Which Word is Used to Describe Women But Not Men?

Well, that word would be abrasive.

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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:

Fortune 100 report-inline-performance-reviews-graphic 1

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.


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Jane C Woods

Women's Personal Development Specialist - Changing People, -

Hi, I’m Jane C Woods and I have an absolute passion for helping women achieve success in their lives. Be it the glass ceiling, the crystal maze, or very personal issues, I’m all about helping women achieve to their full potential and live the way they want to without being carbon copies of men. But I’m not about putting men down in order for women to get ahead, there’s plenty of room; I just want the guys to shifty up a bit… If my face looks familiar it's because I love Psychologies magazine (I've been buying it since the very first issue, such a good resource) and it's the only place I choose to advertise my courses. I write on women’s issues on my blog, www.changingpeople.co.uk, and am regularly featured in magazines, and on radio, but I’m probably best known for RenewYou. RenewYou is my one day personal development course for women. We have an international network of experienced, specialist women licensed to deliver it and empower women across the globe. Our goal is to reach one million women. It’s a big goal but… In 2013 we started with a single RenewYou specialist, me. Now you can find a RenewYou Courses across the UK, in the USA, Canada, Greece, Bangkok, Pakistan, South Africa, Belgium, with new countries being added all the time. My dream was to create a thriving and caring business on ethical, and dare I say, feminine terms, with a real community spirit of help and encouragement. And it’s actually happening with the support, expertise, and enthusiasm of my wonderful trainers. I think, (apart from my two lovely kids, a daughter and a son) that it’s probably my proudest achievement to date. Wonderful Changing People Women: One of the joys and privileges of my work is that I’ve connected with some really inspirational and wonderful women – from politics to entertainment to academia. They include: TV presenter, house fixer and matchmaker Sarah Beeny Amazing entrepreneur Sam Roddick of Coco de Mer Outspoken and entertaining academic Mary Beard Politicians like Siobhan Benita and Natalie Bennett Ex BBC broadcaster Miriam O’Reilly who bravely took on the might of the BBC- and triumphed A very rare interview with Sarah Montague, of the influential BBC Radio 4 Today programme I hope you like the posts and I hope they are helpful. Live life to the max and never hide your light under any bushels!