A few weeks ago, my friend Whitney Johnson wrote a piece around perceptual biases that was inspired by something her daughter experienced in school one day. As Whitney describes in her piece, her daughter gave a presentation in one of her classes, a presentation she had spent much time and effort researching and practising. After she was done, her teacher commented “that was pretty good.”
Soon after, one of her male classmates stood up to give his presentation. From her daughter’s perspective, this classmate’s presentation was a lot less organized and he wasn’t as articulate. But when he finished his presentation, the teacher remarked “Great job”.
Reading about the experience Whitney’s daughter had at her school reminded me of a study done by researchers at the University of Chicago and Stanford University which found that while parents give an equal amount of praise to both girls and boys, they differ significantly in the type of praise they provide based on the gender of their child.
What the researchers found was that parents were more likely to praise a boy for his efforts or actions (“you really worked hard on that”) while girls were praised more in terms of who they are (“you’re so smart”).
The researchers found that this discrepancy in giving girls more what they call “person praise” over “process praise” leaves them vulnerable to thinking that if they don’t do well on a test or on an assignment, it’s a reflection more of the limits of their intelligence or abilities than on the level of effort they needed to give in order to succeed.
Although this study – and what Whitney’s daughter experienced at school – reveal some of the biases that both men and women demonstrate towards girls, and its impact on how girls view their accomplishments, I’d like to pivot here and focus on what this reveals about the way we communicate and in particular, what messages we’re really imparting to those we lead.
One thing that’s abundantly clear from the various studies on employee engagement and organizational success is that today’s leaders need to Click here to continue reading »