The evidence is mounting that our existing feedback systems have inherent biases that penalize women. I have a personal commitment to help improve this, and in this post, I make specific recommendations on how to do so. But first, what do we know about gender and performance reviews?
- Women receive more criticisms of their personalities in performance reviews: A linguist did study on performance reviews. Men and women provided positive performance reviews. She found that in 83 performance reviews, men received personality feedback in only 2 cases. In 94 critical reviews, women received personality criticisms 71 times.  Words like “abrasive” and “strident” were present in these performance reviews.
- Women are less likely to be rewarded for good ideas. Men who provide revenue-generating ideas are given higher performance ratings. Women who provide revenue-generating ideas see no improvement in their 
- The “glass ceiling” is the result of many tiny obstacles. Researchers at Harvard Business School found that there is no specific point where women face a “ceiling,” but many small instances of discrimination lead to their careers stalling over time. 
- Ostensibly “meritocratic” reward systems favor men over women. Researchers experimentally tested whether managers would reward men and women differently when explicitly creating a system of “merit.” Over 3 experiments and 445 participants, they found men were rewarded with more money than women in this supposed “meritocratic” system. 
- Women are penalized for asking for raises: Researchers found that people judge women more harshly when they ask for a raise; women don’t ask for raises because they realistically assess the social cost of asking. 
- Men are rated more highly for helping colleagues, and women are rated more negatively for not helping. In a series of experiments, researchers asked participants to rate the performance of men and women who either agreed to stay late to help colleagues, or refused to stay late and help. Men who offered to stay were rated 14% more positively (women’s rating remained the same). Women who refused to stay were rated 12% more negatively (men were not rated more negatively). 
- Women pay a penalty for motherhood, while men reap a bonus for fatherhood: Researchers have found women who become mothers pay a minimum penalty of 4% decline in income.  The penalty is larger for more educated women.  By contrast, fathers reap a bonus . This is not due to a lack of commitment by women, by biased perceptions of their commitment.  In other words, the cost of being a parent depends on your gender, not your performance.
- Just pointing out bias actually increases its incidence! Other research has found that pointing out bias actually increases its negative consequences. 
Opportunities for Improvement
- Examine the words you use in your performance feedback. Is it related to personality or performance? Are the words very gendered, such as “bossy”? Consider what words you might have used to describe the opposite gender.
- Did you reward fairly? Is there a systematic difference between the genders? Could this be unconscious bias?
- Is this a “tiny obstacle”? How many barriers has your direct report experienced in her career? Is this performance review a chance to create a “tiny ladder” through the glass ceiling?
- Do you expect women to be more altruistic? Reward men and women equally for the same behaviors. Consider if you expect women to be more giving of their time than men.
- Is your direct report asking for something…and are you evaluating that ask fairly? Consider what kinds of requests your direct report has made. Are you judging those requests fairly, or are you penalizing the person for speaking up?
- Unconscious bias is wrong. Make sure you point out that bias is wrong, not just that it exists. Norms are powerful, especially for senior leaders.
 K. Snyder, “The Abrasiveness Trap: High Achieving Men and Women Are Described Differently in Reviews,” Fortune, New York, Aug-2014.
 A. Grant, “Rocking the Boat but Keeping It Steady: The Role of Emotion Regulation in Employee Voice,” Acad. Manag. J., vol. 56, no. 6, 2013.
 A. Eagly and L. Carli, “Women and the labyrinth of leadership,” Harv. Bus. Rev., no. September, pp. 62–71, 2007.
 E. J. Castilla and S. Benard, “The Paradox of Meritocracy in Organizations,” Adm. Sci. Q., vol. 55, no. 4, pp. 543–576, Dec. 2010.
 H. R. Bowles, L. Babcock, and L. Lai, “Social incentives for gender differences in the propensity to initiate negotiations: Sometimes it does hurt to ask,” Organ. Behav. Hum. Decis. Process., vol. 103, no. 1, pp. 84–103, May 2007.
 M. Heilman and J. Chen, “Same Behavior, Different Consequences: Reactions to Men’s and Women’s Altruistic Citizenship Behavior,” J. Appl. Psychol., vol. 90, no. 3, pp. 431–441, 2005.
 T. Street, A. Arbor, and P. O. Box, “Has the Price of Motherhood Declined Over Time ? A Cross-Cohort Comparison of the Motherhood Wage Penalty,” J. Marriage Fam., vol. 65, no. August, pp. 597–607, 2003.
 J. a. Kmec, “Are motherhood penalties and fatherhood bonuses warranted? Comparing pro-work behaviors and conditions of mothers, fathers, and non-parents,” Soc. Sci. Res., vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 444–459, Mar. 2011.
 G. Hundley, “Male/Female Earnings Differences in Self-Employment: The Effects of Marriage, Children, and The Household Division of Labor,” Labor Relations Rev., pp. 95–114, 2000.
 M. Duguid and M. Thomas-Hunt, “Condoning Stereotyping?: How Awareness of Stereotyping Prevalence Impacts Expression of Stereotypes,” J. Appl. Psychol., no. October, 2014.