The leader of the Stanford University Clayman Institute for Gender Research, Prof. Shelley Correll, and Dr. Caroline Simard, Exponential Talent’s Co-Leader and Senior Research Director at the Clayman Institute, co-authored research into how vague performance feedback negatively impacts women's progression as leaders.
The authors looked at performance review for 3 high-tech companies and a professional services firm, finding that women consistently received less feedback tied to business outcomes, which correlated with lower performance review ratings. Their deeper analysis of more than 200 performance reviews showed that women receive vague praise 57% of the time compared to 43% of the time of the men. Examining communication skills, vital for leaders, 76% of references to being “too aggressive” happened in women’s reviews, versus 24% in men’s. Furthermore, their research indicated that “protective hesitation” — the failure to give feedback due to worry that the recipient might be upset — is a critical barrier in having conversations necessary to advance women’s careers.
Simard and Correll also offer 5 “micro-sponsorship” actions that disuprt these unconscious feedback biases and provide pathways for women to advance.