A NEW study by the linguist and tech entrepreneur Kieran Snyder, done forFortune.com, found two differences between workplace performance reviews given to men and women. Across 248 reviews from 28 companies, managers, whether male or female, gave female employees more negative feedback than they gave male employees. Second, 76 percent of the negative feedback given to women included some kind of personality criticism, such as comments that the woman was “abrasive,” “judgmental” or “strident.” Only 2 percent of men’s critical reviews included negative personality comments.
The study speaks to the impossible tightrope women must walk to do their jobs competently and to make tough decisions while simultaneously coming across as nice to everyone, all the time. But the findings also point to something else: If a woman wants to do substantive work of any kind, she’s going to be criticized — with comments not just about her work but also about herself. She must develop a way of experiencing criticism that allows her to persevere in the face of it.