Background: No published study has explored gender differences in letters of recommendation for applicants entering surgical subspecialty fellowships. Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of letters of recommendation to a transplant surgery fellowship written for residents finishing general surgery residency programs. A dictionary of communal and agentic terms was used to explore differences of the letters based on applicant's gender as well as the academic rank and gender of the author. Results: Of the 311 reviewed letters, 228 were letters of recommendation written for male applicants. Male surgeons wrote 92.4% of the letters. Male applicant letters were significantly more likely to contain agentic terms such as superb, intelligent, and exceptional (p = 0.00086). Additionally, male applicant letters were significantly more likely to contain “future leader” (p = 0.047). Letters written by full professors, division chiefs, and program directors were significantly more likely to describe female applicants using communal terms like compassionate, calm, and delightful (p = 0.0301, p = 0.036, p = 0.036, respectively). In letters written by assistant professors, female letters of recommendation had significantly more references to family (p = 0.036). Conclusions: Gendered differences exist in letters of recommendation for surgical fellowship applicants. This research may provide insight into the inherent gender bias that is revealed in letters supporting candidates entering the field.
- Gender bias
- Gender disparities in surgery
- Interpersonal and Communication Skills
- Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
- Transplant fellowship
ASJC Scopus subject areas