Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It's All in a Name

So what should you name yourself at work? Ambiguously, seems to be the advice of a woman called Josephine who calls herself Finn at work. Once she changed her alias at work she started to receive a different type of email that contained different insights into how the business worked, and gain insight into the back channel where the real insights get discussed on the future of the company or who's who. This is one of the insights from an article by Sylvia Ann Hewlett.

Now one problem with this strategy is with the advent of social technologies that reveal more about us. I love the feature we have at work that allows me to view the photos of people on an email thread or invited to a meeting. At a quick glance I can see who is who, or use to recall who said what in a meeting. Some people love the tool to disambiguate names so they know the gender of whom they're engaging with - why do they do that? sometimes curiosity, and sometimes to refer to that person as he or she in mail. It's complicated.

The question is long term will social technologies aid the gender gap or keep repositioning the gap. I like using facebook and linkedin as it formalizes relationships as people grow their lists of friends, but to me now I have a set of people to reach out to who invited me to their networks. I've been invited by all types of people whom I wouldn't have thought would have considered me a friend.

So while the focus group research offers the advantages of a gender neutral name, it's going to be harder to leverage that strategy in the future.

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