Words Matter: Examining Gender Differences in the Language Used to Evaluate Pediatrics Residents

Published:February 11, 2022DOI:



      Gender disparities in academic medicine continue to be pervasive. Written evaluations of residents may provide insight into perceptions of residents by faculty, which may influence letters of recommendation for positions beyond residency and reinforce perceived stereotype threat experienced by trainees.


      To examine language used in faculty evaluations of pediatrics residents to determine if there are differences in language used with respect to gender of resident.


      All faculty evaluations of residents in 3 consecutive intern classes from 2016 to 2018 were collected and redacted for name and gender identifiers. We performed a qualitative analysis of written comments in 2 mandatory free text sections. The study team initially coded text collectively, generating a code book, then individually to apply the coding scheme. Next, evaluations were unblinded to gender. Code applications were aggregated by resident, and frequencies of code application by resident were compared by standardized mean differences to detect imbalances between genders.


      A total of 448 evaluations were analyzed: 88 evaluations of 17 male residents, and 360 evaluations of 70 female residents. Codes more frequently applied to women included “enthusiasm,” and “caring,” while codes more frequently applied to men included “intelligence,” and “prepared.” A conceptual model was created to reflect potential impacts of these differences using a lens of social role theory.


      We identified differences in the way male and female residents are evaluated by faculty, which may have negative downstream effects on female residents, who may experience negative self-perception, differential development of clinical skills, and divergent career opportunities as a result.


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