I wonder about this often for two particular reasons:
I’m a brown woman with a weird name working in an industry where both brown women and weird names are uncommon. I’m always that awkward person in meetings who has to reintroduce herself. Surrounded by (mostly) white men, I often wonder if my career trajectory would be different if I was tall and white, and went by Amanda. Would people listen more closely when I spoke? Would my LinkedIn profile get more views? Would I slip more easily into dude-cliques? But these unanswered questions I can live with.
Where the name-determinism begins to feel more urgent is when I think about the consequences on my daughter. I’m almost six months pregnant and my husband and I have been going back and forth on names for what feels like forever. Should we give her a South Asian name that may not quite translate easily in the Western world just because we like its meaning? Or is it important that her name be representative of her heritage while still feeling international enough? Is uniqueness more valuable than an easy-to-pronounce name? Do I want to ensure that she never suffers from introduction-ignominy the way I have? Or do I want her to have a name that has a glorious, incredible backstory? And will she become inspired by that glorious backstory to achieve all the things we’ve envisioned for her?
When I think about the workplace of the future, I hope fervently for my daughter to go to work in an environment that is different from mine — one where diversity is the norm rather than the exception, and where women are found in leadership positions as often as men. And maybe in that workplace her name will no longer matter.