Visual Salience to Mitigate Gender Bias in Recommendation Letters

Yanan Da, Mengyu Chen, Ben Altschuler, Yutong Bu, Emily Wall

Room: 105

2023-10-22T22:00:00ZGMT-0600Change your timezone on the schedule page
Exemplar figure, but none was provided by the authors

Letters of recommendation (LOR) are an important and widely used evaluation criterion for hiring, university admissions, and many other domains. Prior work has identified that gender stereotypes can bias how recommenders describe female applicants compared to male applicants in contexts such as faculty positions and undergraduate research internships. For example, female applicants are more likely to be described as communal (e.g., affectionate, warm) while male applicants are more likely to be described as agentic (e.g., confident, intellectual). In this paper, we investigate the extent to which these differences in language affect readers' impression of applicant competitiveness and the efficacy of a mitigation strategy: visual highlighting. Our findings suggest that simple changes in visual salience through highlighting language more commonly used to describe women can negatively affect readers' evaluation of candidates, while highlighting more language more commonly used to describe men can reduce the effects of the bias.