Ms. or Mrs.? A touchy subject – apparently! Tell us what you think!

We are deep in the throes of planning for our annual workforce development and career pathways conferences.  Today’s priority is nametags.  Little did I know such a task could turn into one of the most passionate debates I have ever encountered while working in my office. 

Using our online registration system, an attendee is prompted to submit a courtesy title of Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Dr. When I reviewed the list of nametags, I noticed that a colleague had changed all of the “Mrs.” to “Ms.” When I asked why, she responded,

“I made everyone a Ms. because Mrs. is not a professional title.”

In my opinion, it is a personal choice to decide how you prefer to be addressed – in personal settings, as well as professional settings.  I do not see a problem with addressing yourself as a “Mrs.” (assuming you are married) in a professional setting.  However, a few of my colleagues highly disagree with me.  They think it is “demeaning and antiquated” to use the “Mrs.” title in a professional setting.

So, I did a little research and found Emily Post’s business etiquette which states that in a business situation, “Ms.” is the default address, unless you positively know that a woman wishes to be addressed as “Mrs.”  Considering attendees chose to address themselves as such, we should not change their courtesy title to fit our subjective opinions.

In the end, we have chosen not to use courtesy titles at all.  However, I am still intrigued as to how it would be demeaning and antiquated to refer to yourself as a “Mrs.” in a profession setting?  I have asked several friends and colleagues for their opinion.

The majority of my friends consider it to be a personal choice and have no negative connotation of those who wish to address themselves as a “Mrs.”  On the other hand, there are quite a few who feel adamant that the “Ms.” should always be used in a professional setting, and it would be considered the “smart thing to do.”

What do you think?

 Posted by Heather Millar 

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2 responses to “Ms. or Mrs.? A touchy subject – apparently! Tell us what you think!

  1. Start by spelling words in your headlines appropriately. (Of course, I realize this is a community college endeavor, not really a higher ed blog.)

    Second, you did not address the issue of other titles, such as “Dr.” Are you going to separate the PhDs from the common folk? What about real doctors, how do you distinguish those from mere academicians?

    Finally, if these are name tags, presumably to be worn by attendees, is it really necessary to distinguish based on gender?

    Why not just “M.”?

  2. “University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”
    Henry Kissinger

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