Abrasive – that’s not a term many women would like to hear used to describe them. This is especially so in a work context where you need to see certain people every day, and may need to get them on board to get work done.
It seems sometimes that as you make it as a women in business, you will be perceived in a certain way, and that is, in essence, hard-nosed and abrasive. Fortune highlights a small body of research that has been done on this topic, and the results unfortunately confirm a perception that women who are successful are abrasive. Yet, who is saying this and why?
In this research, 105 men submitted 141 reviews, and 75 women submitted 107 reviews. Of the full set of 248 reviews, about 71%—contained critical feedback. However, this was not distributed evenly by gender.
When breaking the reviews down by gender, 58.9% of the reviews received by men contained critical feedback. 87.9% of the reviews received by women did. The critical feedback men receive is heavily geared towards suggestions for additional skills to develop. Women receive this kind of constructive feedback too. But the women’s reviews include another, sharper element that is absent from the men’s. A kind of negative personality criticism that shows up only twice in the critical reviews received by men, and a whopping 71 of the critical reviews received by women. The reviewers gender isn’t a factor either, 62 of the 248 reviews were written by women, so we can’t blame it all on the attitude of the guys.
What causes this remains a mystery? Are women supposed to the soft and ever-forgiving, so when they lay down the law, their firmness is so shocking it is amplified? Are women simply not using the right language to express themselves, or do people simply need to realise the women have as much right to be firm in a work context? Whatever the reason, successful women will continue to thrive and unfortunately have to just live with such tags until attitudes change.