How dare you be hard-working!

What a horrible thing to say to a woman:

Professors reveal their gender bias and hurt female science students when they write letters of recommendation describing them as “hard-working,” “kind,” or “conscientious,” one lecturer told Oxford physics students last month.

Athene Donald, a Cambridge experimental physics prof, recounted her Oxford lecture in a blog post republished by Times Higher Education. She claims that “gendered adjectives” in letters of recommendation are a “significant detriment to the woman’s progression even without a sexist intent.”

“Gendered adjectives,” which should supposedly be avoided, also include “dependable,” “warm,” and “diligent,” according to a University of Arizona guide [pdf] that Donald references.

Fortunately, “fucking stupid” is satisfyingly generic.


  1. fillyjonk »

    7 December 2016 · 12:15 pm


    Some days, I feel like “kind” is about the only thing that sets me apart from the rest of the seething mass of the professoriate.

    If that’s now devalued, well, what have I got left? I’m not gonna become backstabby and Machiavellian just because it’s fashionable.

  2. McG »

    7 December 2016 · 3:52 pm

    I’d be going after the idiots that don’t want to hire hard-working, dependable or conscientious people.

    “Kind” and “warm,” though, really don’t belong in a letter of recommendation. I’d consider someone who uses such words in that context to be less than satisfactorily professional. And given the questions that would raise about their judgment, it could taint anyone they recommend.

  3. PJ »

    8 December 2016 · 5:53 am

    Unless she’s looking for a job teaching preschool, terms like ‘warm’ or ‘kind’ aren’t helpful. But all the others are great terms.

    If women get any more neurotic (and note: I’m a woman) we’re going to have to just stop talking about them altogether. Like the drunk relative one is trying not to offend at a gathering lest they erupt.

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