By Jessica Titlebaum

In this article, Laura Morse, visiting lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), says that encouragement given to women tended to make them feel good, rather than make them successful.

The idea that women may get it easy in terms of criticism, compared to their male counterparts is a thought-provoking concept. Why would a manager hold back when criticizing a female employee?

Regina Thoele is the senior vice president at the National Futures Association (NFA), a self-regulating organization that oversees the futures markets. Thoele, while not wanting to hold back on criticism when it’s needed, admits that she tries to encourage women rather than criticize them.

She added that a part of this reason is because women didn’t always have the opportunity to get ahead, the way they do now.

“For driven women it shows them that they can do something – they can make an impact,” she said. “It’s a personal thing, I can relate to it. I don’t see it as ‘stepping into my shoes’ when it comes to a man.”

On the other hand, Nancy Kaplan, the vice president of business development at NYSE Euronext, the first transatlantic stock and derivatives exchange, believes that criticism is crucial for personal and professional growth.

“If everyone received a trophy, even if they didn’t play, how do you provide incentives to win the game?”

Comparing criticism to a child’s softball game, Kaplan touches on the point that if everyone received encouragement, the ones that needed to work harder wouldn’t be motivated to better their performance.

Kaplan wasn’t alone in her beliefs that personal and professional growth is achieved through critiques.

Robin Ross is the managing director of interest rate products at the CME Group, one of the largest futures exchanges in the world. When providing criticism, Ross coaches the employee rather than critiquing them.

“I do it in the form of coaching tips,” she said.

She also remarked that her management style is influenced because she is a woman.

“I tailor my form of communication because I am a woman. I could say the exact same thing to two people and they would hear it differently,“ she said.

Ross thought for a second before admitting that male managers, in the past, may have held back on criticism because she was a woman.

This leads us to ask, are women held back when they are patted on the head instead of pushed through the door? Morse may think so but there is a simple solution for women looking for constructive criticism. Ask for it.

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