Girls with “feminine names” are less likely to study advanced math or physics, new research concludes. Abigail, Lauren and Ashley, considered less feminine names by the researchers, are more likely to study high-level math and physics than their sisters with the more feminine names of Anna, Elizabeth and Emma.
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.
Researcher David Figlio, a University of Florida economics professor, blamed stereotyping.
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.
Gene Expression questions the sample size. There are a lot fewer girls with “unfeminine” names such as Alex, Abigail and Grace.
I wonder about the decision that Elizabeth is feminine but Ashley is not. If we were comparing “Brandi” to her twin sister “Morgan,” I could see the difference. Is “Emma” more feminine than “Emily?”