Linguistic Differences by Gender in Letters of Recommendation for Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery Fellowship Applicants

Erryn Tappy, Evelyn Pan, Diksha Verma, Angela Wang, Larry Steven Brown, Stephanie Chang, Maria Florian-Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Various surgical specialties have reported gender bias in letters of recommendation (LOR). We aimed to determine if linguistic differences exist in LOR for female and male physicians applying to Fellowship in Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery (FMIGS). DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study including application cycles 2019 and 2020. SETTING: Academic university hospital. PARTICIPANTS: FMIGS applicants. RESULTS: Applicant demographic and baseline data included age, race, gender, geographical region of residency training, Step 1 and 2 scores, number of research and volunteer activities, Alpha Omega Alpha and Gold Humanism status and number of LOR, as well as the gender and academic rank of the letter writer. The Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count software, a validated text analysis program, was used to characterize LOR linguistic content. A total of 118 applications, including 391 letters, were analyzed. Seventy-six (64.4%) applicants were female and 42 (35.6%) were male. Most female applicants were white (46% vs. 36%, p = 0.04), had Alpha Omega Alpha status (13% vs. 0%, p = 0.01), higher Step 2 scores (239.7 vs. 230.4, p < 0.01), and more service activities (7.7 vs. 4.7, p < 0.01), compared to male applicants. Male applicants were more likely to graduate from international medical schools (45% vs. 16%, p < 0.01). Female authors wrote 159 LOR, and male authors wrote 232. Following multivariable analysis controlling for race, Step 1 score and letter writer gender, no significant differences in average LOR word count for female and male applicants (406.7 ± 24.2 words vs. 340.1 ± 35.4 words), or differences in Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count linguistic categories existed. CONCLUSIONS: Although Baseline differences were noted between female and male FMIGS applicants, no differences in LOR length or linguistic categories were noted. These results likely reflect the impact of female predominance and increased efforts to address gender bias within Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)928-934
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Surgical Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • Education
  • Fellowship in Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery
  • Implicit gender bias
  • Linguistic analysis
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinical Education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Education


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