Women are more likely to receive negative feedback, which is troubling for organisations struggling with a managerial gender gap. Having women in leadership positions is critical for organisational success across the globe. Organisations with higher percentages of women managers and leaders tend to be significantly more successful than organisations with few. However, in many industries, women are underrepresented in more senior and executive-level roles, and these organisations are struggling to remain competitive while at the same time failing to utilise half of the potential workforce.
Promote equality in performance reviews
Employing women in senior roles is only the first step. It is also important to ensure every person has a safe and supportive environment in which to work. This includes equality when reviewing performance.
Unfortunately, in one fairly recent US-based study, women receive significantly more negative feedback in 360 degree reviews than their male counterparts. Conducted by Kieran Snyder for Fortune magazine, the study looked at nearly 250 reviews from 180 people. Close to three-quarters of women (71 per cent) experienced critical feedback in their review, compared to just 23 per cent of men.
Avoid personalising critical feedback
In the reviews that included negative feedback, 94 percent of women believed the opinion was critical to them personally, rather than their work. In comparison, just 83 percent of men felt the same way about their negative reviews.
Furthermore, the criticisms women were subjected to were more likely to be about their personality, rather than their managerial style. This is a serious concern, as continual criticism can lead to people becoming dissatisfied and unhappy, and potentially leaving their job for ‘greener pastures’.
“Abrasive”, “bossy”, “aggressive” and “emotional” were just some of the key words used by reviewers when providing feedback to the women. While some men were also called aggressive, this was more likely to be seen as a positive trait.
This troubling trend could mistakenly lead decision makers to further bias against employing and supporting highly-skilled women managers in their workforce, even though their organisation would potentially benefit the most.
Consider using low-threat, strengths-based 360 degree feedback
Rather than continuing down this potentially damaging path, you may want to consider a lower-threat, strengths-based approach to feedback surveys. Leaderskill’s 360 degree feedback surveys are designed to ensure the feedback responses fair, strengths-based and constructive, rather than critical and focused on the participant’s personality.