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How three scientists navigated the personal and career implications of a name change with marriage


For women who marry men, in 2019 this question still comes up: will you be taking your husband’s name?


It is no longer a legal requirement nor the default position for Australian women to take their partner’s name. But recent evidence suggests it’s still a common occurrence – the majority of Australian women make this choice.


As professional women, we’re interested in the question of how this decision impacts on identity and career progression.


Married, changed name, now divorced


Kate: As a younger bride, I had no real career established at the time of my wedding, and held the perception that a marriage is forever. I chose to change my name.


That marriage ended in divorce years later. By then I had published a number of scientific papers under my new name, and my career was well established. So I was faced with another name choice: keep and/or adjust my name, or switch back to my maiden name.


At the end of the day, it may appear trivial to some, but I have to be happy with who I am and with many years in my science career left. I have to be true to myself in needing my own form of name identity back.


I will be making the change: from Dr Kate Charlton-Robb to Dr Kate Robb. It is, after all, the name I identify with and want to be identified as.

我将做出改变:从Kate charton-Robb博士到Kate Robb博士。毕竟,它才是我认同并希望被认同的姓名。

Married, later reverted to maiden name


Tara: When I got engaged, I struggled with the concept of changing my name. Just like my partner, I liked my name. It was part of my identity, my origin, and I was proud of it.


There were questions from family members whenever the subject came up. Mainly, what would we call our children, and was I worried about divorce, given my mother had divorced twice? There were never demands, just the feeling of subtle pressure from parents and grandparents to conform to tradition. Eventually I relented and took my husband’s name.


Years later I started a PhD. I would be the author of a huge body of work. Something to be truly proud of, except it bothered me that it wasn’t really going to be in my own name.


Adding to this, I was simultaneously witnessing two close friends going through stressful divorces. Despite being happily married, as a child of divorce it is sometimes hard not to hold lingering fears.


So, with the support of my husband, I commenced the process of changing back to my birth name. Together we faced the bombardment of questions, and answered with patience: “yes, we are still happily married. No, we are not getting divorced”.


Complicated and personal


Changing your last name upon marriage is a complex issue for some women. It’s a issue that can create long term, ongoing considerations.


But we do have choice. Yes, some women do change their name. But others choose to keep their maiden name, or use a hyphenated or merged name. Others keep their maiden name professionally, but take on their husband’s name legally.


We encourage women to consider all of their options, to think not just about the present but also about the future, and above all stay true to their own identity and personal preferences.