What’s in a title? A lot! Six tips to avoid undermining women

Why are female doctors introduced by first name while men are called ‘Doctor’?

This provocative headline was on a Washington Post article over a year ago that featured two women physicians at the Mayo Clinic who had noticed that their male colleagues were usually introduced at conferences as “Doctor So-and-so.” But the two women and other female doctors were often introduced by their first names, when the person introducing them was a man.

Is this a big deal?  Yes, I believe it is. And it is still happening.   

On a recent weekend I was on a plane where the captain introduced himself to the passengers this way: “This is Captain Jones. And I’m assisted today by Erica.” It seemed clear from his introduction that “Erica” was the first officer on the flight, or the co-pilot. 

How people address you and what you call yourself really do matter. Names – and titles – have power. Names and titles may confer dignity, or take it away. They influence how you are perceived, and whether people take you seriously.

Though unequal introductions may not be on the same level as eliminating sexual harassment or the gender pay-gap, they do constitute a communication concern with negative implications for women. Denying professionals the prestige that a title conveys is a subtle way of undermining them, even if it is unintentional.

Which of these people would you take more seriously, or believe was more competent: “Dr. Tom Jones” or “Sally Smith”? It seems obvious that it would be the person with the title, because that testifies to his training and professionalism.

Both men and women can benefit from the following suggestions about names and titles. They will help you to stop negatively influencing others’ perceptions of women, even inadvertently. These tips also apply when you are writing emails.

1. Use a woman’s title. Some organizations are very informal with names, but if professional titles are typically used in your organization, refer to women by theirs, such as Dr. (Sally) Jones.

2. Be consistent with your use of titles. Use professional titles equally for both men and women. If you are mentioning a man by his title, such as Doctor Jones or Professor Smith, refer to a woman the same way. This is valid whether you are giving a speaker introduction, introducing someone to other people at the office or in social situations, or simply mentioning people in informal discussions.

3. Refer to friends and colleagues by their titles when in business settings. You may have a great relationship with Dr. Jones and use her first name when you are together. When you are with other people, however, you should refer to her by her title. You are recognizing her achievement in front of others. If you do not do this, you are establishing a norm that tells people it’s okay for them to call her by her first name. And that may not be the case. (This also applies to men.)

4. Be consistent with the honorific ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ This is similar to the second item. If you say or write, “Mr. Williams,” do the same for the woman, “Ms. Jones.” This conveys a level of respect for both parties. You do not want to say something like, “Mr. Williams and Karen went to the meeting.” In an informal setting you might also use first names for both, such as “Tom and Karen went to the meeting.”  

5. Refer to women in the workplace as ‘women.’ Businessmen aren’t referred to as boys; businesswomen shouldn’t be referred to as girls. The words “girls” and “boys” indicate children. I know, I know, you are going to say that it’s intended as a compliment, or it’s a way of expressing camaraderie, as in “girls’ night out” or “the girls I work with in the office.” But ultimately it fosters a less-professional image for women.  

6. Do not refer to a woman by a nickname or shorter form of her first name —unless you are asked to do so. Children are often called by nicknames. And many shortened names do not have the same standing as full names. My name is Barbara. Do not call me “Barb,” and definitely not “Barbie.” This situation can be tricky. Sometimes people, especially high-power people, will use their nicknames to seem friendly and more approachable. Christine Todd Whitman, the first woman governor of New Jersey and former head of the EPA, will often refer to herself as Christie Whitman. (Her current website is www.christiewhitman.com.)

Men also can be influenced by shortened names. According to a story about basketball legend Michael Jordan on the CBS show 60 Minutes some years ago, he went from being called “Mike Jordan” to “Michael Jordan” after he scored the winning basket in the 1982 NCAA championship game.

Start paying attention to your word choices. Though you may not be doing everything mentioned here, you may be surprised at how you refer to women. Additional information on communication can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.

I post regularly on communication and etiquette.  We can connect via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and my website: www.pachter.com

About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence. (bpachter@pachter.com

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What’s in a title? A lot — especially for women

Why are female doctors introduced by first name while men are called ‘Doctor’?

This provocative headline was on a Washington Post article a few years ago that featured two women physicians at the Mayo Clinic who had noticed that their male colleagues were usually introduced at conferences as “Doctor So-and-so.” But the two women and other female doctors were often introduced by their first names, when the person introducing them was a man.

Last year, I heard the pilot of my flight introduce himself using his title of captain, but then introduce his co-pilot by her first name only.

And most recently a Wall Street Journal opinion piece by Joseph Epstein made minimizing remarks about Jill Biden’s use of her title “Dr.”, including the comment: Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name? “Dr. Jill Biden” sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic.

Is the use of titles a big deal? Yes. I believe it is. 

How people address you and what you call yourself really do matter. Names – and titles – have power. Names and titles may confer dignity, or take it away. They influence how you are perceived, and whether people take you seriously.

Though the problem of unequal introductions may not be on the same level as eliminating sexual harassment or the gender pay-gap, it is a communication concern with negative implications for women.

Denying professionals the prestige that a title conveys is a subtle way of undermining them.

Whom would you take more seriously, or believe was more competent: “Dr. Tom Jones” or “Sally Smith”? It seems obvious that it would be the person with the title, because that testifies to his training and professionalism.

The following six suggestions on use of titles and names will help you stop negatively influencing others’ perception of women, even inadvertently. These tips apply for both men and women, and to writing emails.  

1. Be consistent with your use of titles. Use professional titles equally for both men and women. If you are mentioning a man by his title, such as Doctor Jones or Professor Smith, refer to a woman the same way. This is valid whether you are giving a speaker introduction, introducing someone to other people at the office or in social situations, or simply mentioning people in informal discussions.

2. Use a woman’s title. Some organizations are very informal with names, but if professional titles are typically used in your organization, refer to women by theirs, such as Dr. (Sally) Jones.

3. Refer to friends/colleagues by their titles when in business settings. You may have a great relationship with Dr. Jones and use her first name when you are together. When you are with other people, however, you should refer to her by her title. You are recognizing her achievement in front of others. If you do not do this, you are establishing a norm that tells people it’s okay for them to call her by her first name. And that may not be the case. (This also applies to men.)

4. Be consistent with the honorific ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ This is similar to the first item. If you say or write, “Mr. Williams,” do the same for the woman, “Ms. Jones.” This conveys a level of respect for both parties. You do not want to say something like, “Mr. Williams and Karen went to the meeting.” In an informal setting you might also use first names for both, such as “Tom and Karen went to the meeting.”  

5. Refer to women in the workplace as ‘women.’ Businessmen aren’t referred to as boys; businesswomen shouldn’t be referred to as girls. The words “girls” and “boys” indicate children. I know, I know, you are going to say that it’s intended as a compliment, or it’s a way of expressing camaraderie, as in “girls’ night out” or “the girls I work with in the office.” But ultimately it fosters a less-professional image for women.  

6. Don’t use a woman’s nickname or shorter form of her first name —unless you know it is okay to do so or are asked to do so. Children are often called by nicknames. And many shortened names do not have the same standing as full names. My name is Barbara. Do not call me “Barb,” and definitely not “Barbie.” This situation can be tricky. Sometimes people, especially high-power people, will use their nicknames to seem friendly and more approachable. Christine Todd Whitman, the first woman governor of New Jersey and former head of the EPA, will often refer to herself as Christie Whitman. (Her current website is www.christiewhitman.com.)

Men also can be influenced by shortened names. According to a story about basketball legend Michael Jordan on the CBS show 60 Minutes a few years ago, he went from being called “Mike Jordan” to “Michael Jordan” after he scored the winning basket in the 1982 NCAA championship game.

(Note: At the beginning of my blog I didn’t refer to the author of the WSJ article as Joe or Joey Epstein. I used Joseph Epstein–giving him some measure of respect, which he seemingly didn’t want to give the First Lady-elect.)

Start paying attention to your word choices. You may be surprised at how you have been referring to women. Additional information on communication can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.

 

*This is a repost of a previous blog. It has been updated.

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, professional presence, and presentation skills. Contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com for more information (www.pachter.com)  

 

 

 

The Sunday Brief: Q1 earnings preview—setting expectations

Tax Day greetings from the middle of Texas (the iconic Underwood’s Cafeteria sign is pictured – it’s definitely a Texas thing) and from Davidson/ Lake Norman.  Feels good to be on the road again.  This week, we will divide our time between first quarter earnings preview for Verizon and AT&T (both scheduled to report this […]

The post The Sunday Brief: Q1 earnings preview—setting expectations appeared first on RCR Wireless News.

Women are being interrupted … again!

Yet another study shows women are interrupted more than men.  

A recent article in The New York Times, For Women in Economics, the Hostility Is Out in the Open, discusses a study reported last month that found when female economists presented their research findings, they were interrupted by audience members asking questions. The women received 12 percent more questions than men, and they were more likely to get questions that were patronizing or hostile.

Other examples of women being interrupted more than men include:

–A few years ago an article in the Harvard Business Review,  Female Supreme Court Justices are interrupted more by male justices and advocates, found that male justices interrupted female justices about three times as often as they interrupted each other during oral arguments. The research also found that “there is no point at which a woman is high-status enough not to be interrupted.”

–During a women’s communication seminar in Kuwait some years ago I commented that men interrupt women more than they interrupt other men. One of my students said, “Barbara, you’re right. You can see the American men interrupt the American women on your TV shows that we get here.” I was surprised that this gender bias was so obvious – but I really shouldn’t have been. 

When a woman is interrupted regularly with questions or comments (anyone can be interrupted occasionally), her credibility is being challenged, and her influence can certainly be minimized as a result.

The following suggestions can help women – and men – to manage interruptions assertively, whether people are asking unsolicited questions or interjecting unwanted comments during small meetings or large group presentations: 

Let people know when you will be taking questions. Either the speaker or the meeting organizer can tell people how the Q&A will be handled. Often the audience is asked to hold questions until the end – though this doesn’t mean everyone will do so! The Times article mentioned that “several universities have instituted rules meant to cut down on bad behavior, such as banning questions for the first 10 or 15 minutes of a talk so that speakers [economists] can get through at least the beginning of their presentations uninterrupted.”

Continue speaking. If you do so, the person trying to interrupt you often will stop talking. You may need to raise your volume a little to make sure the person hears you, but don’t shout.

Ask yourself: Are you making it easy for people to interrupt you?  Don’t underestimate the power of your nonverbal communication skills. Appear assertive – keep your body language open, and don’t cross your arms. Look at the audience. When you avoid looking at your audience, some members may feel emboldened to interrupt. Make sure you don’t move back when interrupted – it can make you appear fearful. Move towards audience members when you can. Check your rate of speech: Are you speaking too slowly, which allows others to jump in? Check your volume: Are you speaking loudly enough to have what you say come across authoritatively?

Defer answering, if the answer to the question will be explained later in your talk. Often, you can say, “I am going to hold off answering that question as I will be discussing that topic in a few minutes.” Of course, if the CEO asked the question, you may want to answer it right away!

Don’t be a puppet on your audience’s string. If the audience is shouting questions at you, make sure you repeat the question you are about to answer. If you don’t, you are being controlled by the audience as you try to field one question after another. When you take the time to repeat the question, you gain control – you decide which questions to address, and in what order. 

After you have answered someone’s question, do not ask, “Did that answer your question?” You could be setting yourself up, as the person may respond, “No.” And then what do you do? If the questioner wants more information, he or she will let you know – or seek you out later.

Additional information on how to make powerful presentations can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.    

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on communication, business writing, professional presence, and presentation skills. Contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com for more information. (www.pachter.com) 

 

In the beginning… Salutations set the tone for emails and letters

My name is spelled correctly in my signature block; why do so many people misspell it in the salutation? 

Only my good friends call me Bobby – my coworker should have used “Robert” or “Bob” in the salutation.

I hate reading an email that starts with “Good morning” when it is 9 o’clock at night. The writer has just highlighted that I am 12 hours behind in answering my emails. 

Unfortunately, the salutation – whether in an email or a letter – provides endless ways to upset your reader, as indicated by the comments above, from participants in my seminars. And if you offend someone in the first line, that person may not read any further.  

Effective salutations can help you connect with your reader, which is especially important during a pandemic. Here are suggestions for starting your correspondence without offense:

1. Spell the recipient’s name correctly. Let me repeat this: Spell the recipient’s name correctly. It may not bother you, but I want to impress upon you that many people are insulted if their name is misspelled. Check for the correct spelling in the person’s signature block. You can also check the “To:” line. Often, people’s first and/or last names are in their addresses.

2. Don’t shorten a person’s name or use a nickname unless you know it is okay. Use the person’s full name (“Hi, Jacob”) unless you know it is okay to call him Jake. My name is Barbara, but please don’t start your emails to me using “Hi Barb.” (And the only people who may refer to me as Babz are my son and his friends!)

3. Avoid “Dear Sir/Ms.” This salutation tells your reader that you have no idea who that person is. Why then should the reader be interested in what you have to say?  

4. Use a non-gender-specific, non-sexist term if you don’t know the person’s name. You can use Dear Client, Customer, or Team Member. You can also use Representative, and add it to any company name or department name, such as “Dear Microsoft Representative,” or “Dear Human Resource Representative.” 

5. Salutations are highly recommended in emails. Email doesn’t technically require a salutation, as it’s considered to be memo format. When email first appeared, many people did not use salutations. Eventually, people starting adding salutations to appear friendlier and to soften the tone of their writings.  

There is a hierarchy of greetings, from informal to formal, and you should match the salutation to the relationship you have with the recipient. The hierarchy follows this format: 

       Hi,   /   Hi Anna,   /   Hello,   /   Hello Julianna,   /   Dear Justin,   /   Dear Mr. Jones,

If the person you are writing to is a colleague, “Hi Anna,” should be fine.  If you don’t know the person, or the person has significantly higher rank than you have, you may want to use the more formal greeting: “Dear Justin,” or “Dear Mr. Jones.” 

In addition to the greeting, pay attention to these points:

–After two or three emails have gone back and forth on the same email string, the salutations can be dropped.

–The punctuation completing the greeting is a comma. 

–If more than one person will receive an email, use “Hello Sara and Bill,” or “Hello Everyone.” 

– “Hey” is a very informal salutation (“Hey Josh,” ) and generally should not be used in the workplace. Opening with “Yo” is definitely not okay, no matter how informal your relationship with the recipient. Use “Hi” or “Hello” instead.

–As illustrated in one of the opening quotes, there are people who don’t like receiving an email that starts with “Good morning” or “Good afternoon.” Although I believe this is a minor offense, using “Hello” instead eliminates the possibility of offending anyone.  

6. Salutations are required in letters. (Okay, there is one type of letter, the simplified format, that doesn’t require a salutation, but that’s not typical usage. The format is generally used for marketing.) In today’s workplace, a letter is a more formal type of correspondence, and should start with “Dear” followed by either the person’s first name and a colon – “Dear Marie:” – or an honorific and the person’s last name, followed by a colon – “Dear Mr. Jones:”. 

Additional information on writing emails can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on business writing, professional presence, business etiquette, and communication. Contact Joyce Hoff at joyce@pachter.com for more information. (www.pachter.com)