Today in “ugh” news: a recent study showed that men are twice as likely than women to receive outstanding letters of recommendation. If you needed a non-political reason to support the Women’s March on Washington…well here you go.
To clarify, it’s not that women are getting bad letters of recommendation or bad references more than men are. Rather, it’s that the terms used to describe a woman’s performance are less positive than the words using to describe a man’s performance:
“In a recommendation letter, a man is more likely to be described as a ‘rising star’ who is ‘brilliant’ and ‘superb.’ Meanwhile, women are praised for their work ethic and diligence. A different study from several years ago showed that recommendation letters praise men for their independence and assertiveness, while women’s positive attributes are described as kindness and the willingness to help others and follow directions.”
These glowing references for men (and less glow-y references for their female counterparts) come from both male and female references, confirming implicit bias, rather than a malicious campaign to undermine women. Regardless of the impetus or motivation for using less strong language, the effect on a woman’s career is still the same.
Truly, it’s not just women’s careers that are affected; having fewer women make it to top leadership positions affects a company’s bottom line, and that affects everyone’s success. Multiple studies have verified that women’s leadership has a net positive impact: “companies that had majority of board members as women witnessed a substantial 87% better performance than their competition,” reports one survey.
Uncovering this bias has prompted some companies, like Google and Microsoft, to take steps toward combating barriers preventing women from getting a fair evaluation. At BULLIT, we want to even the playing field even further.
On our platform, members can ask for anonymous reviews on their work performance. BULLIT is an acronym that stands for Brains, Urgency, Leadership, Logic, Imagination, and Trustworthiness. Basically, all the things that make you an outstanding professional, but don’t usually show up on a traditional resume or LinkedIn profile. Ask your connections to provide you with a score in each of these categories, and reviewers can leave comments and notes about what you’re really like to work with. In turn, you can respond, agree/disagree, and hide or flag any of your reviews.
Our hope is that we can begin to chip away at this gender bias by putting everyone on equal footing. Because everyone is evaluated on the same six heuristics as a baseline for each review, you get a fair shot at stacking up against the competition no matter what your gender.
Why do we make our reviews anonymous? Because we want everyone to receive excellent recommendations, gender bias or no. Anonymity can add a new level of transparency by freeing people to be direct and constructive: it allows for more honest feedback. Even when someone wants to provide extremely positive feedback, a lack of anonymity can make it seem disingenuous. The LinkedIn “endorsements” and reference tools illustrate this phenomenon – many of the reviews/references seem fake, inauthentic, or outdated. Anonymity removes that “fake” feeling and enables people to be straightforward and transparent.
Of course, we are aware that some people might manipulate anonymity for malicious intents and purposes, and we do not condone utilizing our platform for harassment or bullying. We use various anti-abuse tools to discourage vulgarity or abusive behavior of any kind. (Please click here to learn more about our anti-abuse tools.)
At the end of the day, we want everyone to receive the glowing recommendations they’ve earned, and be able to display them at every stage in their career; not just during a job hunt. More frequent, informal feedback on a standard set of skills can help level the playing field and help men AND women find success. Click here to check out BULLIT and get started today.
Also published on Medium.