It has been a couple of months now since I started introducing myself as Jordan, and the same couple of months that I have been fielding that question of "why Jordan?". Every time I tell my story, someone tells me I should write it up as a blog post. Since this post will be part of my website launch under my new URL, it seemed like a good place to start.
So why Jordan?
Short (sad) answer: When people see the name Jordan, most assume that the associated gender is male.
The Full Story:
About a year ago I was in the middle of a multi-month job search that was going no where. I was sending in resumes all over the place, trying to set up informational interviews, going to meetups, reaching out to all the contacts I had made over the previous three years, and I couldn't get interviews.
I took some time off and really focused on revamping my resume, portfolio website, and LinkedIn profile.
I also decided to experiment. I purchased a URL with the name Jordan in it instead of my normal Michelle. I copied my website over to the new URL and just changed some text to say my name was Jordan instead of Michelle. I turned on my google analytics for both sites. Once you got to the site (at either URL) it became obvious that I was female. I had a large picture on my about page that I didn't hide.
I created a copy of my resume and changed the name at the top from "Michelle J Levine" to "M Jordan Levine", and removed all my leadership and volunteer experience from the copy with Jordan.
I looked all around Portland and nearby locations to find similar companies that were looking for similar positions. I randomly sent five of those companies my "M Jordan Levine" resumes, and sent the other five my "Michelle J Levine" resume.
My Michelle site didn't see any change in traffic, but the Jordan site saw more hits than the Michelle site normally saw. Within three weeks of sending out the resumes, I had heard back from eight of the ten companies. Jordan had received four interview requests, while Michelle had only recieved one. The two companies that didn't respond at all had Michelle resumes.
I ended up taking a different job, after meeting some people who took an interest in my at one of the events I worked and kind of forgot about the experiment. I continued to go by Michelle.
Ten months go by and I start thinking about looking for my next job (since my contract was almost up). When I went to pull up my resume to update I saw the Jordan one again and started seriously thinking about it. Sure, I had gotten a great job as Michelle, but I was staring down the path of another job search and not looking forward to it.
Before I got too far down that thought process however, I was approached by someone in the community offering me an interview (and eventually a job) after hearing one of my CSS presentations over the summer. Looks like it doesn't matter what name I use as long as I can get in front of people. But just because that worked for my current and previous jobs, doesn't mean it will work every time. I knew I would have to face the job search again at some point and it would make a difference. Since I was really just starting to make a name for myself, it was a good time to decide what I wanted that name to be.
I eventually landed on Jordan. Besides possibly giving me a leg up in the blind job hunts that I will eventually face, I decided I liked being Jordan. I have changed so much as a human since moving to Portland and getting into the tech field. I am so far removed from the person I was before, and the change in nomenclature seemed like a very appropriate way to make that change more tangible.
At this point I have been going by Jordan for about four months and I can say I am glad I made the change. I know my sample size was small and my experiment wasn't very exact, but it seems to reflect the same results I hear more broadly in the industry. I wish it wasn't so. So many companies talk about diversity and inclusion. They talk about the need for more female developers, but there is still enough bias (conscious or unconscious) that Jordan gets more calls than Michelle does.
Changing to a more gender neutral (or male leaning name) isn't practical for everyone. Jordan is my middle name, and I feel very comfortable using it, but it sucks that I have to. I hope that one day the tech industry can evolve to the point where Michelle and Jordan would get the same chance when sending in resumes, but I don't think we are there yet. Even as Jordan I will continue to push forward with groups that are working hard to make that a reality and do my best to generate change from within.