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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Study Finds Sexism In Recommendation Letters

Brad Steele, right, interviews with Betsy Harris, left, of Express Employment Professionals at a National CareerFair, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (AP)

Brad Steele, right, interviews with Betsy Harris, left, of Express Employment Professionals at a National CareerFair, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (AP)

Is word choice in recommendation letters hurting women’s chances for getting jobs? A recent study finds that people writing these letters often describe men with different words than women.

Adjectives like “assertive,” “ambitious,”  and “confident” are used to describe men; while women are more likely to be characterized as “sensitive,” “kind”and “nurturing.”

Rice University psychology professor and study author, Mikki Hebl, says that these seemingly innocuous distinctions could be preventing women from getting jobs.  The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.


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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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