Picture this: a woman works tirelessly, putting in long hours and consistently delivering exceptional results. However, she finds herself stuck in the same position, unable to advance. It’s not because she lacks skills or dedication; it’s because of the subtle yet persistent influence of gender bias in feedback.

According to recent research conducted by Harvard Business Review, women receive less specific, actionable criticism and more vague, subjective comments in performance evaluations. This limits their opportunities for growth and progression.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling: How Gender Bias in Feedback is Holding Women Back

It’s time to challenge this status quo and empower women to reach their full potential. Therefore, in this blog, we’ll take an in-depth look at the impact of gender bias in feedback on women’s careers. We’ll also provide solutions for breaking through the glass ceiling once and for all.

How Gender Bias In Feedback Affect Women’s Productivity In The Organization

Research conducted by the Graduate School of Stanford Business revealed that managers hesitate to criticize women, even when necessary overtly. Their reluctance could be due to the fear of getting tagged as being unsupportive of their female subordinates. Often, managers refrain from using unpleasant language to analyze women’s performances but rather couch the criticism with faint praise to cushion the blow.

This approach is deceptive because besides giving lower ratings that don’t correlate with the given feedback, the women are also at a loss for what to do to develop career-wise.

The critical feedback and criticism given to male employees are more beneficial because it’s developmental. They know exactly what to do to get promoted or advance in their career path. This is not the case; it appears the experience of their female counterparts, who receive vague feedback, which eventually becomes of little or no help.

In an organization where all employees are evaluated equally and criticized or praised regardless of gender, there’s bound to be healthy competition, which is good for the organization’s productivity. Adversely, an organization that’s biased in its feedback towards women is doing more to weaken its staff strength. When compared, there’s no doubt that the former organization will thrive better in that market than the latter.

Giving inequitable feedback based on the recipient’s gender is as detrimental to the recipient as it is to their counterparts and the organization.

Unhelpful, vague, or inaccurate feedback obscures vital growth opportunities for women and hinders them from getting major job assignments, promotions, or raises. Conversely, a lack of empathy or kindness in giving feedback to men is likely to harm their well-being, inhibit their growth, and create a toxic workplace environment. Therefore, it is safer to be unbiased in giving feedback, regardless of gender.

How Can You Prevent Gender-Bias Feedback In An Organization?

Without a doubt, kindness is not a bad thing. But as a manager, there’s a problem if you allow the need to be kind to overrule your intention to pass a message across to your female subordinates.

To prevent the challenges that might stem from giving gender-bias feedback, you should follow the tips below:

Planning can be handy in this situation

Ahead of a feedback conversation, write out the actionable, specific, and accurate points and messages you desire to convey. The eLeaP PSP 1-on-1 system helps you create an agenda prior to your conversation.

Infuse kindness

Get familiar with the art of infusing kindness into conversations while offering your constructive critiques without masking the main message.

Pay due attention to deliberately sprinkling kindness here and there all through the conversation, notwithstanding whether the recipient is a male or female. Every employee, regardless of gender, sees, acknowledges, and appreciates every act of kindness channeled toward them.

Confirm if they understood your message

After communicating constructive feedback, ask the recipient to reiterate what stood out for them in the conversation. This is to ensure that your kindness did not overshadow the content you were trying to convey.

Introduce feedback auditing

Organization-level auditing of written feedback can reveal gendered patterns in the content and tone of feedback. This will root out biases that may be difficult to be spotted by individuals. It also ensures that the feedback or evaluation remains the same, irrespective of the level, status, or gender of the recipient.

Management should ensure that the evaluation process is transparent and hold the manager accountable for review. Ensure managers have set standards and transparent criteria for employee evaluation. They should consistently apply these criteria across all the employees in the organization. This eliminates biases and cuts off the feedback process from being an open box where a manager can say whatever they desire about an employee.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of the gender of a feedback recipient, it is clear that sincerity and kindness are necessary elements that have to be infused into effective feedback. Managers must intentionally adopt and distribute this approach equitably in the organization.

Follow the above tips and watch how you seamlessly create a positive work environment that allows everyone in your organization to thrive equally.