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Women are often told to pipe down at work, to be less assertive. Since women face flak any way, you may as well focus on your strengths – and refuse to pipe down!
A recent conversation with a very close friend sparked my interest to pen down my thoughts on a very interesting topic.
Meet Sharon (name changed). A banker by profession, married and a mother of a three-year-old, a go-getter by attitude, and full of energy and ambition to do more.
It was that time of the year when we get behind the glass doors and discuss the year gone by. In the workplace we call it – The Performance Appraisal.
For Sharon, the discussion progressed well. All ticks on the list of her KPIs! She had overachieved her targets, comfortably making it to the top 5 percentile. She was happy. Management had acknowledged her contribution, she thought.
Until she heard this:
“Sharon – I really appreciate your effort. Especially your hard work in meeting the ever growing sales targets. Good job there! Also, while we know you are aspirational but at times you come across as someone who is overly assertive in voicing your opinion especially in team meetings. We can chat separately later if you don’t agree on specific topics, but in team meetings, I suggest let’s go by the flow…”
Silence fell between them. She didn’t know how to react. She quickly apologised for being overly assertive and left the room, disappointed.
Circling back to a blogpost that I wrote recently, I am again pressed to think of why women have to be extra cautious in choosing their working styles. Would the same feedback hold true, if it was for a male co-worker? In most probability, he would have been complemented for demonstrating a vision and direction for achieving the targets for the entire team.
Taking a cue from Sharon, I dug a little more on this subject and came across an interesting piece of research. In 2014, Kieran Snyder, performed a research for Fortune.com, analysing nearly 250 performance review transcripts. Her findings concluded that nearly 59% of men’s reviews contained critical feedback – whereas a whopping 88% of the reviews received by women did. What is more, women’s feedback included more personality criticism than men, whose feedback was more geared towards suggestions to develop additional skills. According to Kieran:
Year on year, researches continue to show the feedback discrimination that we women have been facing. The research above is just one example. Sharon experienced this just recently. And I am sure many of you reading this might have heard something similar at some point in your careers, not forgetting many more other interesting adjectives. Often times, women who are vocal and assertive are labelled with the very famous b-words – bitchy and bossy.
And this hasn’t changed over so many years, and I don’t see the needle moving even in the next few years. So what’s the solution to beat this stereotype?
I think people will continue to judge us for the choices that we make in life, for the ways and means through which we want to achieve those choices. Instead of justifying our choices or our behaviour (which in any case is going to be judged) – why give a damn? Just listen to your inner critic – if it tells you to slow down, hear it out.
If not, continue to move the mountains, lady!
Top image via Graphicstock
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Aanchal Makkar is a senior research analyst covering energy sector at Ernst & Young, a strong
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