Women don’t receive feedback from men at work because men do not believe that women will amount to anything, making the task pointless. That’s the view of Naomi Wohl Litowitz (pictured above), SVP, head of strategy and planning for North America at digital-first media agency, Brainlabs.
Speaking on a panel at The Female Quotient’s Equality Lounge at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Litowitz said that women do not receive feedback from men in the workplace because they’re not worth the effort.
“From men, women tend to receive less feedback around this idea that we’re just lacking credibility, so it’s not worth it to give her feedback, she’s not really going to amount to become CEO, so I’m not going to spend my time doing that.
“With women, it’s a little more complex,” she added, “there are a number of issues… I don’t want to come off looking difficult or hard-to-please. I also think there’s an issue around betrayal. I don’t want to betray what you’re doing, you do you and I’ll just let that be”.
CES, first held in 1967, has had a challenging relationship with diversity and female inclusion over the years. It had a longstanding tradition of using “promotional models” (read: booth babes) to entice and hold the interest of the male-dominated audience and journalists covering the show. Ahead of the 2020 running of the event, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) which organises the event, launched the “Innovation for All Track” and issued an official dress code that stated:
“Booth personnel may not wear clothing that is sexually revealing or that could be interpreted as undergarments. Clothing that reveals an excess of bare skin, or body-conforming clothing that hugs genitalia must not be worn. These guidelines are applicable to all booth staff, regardless of gender. In addition, the existing CES ban on pornography will be strictly enforced with no exceptions for CES 2020”.
Tanneasha Gordon, principal, data and digital trust leader at Deloitte, added that feedback “has a PR problem”.
“There is an unjustifiable and sometimes justifiable bias against women being too sensitive and that sensitivity could quickly transmute into defensiveness and then the feedback would not be received.
“But… feedback as a construct has a PR problem. Everyone sees it as some dig or dag or just an issue, rather than a critical component of building a career… If it’s rebranded, it will be received well but also, whether it’s from a male or female giving the feedback, they will see it as a gift versus something to be afraid of”.
However, Lex Josephs, VP GM, Sam’s Club Member Access Platform, took a different tack, believing that feedback was not necessarily a gendered issue. Instead, it had more to do with the receiver’s mind frame. Referring to her team at Sam’s Club, she said:
“I tell them all the time, ‘Do you want the feedback?’ And they’ll say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and then based on their answer, I calibrate accordingly.
“It’s not just a gender aspect but do you want to hear it, how are you going to give it, how are you going to listen to it and let’s assume that everybody actually wants to make you better and not necessarily make you feel anything negative”.
Mentorship, and the feedback that mentorship necessarily entails, has quickly become one of the most important and widely cited drivers of female empowerment in the technology sector. At last year’s Women Leading Tech Awards, no less than eight of the 27 winners (excluding the Mentor category itself) were commended for their mentorship of younger colleagues.
However, Rachel Winer, SVP, business development, at marketing experience company Quad, said that she finds it easier to deliver tough feedback because “people’s strengths are their weaknesses”.
“If you think about it in that way, it’s much easier for it to land when you say ‘Because you’re the kind of person that is X or Y, therefore this is the downside of that’. You see it not as a negative but something that you can lean into and just to be aware of”.
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