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Women @ Work: Girls Don’t Be So Abrasive!

"Women are given constructive suggestions – and told to pipe down."

A new study of performance reviews shows that women are much more likely to be given critical feedback as compared to their male peers

That women get a rough deal at work is no longer a matter of contention. Numerous studies have demonstrated that women have to work harder to “prove” themselves, are often prey to sexual harassment and are expected to sacrifice work/ career at the altar of family. If they manage to surmount all these obstacles, they have to contend with being paid lesser than male colleagues with similar qualifications and experience.

Underlying all this is a deep rooted sexism that is almost akin to our attitude towards littering or bribing – most people would be genuinely surprised when given evidence that they judge a woman based upon her looks, voice, hair, hemline….(” Me, discriminate? All I said is that she’s bossy – it’s just not feminine, you know. I don’t know how her husband puts up with this!”). As a woman CEO who participated in MBRB’s Women At Work Survey pointed out, she had to put her foot down when she was unofficially appointed as the tea-server for clients!

Over the years, we’ve learnt to “handle” such cases – often times with humour, sometimes with a stronger dose of  “You’re way out of line, buster”. But reading today’s Your Daily Readan analysis of performance reviews handed out to high performers in the IT industry - reminded us what a long and arduous journey we have ahead of us.

The purpose of the study was straightforward:

“Did review tone or content differed based on the employee’s gender? I also wanted to know whether the manager’s gender was a factor in how they reviewed their employees. “

This is what she found:


While reading through the reviews, the writer found that:

…negative personality criticism—watch your tone! step back! stop being so judgmental!—shows up twice in the 83 critical reviews received by men. It shows up in 71 of the 94 critical reviews received by women.
Men are given constructive suggestions. Women are given constructive suggestions – and told to pipe down.

She also noted:

Words like bossy, abrasive, strident, and aggressive are used to describe women’s behaviors when they lead; words like emotional and irrational describe their behaviors when they object. All of these words show up at least twice in the women’s review text I reviewed, some much more often. Abrasive alone is used 17 times to describe 13 different women. 

The bottom line: Girls Be Quiet & Polite! 

Have you found such instances in your workplaces, or do you think that sexism at work is a myth? Tell us what you think!

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Photo Credit: IronRodArt – Royce Bair (“Star Shooter”) via Compfight cc

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