Monday, June 17, 2013

Your Professional Name vs. Childhood Nickname

Call me Pammy or Pamela? I find that many young women, including myself, start introducing themselves by different names as they progress through their career.  I believe this name change is a way professional women choose to exert a powerful, mature persona.  Some of my male peers have also changed their name, but I feel more young women experience this dilemma than men.

For example, my entire life I have been called Pammy, and I actually really like being called that. However, as I started growing into my career, I really started to feel insecure about my name. Interestingly, even though I worked for extremely feminist supervisors, early on in my career, two female supervisors insisted I start calling myself Pamela. I actually don't like Pamela, and moreover  when people presumptuously shorten that to Pam without asking, I especially hate being called that. I have always been Pammy, it's just who I am.  I have never known this Pamela person.

So after about two years after college, I started introducing myself as Pamela.  I felt I looked very young, so it couldn't hurt to have an older sounding name.  I wanted to command respect by senior colleagues. I wanted to show them that I could play at their level.  But it was weird because colleagues I had met earlier in my career who first knew me as Pammy still called me that, but others called me Pamela.  In my last job, all the older women on the board knew me as Pamela, but I preferred having my staff who were young women call me Pammy. I also hate that sometimes people get confused by all this and I definitely don't want to make them feel awkward.

Why do we do this?  I can't help thinking of the song from Britney Spears, "I'm not a girl, not yet a woman." Similar to the last post about attire, overcoming the barrier of age can be a potentially difficult challenge for young women climbing the career ladder to navigate. I still introduce myself as Pammy to new people I meet socially. I'm still uncomfortable with being called Pamela.  Sometimes I debate whether I should just "own it," and start branding myself as Pammy across the board and introduce myself as that to everyone, regardless of their age or the social context in which we met. Couldn't that potentially be a unique way of reclaiming and standing on my own rather than just conforming?  I'm still thinking about this so I'll keep you posted! 

1 comment:

  1. Great reflection Pammy! I have never had to struggle with this but have witnessed this play out with some friends. I personally do not think there is anything unprofessional or immature sounding about the name "Pammy." I think those attributes are most directly related to confidence, ability to articulate, intelligence, the way in which we address others etc. And you have always excelled in all those areas.
    Another thought: do you think there are parallels here with the reality that most immigrants change their names after coming to North America? More to reflect on.... Andrea xo