CORRESPONDENCE

Journals — women’s marital status is none of your business

We find it anachronistic and bizarre that many journals, including Science, The Lancet, Cell, The New England Journal of Medicine and, until last month, Nature, provide an option for female scientists — but not male ones — to give their marital status on registration or manuscript submission. Science should keep up with or get ahead of society: terms denoting unmarried women in non-English languages, such as ‘Mademoiselle’ and ‘Fräulein’, have been banished from professional contexts in continental Europe for decades.

The plethora of honorifics for prospective authors include gender-neutral academic titles (doctor, professor), gendered non-marital titles (Mr, Ms) and, in some cases, a non-binary, non-marital title (Mx). But many influential scientific publications offer the alternatives ‘Mrs’ and ‘Miss’. Even if those terms are intended for use only as a courteous salutation in exchanges with the author, linguistic associations can still shape people’s implicit judgements (M. Lewis and G. Lupyan Nature Hum. Behav. 4, 1021–1028; 2020).

In our view, marital status, and nomenclature associating a woman’s name with it, has no place in this context, in the scientific community or in the current century.

Nature 589, 352 (2021)

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