Reintroducing Latina in HR: Katie Ryan
Updated: Jan 29
Yup, you read that right. I've changed my last name!
It's been a while since I've last written a public piece. Pandemic aside, I've been juggling quite a bit in my career and personal life. One of the most joyful experiences in the past couple of years was my international wedding day in Guatemala.
Photos of us in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Credit to Daniel Lopez Perez Photography.
Despite all the fuss of preparing for the actual day, I had not given much thought to the option of changing my last name. As my partner -now husband- inquired for my opinion about changing my last name, and assured me he would support whatever decision I went with, I realized it was a self-identity issue that I was grappling with. Who would I be if I was no longer Lopes?
If it wasn't for the obvious fact that my previous last name sounded Latinx, I may have not had such a strong attachment to it. After all, it gave my name (on paper) an "ethnic" representation. But therein lies the problem. The fact that I relied on a name to vouch for my ethnicity, and the fear of losing that identity.
After months (18 months to be precise) of therapy, and speaking to many women who had opportunities to change their last name upon marriage, I found myself questioning various systems of oppression. Take for example, people of color who are disproportionately impacted through systemic racial discrimination for having an "ethnic name". The assumption that if I kept my given name, I was too feminist therefore perceived to be too difficult to work with. Or the notion of someone questioning my sexual orientation due to the bias that same-sex marriage partners keep their own names.
So. Many. Darn. Questions. All for a question as simple as, "Did I want to change my last name?".
The details that led me to take on my husband's last name are private, and a decision I am at peace with. Lopes taught me to appreciate my culture, to understand my roots. I take on Ryan proudly to start a new chapter, knowing that my Latinidad lives inside of me forever, not just in a name.
Responses to FAQ:
Why did you take his last name? That decision stays between him and me.
Couldn't he take your last name? He could have. We discussed it. Not for us.
Did you consider hyphenating your name? I could have. In all honesty, I've longed for a simple name to shorten my signature on legal documents.
How will people know you are Latina? Pretty sure there are other cues that will tip them off. However, your question brings up the concern of systemic racial bias and our assumptions of what a person looks like just because of their name. A better question is, "how can I help address my racial bias when judging a person's name?".
Your name sounds really white. You can keep that comment to yourself. It adds no value to our conversation.
Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself
My name is Katie Ryan, a bilingual HR Anthropologist paving a path as a Latina/e/x leader in the Human Resources field. My intention with this blog is to share my journey navigating the path into an HR leadership role as a woman of color.
To my fellow reader, whether you are a woman, person of color or an ally, know that a name can be your persona, and there is so much more that contributes to your identity. I promise to honor your chosen name, and will respect your decision about how you wish to be addressed in this world.
The HR Anthropologist