I’m part of a team submitting a proposal to NASA, and as such, I had to register in the NASA proposal tracking system, creatively named NSPIRES. But I was a little less than inspired when I got to the first step of the registration process. The screen shot and my analysis are below the fold.
The last name on my birth certificate has nothing to do with my professional identity and I don’t want an automatically generated username (or similar) that I’m not going to remember because I would never use my birth last name for that purpose. My name change didn’t come through marriage, but 81% of US women do change their names upon marriage. So an awful lot of women scientists (and some men, too) could have the same reaction I did upon seeing the page. Why ask for the name on the birth certificate? Why not just ask for your name? Is this supposed to simplify things somehow? (FWIW, I used my current name rather than the one on my birth certificate. I suppose NASA’s going to hunt me down now.)
The second part of the registration included the typical security challenge questions. You pick the question from a predefined list and then provide your answer. Want to bet which choice irked me?
“What is your mother’s maiden name?”
My mother’s name is the same as my last name. She didn’t change her name when she got married and neither did I. So I’d be answering that question with the last name I’d given them above.
These sorts of things make me twitch. Assuming in one spot that people have (or at least are willing to use) the same name as on their birth certificate, and then in another spot assuming that mothers change their name when they got married (or were married at all for that matter) is the sort of thing that reminds me that we have a lot of small steps still to take before we achieve gender neutrality.