The abrasiveness trap: High-achieving men and women are described differently in reviews

Another example of gender inequality in the workplace

Fortune

Not long ago I was talking to an engineering manager who was preparing performance reviews for his team. He had two people he wanted to promote that year, but he was worried that his peers were only going to endorse one of them. “Jessica is really talented,” he said. “But I wish she’d be less abrasive. She comes on too strong.” Her male counterpart? “Steve is an easy case,” he went on. “Smart and great to work with. He needs to learn to be a little more patient, but who doesn’t?”

I don’t know whether Jessica got her promotion, but the exchange got me wondering how often this perception of female abrasiveness undermines women’s careers in technology.

I focused on performance reviews for a couple of reasons. First, reviews provide written documentation of people’s perceptions. My friend called Jessica “abrasive,” but would he put that into her lasting professional record?…

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