After a negative experience at work, a woman discovered that a certain word is only ever used to describe female employees.
After feeling upset about the comment, Palanca did some research of her own on the term. What she learned was enlightening.
“There’s a word that’s almost always used to describe women and hardly ever used to describe men,” Palanca said. “I’m going to tell you about the time I was called that word.”
When Palanca was preparing for a new hire at work, she ran into an issue with her co-worker “Steve” from the IT department. She had requested the IT department set up the new hire’s computer before their first day. After a few days, Palanca went to follow up on the request. She spoke in a “matter-of-fact” tone that was the “equivalent of not putting exclamation points in an email.” But Steve didn’t take it too well.
“A couple of hours later, my boss comes to my cubicle, he grabs a chair, sits down next to me,” Palanca recalled. “And [he] says, ‘Hey, you’re not in trouble. I just want you to know that Steve from IT came into my office and said that you were being abrasive.’“
Although Palanca didn’t get in trouble at work, the word “abrasive” left her feeling unsettled. She discovered a study by linguist Kieran Snyder, who reviewed 248 performance reviews from 28 small and large companies.
Snyder found the word “abrasive” was used 17 times to describe 13 women, but men were never called the word once. In fact, the study found that such character critiques appeared in 71 of 94 women’s reviews but were totally absent from men’s reviews altogether.
So as it turns out, Palanca’s experience was just one example of the much broader double standards women face at work.
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