Target Article: Madera, J. M., Hebl, M. R., & Martin, R. C. (2009). Gender and letters of recommendation for academia: Agentic and communal differences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94, 1591-1599.

Video Summary: Two male professors (John and Carl) think a man (Kevin) is a stronger applicant than a female applicant (Eve). Another female professor (Madeline) does not agree. John and Carl believe that the words the Eve’s letter writers used to describe her (e.g., nice) do not make her a strong candidate. John describes Kevin as a real “go-getter.”

Suggested Discussion Questions:

  • Eve letter writers describe her as “nice.” John was clearly not impressed with this description. Why? Why might calling someone “nice” in academic science do more harm than good?
  • Would Eve’s letter writers describe her as nice if she was a man?
  • Eve had some strengths (publications and teaching) and Kevin had some strengths (bringing in money). John was more impressed by Kevin’s accomplishments than Eve’s. Why might this be? If the strengths were switched (Eve brought in money, Kevin had publications and teaching experience), would John still favor Kevin?
  • John said Rita (another female professor) thought Kevin was the better candidate. Does this mean Kevin is objectively the better candidate? Can Rita be biased against Eve even though she is a woman?
  • What could John, Carl, and Madeline have done differently to help avoid having gender bias affect their hiring decision?