Redressing the Praise Deficit: Women in Leadership and Leveraging Your Best Self
We all need encouragement from other people. Regardless of gender, role or organization, everyone needs some kind of external validation to keep moving forward with momentum and motivation, to build resilience, and to understand where we excel or bring positive impact. When we receive feedback from others, be they team members, colleagues or bosses, we gain valuable insights into the actions and behaviors that matter to them. These insights can, in turn, help us determine and prioritize exactly where it is that we can add value from a position of strength.
“Societal patterns have changed over time, and we have far greater female representation in leadership,” says Darden Professor Laura Morgan Roberts. “But there is still a significant praise deficit that women face in life and in work. We do receive positive feedback, but research shows that, compared to men, this feedback often conforms to gender stereotypes — things like nurturing or care giving.”
One study found that in performance reviews, men were more likely than women to have specific efforts lauded and linked to concrete business outcomes — new customer accounts, for example, or an uptick in sales.1 Women, on the other hand, were prone to receive more generic praise — comments such as being “an asset to the team,” having had a “good year” and the like.
This disparity matters, says Roberts, and it matters a very great deal. Without the same kind of constructive, positive encouragement, women not only fail to see their authority or contributions as equal in value to those of men, they also miss out on a critical opportunity to learn and grow.