The Seattle company found biased comments that aligned with an employees’ gender, race, ethnicity and age. The study reports:
- Black men received 68 words of written feedback for every 100 words received by white women.
- Asian men were seven times more likely to be called “brilliant” or “genius” than Latinx women.
- Women, Black and Latinx workers received more personality-related feedback — both good and bad — than their colleagues, on average.
- Women, Black and Latinx workers also receive much less “actionable” feedback than their male, white and Asian counterparts. Actionable feedback can provide important guidance for making improvements in performance.
Textio also surveyed employees online. It asked 500 respondents to recall feedback that they had received at work, asking if they had been described using specific terms, including:
- Abrasive: Women were 11 times more likely to have received this description than men.
- Overachiever: Black women were four times more likely to be called an overachiever than white men.
- Confident: Men were three times more likely to be called confident than women were.
Textio was founded in 2014 by Kieran Snyder, who has a Ph.D. in linguistics and cognitive science. The company uses machine learning and natural language processing to analyze corporate communication and help companies strip biased language out of their operations.
“So what if women are more likely to be called “abrasive” than men? Who cares if white people are called “geniuses” 2.5 times more often than Black people?” Snyder wrote in the forward to the study.
“It matters because people with access to actionable feedback grow faster, earn more, and have more opportunities for leadership,” she continued. “We still have a lot of work to do. Let’s dive in.”