Usually, “too nice” is not anything I need to worry about being described as. But it turns out that I need to worry about coming across that way in letters of recommendation I solicit from employers and mentors. According to a recent article from Inside Higher Ed, a group of scholars has determined from a study of more than 600 letters that touchy-feely descriptions of individuals are likely to torpedo that person’s job prospects. Because touchy-feely language is girl stuff. Eeeeewww.
From the article:
You are reading a letter of recommendation that praises a candidate for a faculty job as being “caring,” “sensitive,” “compassionate,” or a “supportive colleague.” Whom do you picture?
New research suggests that to faculty search committees, such words probably conjure up a woman — and probably a candidate who doesn’t get the job. The scholars who conducted the research believe they may have pinpointed one reason for the “leaky pipeline” that frustrates so many academics, who see that the percentage of women in senior faculty jobs continues to lag the percentage of those in junior positions and that the share in junior positions continues to lag those earning doctorates.
So, despite the face that more women are earning doctorates (although this is due to a preponderance in the humanities fields), and despite the fact that the terms are not themselves offense–I mean really, who’s going to be upset at being called a “supportive colleague”?–they are penalized for the suggestion of their femaleness. Of course, this penalty applies to men whose letters have this sort of language, although men are more likely to contain what the study calls “agentive” language.
Now, I don’t know what my letters of rec have said, but I do know that as (if?) I apply to positions in the future, I will be forwarding a link to this article to my recommenders and asking them to include–to the degree that they feel is appropriate–“agentive” language.
Fuck. Like I need more double standards in my life.