Written by Catie Holshouser ’22
Right now, I’m a student, so I don’t have an academic title like “Dr.” But when people address me, whether in passing or in a conversation, I appreciate it when they use my first name. It’s a small act of affirmation. I can imagine, then, that it might be important to someone with an academic title to be addressed as “Dr.” After all, it’s a nod to their professionalism and academic success. It also represents years of hard work and dedication. So, when I read the present study, I was surprised to learn that not all professionals are introduced with their full academic title. I was more surprised to learn how the results are representative of larger problems related to gender biases in academia.
The present study used video presentations from the 2017 and 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meetings to see how men and women introduced fellow speakers. A professional address included “Dr.” followed by either the speaker’s full name or “Dr.” followed by their last name. Researchers predicted that female speakers were more likely to be introduced informally compared to male speakers (Duma et al., 2019, p. 2).
781 videos were used from the 2017 and 2018 ASCO Annual Meetings. Researchers recorded gender for each speaker and introducer using names and other available information. The degree of the speaker was also recorded. 41% of the speakers were female, and 59% were male. Results showed that 62% of female speakers were professionally addressed compared to 81% of male speakers (Duma et al., 2019, p.3). Additionally, male introducers used a professional address 53% of the time when introducing female speakers and 80% of the time when introducing male speakers (Duma et al., 2019, p.3). Female introducers addressed speakers professionally regardless of the speaker’s gender (Duma et al., 2019, p.3).
The most surprising result when I read this was how differently male introducers addressed male and female speakers. I assumed that at such a professional event, everyone would be addressed in a professional way. If I, a student, am so mindful of the way I address people, then surely such advanced academics would be too. This summer, I’m researching how women’s representation in leadership has changed in clinical psychology. I’m using information from Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, an annual conference in clinical psychology, to help. After reading this study, I’m wondering: Are men and women addressed differently at the ABCT, too?
Small language choices matter. I am very careful about how I address professors at school. I pay close attention to how they introduce themselves and tend to resort to “Dr.” even if a professor allows students to address them informally. Language choices can be reflective of gender biases, and they also acknowledge or fail to acknowledge an important part of who someone is. The results of the study go beyond academia, too. How we address people in daily interactions and in our own relationships matters as well, whether or not someone has a particular title.
Duma, N., Durani, U., Woods, C.B., Fonkoua, L.A., Cook, J.M., Wee, C., Fuentes, H.E., Gonzalez-Velez, M., Murphy, M.C., Jain, S., Marshall, A.L., Graff, S.L., & Knoll, M.A. (2019). Evaluating unconscious bias: Speaker introductions at an international oncology conference. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 37(36),3538-3545. https://doi.org/10.1200/JCO.19.01608