I am looking for a stat about how labeling in the workplace is detrimental to a woman’s career.
The use of everyday language to label women is perpetuated by the existence of historically-based stereotypes about gender roles. Such language and labeling creates barriers for women in the workplace, as they are seen as "emotional," "incapable," and "inadequate" to be successful. The impact of such labeling is far-reaching: it can negatively impact a woman's judgments, decisions, and behavior, as well as the perceptions of those around her.
Deb Liu, co-founder of Women in Product, writes about gendered language in our everyday lives. She argues that using gendered language in normal communication is a natural condition of our culture, and we rarely think about the impact of such language. This language, she argues, is rarely used with "misogynistic or negative intent." Further, she illustrates how masculine words tend to imply more positive meanings or results — such as "manpower" and "right-hand man." Also, feminine words tend to suggest more negativity: such as "Debby Downer" and "prima donna."
Liu sites a 2011 study which found that "the gendering of everyday language can impact an individual’s judgments, decisions, and their behavior." Such language can further impact a person's self-perception and "interactions with others." Language causes people to imagine a specific type of person in a role, and can also deter certain people from seeking that role. For example, Liu mentions a study from the University of Waterloo and Duke University which found that "masculine language is widely used in more male-dominated fields whereas feminine language is not used more often in female-dominated fields." Furthermore, the study found that women tended to shy away from positions which sounded better suited toward men.
While a Wonder response typically uses sources from the last two years, this 2011 study has been included because of its highly scientific methodology, and its highly relevant subject matter. The study found that the gendering of everyday language can impact an individual’s judgments, decisions, and their behavior, which influences both their self-perception and interactions with others. Masculine forms of nouns used in occupational titles can prevent women from identifying with the position, and thus prevent them from "pursu[ing] a career which implicitly excludes women." The study found that 25% of women applied for a traditionally male job which was described in gender neutral terms, as opposed to only 5% of women who applied for a similar job described using male-oriented language.
A BBC article from Mark Peters describes lingering stereotypes and layers of language which perpetuate gender inequality in the workplace, and which can damage women's prospects. Peters specifically addresses two types of language and how they are applied to men and women: "communal" and "agentic." Communal language is often used to describe women and has connotations of "stereotypical female traits like being supportive, showing warmth, and helping the team." Agentic language, on the other hand, is often used to refer to men and carries connotations of "getting the job done, taking charge, and being independent." Peters argues that, even though most people don't fit such stereotypes, "these gendered frames can feel like a box around people at work, especially women." He states that male-centric lingo, "derived from sports, war, and machinery," such as "drill down", acts to "reinforce the idea that the workplace is (or should be) a man cave with water coolers."
Gendered language is not the only language which works to label and "box-in" women in the workplace. The Telegraph author Radhika Sanghani writes that sexist language is often used in the workplace to paint women in a negative light. In addition to referring to grown women as "girls," Sanghani references 25 common words, which on the surface seem innocuous, but which are generally used only to refer to women with negative connotations. She references words like "feisty," "abrasive," and "bossy." Sanghani's main argument is that these words are rarely used to describe men. The word "aggressive," she notes, is a rather new addition to this list, but, was found by a recent Fortune study to have appeared "17 times in women's professional performance reviews and one for men (who were openly encouraged to be 'more aggressive')."
Women in the workplace have often encountered the "kind of male-male conversation that demeans women and implicitly or explicitly excludes them"; which creates an environmental divide between men and women, and often makes women feel like outsiders. Workplace behaviors that are "subtly disrespectful, demeaning, and indicative of a lack of respect for co-workers" can result in women reporting "stress, burnout, lowered job satisfaction and engagement, and more intention to leave their jobs."
Forbes WomensMedia author Nancy F. Clark states that merely "witnessing uncivil behaviors toward women," even when the witness is not a specific target of it, "has negative impacts such as psychological distress and lower job satisfaction for both women and men." Clark further argues that, "Such demeaning talk serves as a powerful mechanism for keeping women on edge and in their place—marginalized as not real members of the club."
impacts of labeling in the workplace
Paola Cecchi-Dimeglio states in her Havard Business Law article that women are often "shortchanged" in annual performance reviews. Gender bias, she argues, is the reason that "women [are] 1.4 times more likely to receive critical subjective feedback (as opposed to either positive feedback or critical objective feedback)." She suggests that subjective feedback relates more to communication style, inability to make decisions, receiving little personal credit for their work. She argues: "Women’s performance was more likely to be attributed to characteristics such as luck or their ability to spend long hours in the office, perceived as real commitment to the firm, rather than their abilities and skills. As such, they often did not receive due credit for their work."
Cecchi-Dimeglio states that women receive less "constructively critical feedback", which is meant to "allow an employee to focus on the positives while identifying areas where there is room for growth." In contrast, Cecchi-Dimeglio found that men are more likely to be the subjects of leniency and the "halo effect" which essentially excuse men from culpability or responsibility, because "he had a lot on his plate" or he inspires others which "goes a long way."
A journal article in "Frontiers in Psychology" argues that women often experience the "objective disadvantages" of "lower pay, status, and opportunities at work," and the "subjective experiences" of "being stigmatized," all of which can have adverse affects on "women's psychological and physical stress, mental and physical health...job satisfaction and organizational commitment...and ultimately, their performance." The authors argue that "organizational structures, processes, and practices" (such as "leadership, structure, strategy, culture, climate, and HR policy") within organizations are rife with gender inequality, and so may lead to discrimination. They state that gender inequalities at each level of an organization can "affect the others," and can effectively create a "self-reinforcing system" which can "perpetuate institutional discrimination throughout the organization." Gender inequality in all levels of organizations "affects the hiring, training, pay, and promotion of women."
A study from the Perception Institute looked at the sources and effects of gender stereotypes on women and girls, in all aspects of life. The article states that gender roles are historically rooted in a "society's division of labor," and that because "men and women engage in different work, play, and roles in the home, we develop beliefs about their respective attributes—particularly their personality traits." Such gender roles create gender stereotypes which "continue to constrict opportunities in the present."
For example, when men are consistently given higher-status roles, and women lower-status roles, "we infer that men have the correspondent traits of agency and competitiveness, while we ascribe compliance and supportiveness to women." A result of such thinking is that employers, and indeed women themselves, find it difficult to "perceive women as suited for higher-status positions." Thus, we can see that the effects of stereotypes (and biases) can "influence and shape career goals, performance, and interests of men and women in stereotype-consistent ways."
In summary, stereotypes, language, and gender inequality in the workplace all act to impact a woman's success. Gender bias is ingrained so deeply in society, that many don't notice it, and so they continue to perpetuate the use of gendered language and gender stereotypes without realization.