Research Reveals That Performance Appraisals At Work Are Sexist

Performance reviews or performance appraisals, whatever they might be called at your organization, it sure isn’t a walk in the park for most of us and worse, for others, it’s one of the most stressful times in their career. Hence, for some time now, career experts have been advising companies to do away with such age-old methods at work because not only are they costly, but they are also ineffective. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) shed light on the issues of the ‘gender gap in self-promotion’, conducting it among 1500 candidates, all of whom took a 20-question test and then asked them how well they thought they did. 

“Even when a woman is told exactly how well she performed… she still rates herself lower”

The study revealed the average candidates got about half the questions right, however, women consistently thought that they did worse when they compared their performance to men. ‘When asked to indicate their agreement on the statement “I performed well on the test,” the average man gave himself a 61 out of 100. The average woman gave herself a 46 out of 100 — a 25% difference.’ If you’re thinking this the confidence gap happening all over again, think again, because now it’s also the self-promotion gap that has come into play. The study’s co-author and an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, Christine Exley, “Even when a woman is told exactly how well she performed on the questionnaire, and how well she performed versus other participants, she still rates herself lower than an equally performing man.” What holds women back is not the lack of confidence, but the lack of self-promotion is high even in women who are very confident because of the anticipated backlash.

Performance reviews are fraught because they rely on the employee’s perception of their performance and women are losing out

Seeing the experiences of other women who have promoted themselves or having experienced the backlash themselves, women are hesitating when it comes to self-promotion, regardless of their level of confidence. As a result, this affects women negatively when it comes to jobs, credit, and promotions as compared to men, so performance appraisals lie in favor of men rather than women. Therefore, performance reviews are fraught because they rely on the employee’s perception of their performance and they might not always get the right picture from them, particularly women. ‘A 2019 Gallup poll found that only 14% of employees believe the evaluations actually inspire them to improve.’ Also, a majority of employees do think that these evaluations are irrelevant, however, these don’ seem to be going away any time soon because corporate organizations still love performance appraisals. 

Image credit: Samewave

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