Qualities mentioned in recommendation letters for women differ sharply from those for men, and those differences may hurt a woman’s chance of being hired or promoted. Researchers reviewed 624 letters of recommendation for 194 applicants for eight junior faculty positions at a U.S. university. They found that letter writers conformed to traditional gender schemas when describing candidates.
Female candidates were described in more communal (social or emotive) terms and male candidates in more agentic (active or assertive) terms. “The more communal characteristics mentioned, the lower the evaluation of the candidate,” says Randi Martin, a psychology professor at Rice University and study co-author.
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