In a workplace study involving over 4,000 employees, women consistently underrated their performance in 10 out of 24 competencies. In comparison, men rated themselves lower than the ratings they received from others in just 5 out of 24 competences. At the same time, the study found that women tended to give more positive performance ratings than men for 20 out of the 24 competencies when assessing other people.
Significantly, men's performance was rated more or less equally by men and women raters, whilst women's performance was rated lower by men than by women. Given that in most industries men outnumber women in senior positions, this is concerning (particularly as men tended to rate women significantly lower on competences including leadership potential and persuasive communication, key factors in promotion decisions).
Whilst an argument might have been made to suggest that such ratings are simply an accurate reflection of performance, scores of actual potential found no significant differences between men and women, with both being considered equally competent in all areas.
The nature of this problem has been known about for a considerable time and there is still little concrete understanding about the underlying causal nature of this. Irrespective of this, the study provides further evidence that this is happening and if we value equal opportunity for men and women, and if organisations wish to harness their talent to the full, more should be done to address it. Whether in targeted briefing sessions, development programmes, coaching or training, men and women need to be given information, guidance and support to address this situation. Additionally, the study indicates that steps to address 'rater bias' in 360 feedback and appraisal are required and emphasises that the use of carefully designed appraisal systems is essential.
The study was carried out by Psychological Consultancy Limited (PCL) - to see their report see here.