Even if you’re not figuring your daughter’s chances at a judgeship or even naming a girl, this index might come in useful in judging a name’s comparative gender identity.

DYLAN – 20.36

LOGAN – 18.87

DEVON – 11.2

JAYDEN – 9.08

CAMERON – 7.90

ANGEL – 4.92

ZION – 3.68

JORDAN – 3.28

HAYDEN – 2.22

PHOENIX – 1.75

SKYLER – 1.70

ROWAN – 1.61

DAKOTA – 1.27

JUSTICE – 1.18

RILEY – 0.71

PEYTON – 0.67

FINLEY – 0.57

EMERSON – 0.50

AVERY – 0.30

ALEXIS – 0.24

HARPER – 0.22

LONDON – 0.22

KENDALL – 0.16

MORGAN – 0.13

BAILEY – 0.07

What do YOU think about this issue? Do you believe that girls with boyish names have a better chance of success, and would you give your daughter a masculine names to improve her career prospects?  Let us know!

About the Author

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond is the cocreator and CEO of Nameberry and Baby Name DNA. The coauthor of ten groundbreaking books on names, Redmond is an internationally-recognized baby name expert, quoted and published widely in such media outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Today Show, CNN, and the BBC. She has written about baby names for The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, and People.

Redmond is also a New York Times bestselling novelist whose books include Younger, the basis for the hit television show, and its sequel, Older. She has three new books in the works.