Money Matters - Simplified

Recommendations costing women jobs

Houston -- Qualities used in letters of recommendation for women differ sharply than those for men, making them a chute in a woman's career ladder, U.S. researchers say.

Rice University professors Michelle Hebl and Randi Martin and graduate student Juan Madera, now an assistant professor at the University of Houston, reviewed 624 letters of recommendation for 194 applicants for eight university faculty jobs.

Female candidates were described in more communal -- social or emotive -- terms, such as: affectionate, helpful, kind, sympathetic, nurturing, tactful and agreeable, with behaviors such as helping others, taking direction well and maintaining relationships.

Male candidates were described in more agentic -- active or assertive -- terms, such as: confident, aggressive, ambitious, dominant, forceful, independent, daring, outspoken and intellectual, with behaviors such as speaking assertively, influencing others and initiating tasks.
"We found that being communal is not valued in academia," Martin says in a statement. "The more communal characteristics mentioned, the lower the evaluation of the candidate."

"This research not only has important implications for women in academia but also for women in management and leadership roles," Hebl says. "A large body of research suggests that communality is not perceived to be congruent with leadership and managerial jobs."

The findings were published in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Applied Psychology.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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