According to a recent study conducted by linguist Kieran Snyder, when it comes to performance reviews, there is one adjective that men never receive as a criticism — yet women receive it often. That word is “abrasive.”
Synder’s study involved sifting through 248 performance reviews from 28 different companies, which varied from small startups to large corporations. She found several key differences relating to gender. Women’s performance reviews featured critical feedback 88% of the time, while men received it 59% of the time.
She also noted that when women were criticized, it was more personal in nature. Men typically got feedback in the form of suggestions for skill development, like “going deeper into the details would have been helpful.” Women, on the other hand, received commentary that was more about “tone” and personality, with one example being, “You can come across as abrasive sometimes.”
Abrasive, in fact, was used 17 times in various reviews for women, but never showed up as a word used to describe men. These findings document a phenomenon known as “The Double Bind,” in which women are perceived as “bitchy and brusque” if they are assertive, yet are called “soft” if they scale back, with little room in between.
Often, the critiques are misguided. Many experts on investing have noted that women frequently perform better as investors — yet they are rarely encouraged to go into finance to the same degree that men are. According to the book “Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl: And Why You Should, Too,” women, like Buffett, trade less frequently, take on less risk, and do more research than their male counterparts — all characteristics that make them more effective traders.
Currently, about 90% of Americans who make over $75,000 annually have invested money, and they could benefit from working with female stock brokers. While this might be logical in theory, in reality, many clients assume that men have more experience and understand the market better than women involved in finance. In a recent report published in Gender & Society, Professor Janice Madden indicated that women are given inferior accounts and less support than men on the job, which results in lower pay.
“Stockbrokers are among the highest paid workers, yet they have the greatest gender inequality among all sales worker jobs,” noted Madden.
While there isn’t an easy solution to the gender problem that permeates finance, businesses should keep in mind that there are inherent gender biases at work when it comes to how they evaluate the performances of their employees.