Which Word is Used to Describe Women But Not Men?
Well, that word would be abrasive.
Abrasive alone is used 17 times [in the study] to describe 13 different women. Among these words, only aggressive shows up in men’s reviews at all. Aggressive shows up three times, twice with encouragement to be more of it.
Linguist Karen Snyder collected 248 performance reviews from 28 companies, from large technology corporations to small start-ups. The reviews came from 180 male and female managers, 105 men and 87 women. Her report appeared in Fortune.com last year.
The question she wanted to answer was:
Did review tone or content differed based on the employee’s gender?
Karen also wanted to know whether the manager’s gender was a factor in how they reviewed their employees. She was especially interested in employees who shared reviews given by both male and female managers.
This is what she found:
That is pretty conclusive. Women were much more likely than their male counterparts to be criticised more in their appraisal reviews. As Karen said, men are given constructive suggestions. Women are given constructive suggestions – and told to pipe down, to stop speaking up.
Here are some of the suggestions made to the men:
“There were a few cases where it would have been extremely helpful if you had gone deeper into the details to help move an area forward.”
“Take time to slow down and listen. You would achieve even more.”
Here are a couple of examples of suggestions made to the women:
“You can come across as abrasive sometimes. I know you don’t mean to, but you need to pay attention to your tone.”
“Your peers sometimes feel that you don’t leave them enough room. Sometimes you need to step back to let others shine.”
This kind of negative personality criticism—watch your tone! step back! stop being so judgemental!—showed up twice in the 83 critical reviews received by men. It shows up in 71 of the 94 critical reviews received by women. Interestingly, it didn’t matter what gender the manager was. Women were as critical of other women as the men.
So it would seem that women in the tech industries have a pretty hard time of it and that the stereotypical behaviour assigned to women has been absorbed by us all. It would be surprising if that were only true of tech industries.
Time for change.
We can make a start on changing this by watching out for our own unconscious bias, all of us, whatever gender.
Research and experience shows it can be hard sometimes to be a successful woman in a business world designed largely by men. The answer is not to behave like a man, or ‘fix’ women, but to understand what is happening. Speak Up will enthuse and empower you to be you – and a success!
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