Women get more critical and negative feedback in their reviews, particularly focusing on their personalities, as compared to men, according to an analysis by Kieran Snyder in Fortune Magazine.
Snyder asked men and women working in technology to share their reviews with her, assuming that those with strongly positive ones would be most likely to submit. She looked at 248 reviews from 105 men and 75 women spread across 28 different tech companies from startups, mid-sized companies, and large corporations.
Seventy-one percent of the reviews had critical feedback, but women got more of it: about 88 percent of women’s reviews had criticism, versus about 60 percent of men’s. On top of this, critical feedback given to men was “heavily geared towards suggestions for additional skills to develop,” she writes. For women, on the other hand, much of it focused on their personalities. Seventy-one of the 94 critical reviews had such personality-based feedback, compared to just two of the 83 critical reviews for men.
Snyder shares some examples of what women face: “You can come across as abrasive sometimes. I know you don’t mean to, but you need to pay attention to your tone.” Another included, “You would have had an easier time if you had been less judgmental about R — ‘s contributions from the beginning.” Men, on the other hand, got feedback such as “Hone your strategies for guiding your team and developing their skills” or “Take time to slow down and listen. You would achieve even more.”
And there was a big difference in the words used for both genders. “Abrasive” showed up 17 times in reviews for 13 different women. “Bossy,” “strident,” and “aggressive” also made at least two appearances in women’s reviews. The only word out of all four to show up in men’s reviews was aggressive, which came up three times, but two of those were “an exhortation to be more of it,” she writes.
Synder’s not the first to find that these words tend to be employed to describe women far more often than men. In an examination of publications from television, newspapers, academic writing, fiction, and magazines between 1990 and 2012, linguist Nic Subtirelu found women are called “pushy” twice as frequently as men and “bossy” nearly three times as frequently.
Snyder also found that the gender of the manager doing a review didn’t change the nature of the feedback for male and female employees. Female managers conducted 25 percent of the reviews and accounted for just over 23 percent of the negative ones.
Her analysis may not be entirely scientific. “I don’t know whether women were simply more willing to submit reviews that include critical language, or whether men removed language from their review documents before submitting,” she cautions.
But it could shed light on another barrier holding women back from reaching top positions. Women get judged more harshly in the workplace. Both genders are less likely to hire or want to work with women who ask for a raise, while men don’t face any repercussions. Women face social and financial backlash for acting assertively at work. Mothers are also generally seen as less competent and committed and suffer a wage gap compared to childless workers, but fathers actually benefit.
And those women who do make it up the ladder are also judged harshly. A ranking of CEOs by employee feedback had no women in the top 30; just two appeared on the list of 51. Both men and women say they’d rather work for a man.