What's in a Name? Big Profits, Apparently

Oh no he didn't! Oh yes she did-- and it worked! You wouldn't think professional gender bias in this century would be much of an issue, but according to an extremely successful female blogger/copywriter who goes by the name of James Chartrand, taking on a male pen name meant the difference between applying for welfare and buying a house.

The single mother of two from a small town in Quebec, Canada, was at wit's end scrambling for writing jobs that would enable her to care for her young daughters. So she decided to take advantage of a perceived bias. "In my own perception of the business world today, I think of men in suits at the top. I think of male CEOs," she explains.


Becoming One of the Boys

Her first step was to create a writing persona that smacked of boys club success--someone those men in suits could easily relate to. She pulled the name 'James Chartrand' out of thin air, and began experimenting by pitching the same job under the same terms, with his name and with her own given name. The results were immediate and surprising. The male pitch outperformed the female pitch in each instance.

"They didn't question me as James," she says. "What struck me most was the instant respect I received. No one asked me about working at home and dealing with kids. They just assumed I worked in a professional office and had the brains, the talent, the ideas and the skills. I expected more money, and I got it."

After testing the waters by submitting proposals under both male and female names, she eventually decided to stick with the masculine moniker, and began blogging under it. When Michael Stelzner listed her on his Top Ten Blogs for Writers, things really took off. Men with Pens was launched, a site that offers "On target web design and copywriting to help you hit the bulls-eye of success." It has been such a hit that she has taken on a partner and brought in the services of other writers as well.


Coming Out of the Closet

She kept her little secret under wraps for about three years, until an angry former friend threatened to 'out' her online. She decided to do the honors herself, and wrote an extensive blog on the popular blog site, copyblogger.com, wittily slugged "Why James Chartrand Wears Women's Underpants." The results of her outing were also surprising.

"I'd say it's been about 95% positive, 5% negative," she notes. "Anyone who's ever been discriminated against on a job application because of their name, whether it's Indian, Asian or anything else, certainly understands." But has it affected her work?

"My clients say it changes nothing -- they just want to know if they'll have their copy by Friday." She has decided to continue writing under her masculine pseudonym, more for privacy's sake than for any other reason. She lives in a small town, and is very protective of her children. "Using a man's name seemed to make some people uncomfortable, and they seem to think I'm repressing who I really am" she adds. "But writing as James, I feel liberated, not repressed James is part of who I am." She says she enjoys being free of female stereotypes--and lower female pay.


Prose by Any Other Name

"I'm looking at twitter right now, and people are asking me if I'm going to change my writing style," she laughs, incredulous that people would even wonder such a thing. Besides, going into proverbial closet then coming out may have been one of her most unwittingly strategic moves yet. Since confessing in her blog, she has been besieged by the media: in less than an hour she received a call from Newsweek, a literary agent, and an AOL blogger (that would be me). Do a web search for James Chartrand, and you'll see her story everywhere.

Still, she says she wouldn't advise others to try it. "You face a lot of pressure from other people who question who you are," she says, referring to the fact that the tension inherent in keeping a secret about your identity can be daunting. Although she's received incredible opportunities for having admitted to her transgendered professional personality, she says most people respond with, "Yes, you're a woman, now can we all move on and get back to work?"


Next: Does Your Name Spell Success? >>

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R. Michael Lawrence

Good God--what the damn hell is going on here? Writing resumes and curriculum vitaes are bad enough; you will probably have to take a standardized test--even a psychological personality test--just to get a job.
And now it is your name.
"Sorry sonny, but you have the wrong name for our company--get lost!"
Or, maybe it will be, "Okay girlie--you're nice and all of that, but you name is wrong for the image of our company!"
And I thought that writing was the last bastion that anyone could enter that did not have to pass a test or have a doctorate--just to sweep floors. . . .
Good God--I am sorry for the state of affairs in the working environment--how pathetic.

January 25 2011 at 1:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Star Lawrence

I am in the same business he-she is...writing using the internet to find clients...and have never been discriminated against. In person, this may happen...I know it does. I think it's more people who work at home--considered to be "between jobs" and not professional contractors, who are sometimes treated with disdain by uninformed people who don't see the advantages of having someone always available, paying only for work done, having the other person supply the equipment and pay for utilities, having the other person being many years experience in what works and what doesn't in copy and research, and so on. I would never misrepresent myself. I am proud of who I am and what I do--not situational and slippery.

December 22 2009 at 9:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ann

As I sit here and read some of these blogs, it makes me wonder. How many of you are jealous of her success? I am going to put it to you like this, she has daughters to feed and take care of. I raised four kids by myself, if she is a singlemom, some of you know what it like. I supported my kids by working, being on public assistance, and working. I always been a hard worker, but time permit you from achieveing that goal, so you have to do what you have to do to support your family. Being on public on assistance didn't get me much. I was only giving $295 a month to provide for us and I couldn't afford childcare. That wasn't enough to pay the bills and provide for them as well. Once my twins started school, I got out and find a job working in healthcare. That is what I did before having the twins and others children at home. Now, they are grown, I have an associate degree in business administration, bachelor in accounting, and going to school for ma in criminal justice. Along with that I have 9-10 certificate and one diploma in accounting and still no one will hire me. When I search for accounting jobs, most of them tend to target men of experience. A lot of company do not want to train anyone only but for sales. My words to James, keep up the good work and don't let know one interfere in your success.

December 22 2009 at 9:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Seth Michaels

I have so much respect for this woman. As a straight female crossdressing as a male, I can relate to her. I am treated better by other males when I am known as Seth than as my female name.

December 22 2009 at 8:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
winkfam44

I don't really know why this even made the news. Pen names have been around forever. Have you ever heard of Samuel Clemens? No. Well, how about Mark Twain? That is his pen name. Many women have assumed male pen names, and visa versa. Romance novels tend to have female names for authors. For various reasons, pen names are a common practice.

December 22 2009 at 7:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
alma

ummm all the ppl out there that have all those stupid comments to say...i bet you would never think to do what she did..and no, her children shouldnt be taken away..shes a damn good mother to take a chance like that..and she proved a great point..

December 22 2009 at 12:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Morganathered

Dear "James Chartrand," "George Eliot" aka Mary Ann Evans (SILAS MARNER), as do "Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell" aka Charlotte, Emily & Anne Bronte, (JANE EYRE, WUTHERING HEIGHTS and AGNES GREY) all salute you. When the 19th Century mentality forces the 21st Century female writer to take male pseudonyms in order to publish, tells all that we really haven’t come that far. The 1970’s women’s fight for equality continues to be diminished and we must once again stand up and say, “I am Woman hear me Roar!” The best verse within this song is “You can bend but never break me, 'cause it only serves to make me more determined to achieve my final goal.” Those who hire only male writers beware; we are determined to gain these jobs. It’s your fault; however, when we do, you win perfection!

December 21 2009 at 10:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
phil

The very 1st time you saw/heard the name J.K. Rowling ??

December 21 2009 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Deb

"James Chartrand only succeeded in perpetuating the myth that woman are manipulators and liars."

That is quote from someone else's statement above -- Women are manipulators and liars - we learned from the best! Men (listen to the lyrics of a song 'Girls Lie Too') So she can't go out tonight again
Her sister's sick, she's gotta baby-sit
Yeah, that sounds like a pretty good excuse
Now you didn't hear any of this from me
But things aren't always what they seem
Brace yourself, this may come as a shock to you

Girls lie, too
We don't care how much money you make
What you drive or what you weigh
Size don't matter anyway
Girls lie, too
Don't think you're the only ones
Who bend it, break it, stretch it some
We learn from you
Girls lie, too

We can't wait to hear about your round of golf
We love to see deer heads hanging on the wall
And we like Hooter's for their hotwings too
Other guys never cross our minds
We don't wonder what it might be like
How could it be any better than it is with you

[Repeat Chorus]

Yeah, girls lie, too
We always forgive and forget
The cards and flowers you never sent
Will never be brought up again
Girls lie, too
Old gray sweatpants turn us on
We like your friends and we love your mom
And that's the truth
Girls lie, too
Yeah that's the truth
Girls lie, too

No, we don't care how much hair you have
Yeah, that looks good
Comb it over like that

December 21 2009 at 9:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rofe

I don’t doubt that it happened, but was the discrimination intentional? I doubt that it was. I am not a writer or a bloger, but I am a reader. and I appreciate the fact that women can and do write as well as men. However, if I don’t know the gender of the writer before reading an article, I find myself assuming that it has been written by a man. In my mind a man is telling the story. I judge what he says as it relates to my experience. If I know the author is a woman, in my mind it is a female telling the story, and I find myself judging it by how it relates to my experience with women telling stories. I believe it is a little more difficult for men to evaluate a story told by a woman than it is one told by a man. If this is true, the same story when attributed to a man will be given preference when judged by a man. There is no conspiracy.

December 21 2009 at 9:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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