Gender Differences in the Language of Lors Written for Anesthesiology Medical Student Applicants: Analysis of One Program's Recruitment Cycle

Author Type(s)


Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Education in Perioperative Medicine



Second Department



Background: Prior studies have demonstrated gender differences in language used in letters of recommendation (LOR) for residency applicants. No previous studies have investigated linguistic gender differences in LOR specifically in the field of anesthesiology. The objective of this study is to determine whether there are potential gender biases in the language of LOR written for anesthesiology residency applicants.

Methods: Letters sent through the Electronic Residency Application Service in application for a single training program in the Northeast in 2019-2020 were divided into self-identified male and female groups. The letters were deidentified, converted to machine-readable text, and input into software to analyze differences in language use. Differences in language use and word count between the 2 groups were compared.

Results: Included in this analysis were 316 applicants (113 female applicants and 203 male applicants) who submitted a total of 1132 letters, 409 of which were letters written for females and 723 were written for males. Analysis of 4 document characteristics and 19 psychological construct word categories showed that males had a higher frequency of tentative notations (P < .0110), while females had a higher frequency of ability notations (P < .0449). No other meaningful differences were found.

Conclusions: While our results demonstrated 2 differences in language use between male and female anesthesiology residency applicants for LOR, it is reassuring that LOR are relatively free of linguistic bias. Future research should focus on identifying other areas of the specialty's recruitment process in order to recognize and mitigate gender differences in anesthesiology.