Never since the 1970s have more women decided to keep their birth surnames after marriage. The New York Times reports in a piece titled, “Maiden Names, on the Rise Again:”
“Roughly 20 percent of women married in recent years have kept their names, according to a Google Consumer Survey conducted by The Upshot. (An additional 10 percent or so chose a third option, such as hyphenating their name or legally changing it while continuing to use their birth name professionally.) By comparison, about 17 percent of women who married for the first time in the 1970s kept their names, a number that fell to 14 percent in the more conservative 1980s before rising to 18 percent in the 1990s, the Google survey shows.”
As the average age of marriage in the United States increases, I believe many women decide to keep their birth surnames as a convenience. Their professional reputation, not to mention their social media and email handles, would become complicated by a name change. One friend of mine, Amanda, comments:
“I adopted my husband’s name when we got married eight years ago, but the change had its challenges. Gmail had been around long enough that my new name was already taken, and I had to get creative by using a nickname. On Facebook, I still include my maiden name in my profile so friends from high school or college can find me. If I had been more established in my career, the difficulties would have been even greater.”
Compare women’s attitude today with the 1970s woman who chose to keep her surname as a social or political statement. These Boomer women wanted to break free of traditional roles and asset their independence. As Stephanie Coontz says in the Times article:
“You had a militancy about it in the ’70s, a period when in many states, marriage was still legally defined as an unequal relationship,” said Stephanie Coontz, who teaches history and family studies at Evergreen State College and wrote “Marriage: A History.” “Many women are saying now: ‘This is not such a big deal to me. How you treat me and what you pay me is a huge deal to me.’ ”
It’s a sign of progress that women considering marriage now feel secure in their independence and free to make the choice to keep their birth name or change it based on their lifestyles and individual preferences.
When marketing to women, remember that women today feel free– free to be who they are and to have their own opinions. They aren’t tied down to cultural pressure to be either “a good girl” or “a good feminist.” Honor this new reality in your marketing to women efforts, and women will feel free to choose your brand!