Research Shows Gender Bias in Performance Reviews

menandwomenjpgWe just report ’em as we see ’em, folks so don’t shoot the messenger on this one, ‘k?

Per a report for Fortune, linguist Kieran Snyder examined performance reviews to see if she could quantify double standards on how men and women are evaluated at work.

She collected 248 performance reviews from 28 companies ranging from large technology companies to small startups. The results were startling: Critical feedback was generously given to women. That is, 87.9 percent of women received critical feedback compared to 58.9 percent of men.

In addition, feedback women received was less constructive and more personal in nature like “watch your tone.” This is contrasted to feedback given to men which was pretty much geared in the direction to develop additional skills. Here’s an example:

“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.”

There’s also gender bias in words. The word “abrasive” never came up once in a man’s review but actually appeared 17 times to describe 13 women. While it was literally absent in male reviews, it appeared in 71 out of 94 critical female reviews.

The piece points out even this small sample size demonstrates The Double Bind — the notion that if a woman’s too nice or is “too feminine” she’s seen at too soft and won’t be taken seriously enough. And if she’s too assertive, she’s deemed bitchy.

Okay, so what’s our solution? Ah, if only it was that simple…per the piece, Snyder discovered female managers critiqued women and not men thereby reflecting perhaps a deep-rooted issue. The first step though is always awareness so being vigilant about the words we use at work and if we would treat men and women the same way is a good place to start.