How to Use the Language of Success

How to Use the Language of Success

Patricia Friedrich

economy, Americas


A recent study shows that women were more likely to be introduced by their first names rather than by their titles.

If you work in medicine, does it matter if you are called by your title? Is it all right if patients, colleagues, and others call you by your first name?

The answer of course depends on whom you ask. However, for many doctors who are women, that is not necessarily the central concern. It is more worrying that they and their male counterparts receive different forms of address. Women are more often referred to by first name, even when the situation of communication is formal. The same does not happen to doctors who are men.

Women in medicine may wonder whether or not those variations in how they are addressed might have far-reaching consequences for their careers. Do they reflect a systematic difference in attitude?

As a linguist, writer, and professor who teaches mostly sociolinguistics content, I have always been fascinated by the ways in which we use language. Linguistic categories and beliefs can affect different areas of our lives.

When my colleagues and I became curious about the use of titles, we conducted a study. It is part of a number of efforts by researchers interested in the social aspects of gender in medical fields. Our study shows that women are indeed less often called “doctor” than their male equivalent, and by a large margin.

Informal feedback by online readers reveals that the practice leads to concerns about everything from career advancement to professional respect.

Not quite ‘little lady,’ but not quite right

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