Titles and Academe
Eszter Hargittai reports that, despite it being clear from the context of her professional website that she’s a university professor with a PhD, she is often addressed by emailers as “Mrs.” and that this has also happened to her at panels where male colleagues are addressed as “Professor” or “Dr.”
Perhaps it’s because she looks like she’s around 18?
I will note that it’s not purely a gender thing. In my teaching days, both my then-colleague Steven Taylor and I had similar experiences. I would answer the phone with some variant of “Good morning. Dr. Joyner.” And the caller would respond with something like, “Is this Mr. Joyner.” Students–and this is in the South, where formality is still more prevalent–would sometimes address me as “Mr. Joyner,” too.
There’s an interesting discussion in the comments section of Hargittai’s post about regional and international variation in the use of titles and whether only MDs deserve the title “doctor.” While I admit that there is some confusion about “doctor” being both a title for someone with a doctoral degree and a synonym for “physician,” there are no good alternatives available. “Professor” is often used by American universities to refer to instructors without a doctorate and it is also a rather odd title to assign to someone, such as myself, no longer employed as an academic.
Update: Taylor weighs in on the subject as well, agreeing that women are more likely to be referred to by first names, contrasting the treatment of the last two Secretaries of State. He also points to some commentary by Kevin Drum on how announcers refer to male and female tennis players, but the link is down at the moment.