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J Appl Psychol. 2009 Nov;94(6):1591-9. doi: 10.1037/a0016539.

Gender and letters of recommendation for academia: agentic and communal differences.

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Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204-3028, USA.


In 2 studies that draw from the social role theory of sex differences (A. H. Eagly, W. Wood, & A. B. Diekman, 2000), the authors investigated differences in agentic and communal characteristics in letters of recommendation for men and women for academic positions and whether such differences influenced selection decisions in academia. The results supported the hypotheses, indicating (a) that women were described as more communal and less agentic than men (Study 1) and (b) that communal characteristics have a negative relationship with hiring decisions in academia that are based on letters of recommendation (Study 2). Such results are particularly important because letters of recommendation continue to be heavily weighted and commonly used selection tools (R. D. Arvey & T. E. Campion, 1982; R. M. Guion, 1998), particularly in academia (E. P. Sheehan, T. M. McDevitt, & H. C. Ross, 1998).

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