A TikTok influencer working to encourage Asian-American women to further their careers has gone viral after she shared a video highlighting a word used to describe women, but not men, in the workplace.
Katrina Palanca posted a TikTok video in January recounting a discouraging encounter she had at the office: a co-worker complained she was being “abrasive.”
“There’s a word that’s almost always used to describe women and hardly ever used to describe men,” Palanca says in the video. “I’m going to tell you about the time I was called that word.”
The young professional explains how she ran into an issue when attempting to set up a work station for a new hire. When the equipment she had requested from the IT department did not arrive on time, she followed up with her co-worker “Steve.”
She spoke in a “matter-of-fact” tone that was the “equivalent of not putting exclamation points in an email” as she reiterated her request and required deadline.
“A couple of hours later, my boss comes to my cubicle, he grabs a chair, sits down next to me,” Palanca recalled. “And [he] says, ‘Hey, you’re not in trouble. I just want you to know that “Steve” from IT came into my office and said that you were being ‘abrasive.’ “
Her boss listened to her explanation and then decided to handle the situation himself.
After the whole ordeal, Palanca felt “really upset,” which pushed her to do some research. She found a study by linguist Kieran Snyder titled “The Abrasive Trap: High-achieving men and women are described differently in reviews.”
The study compiled 248 performance reviews from 28 small and large companies that were completed by 180 male and female managers. After evaluating the reviews, Snyder found the word “abrasive” was used 17 times to describe 13 women and showed up in 71 of the 94 critical reviews received by women, but not once used to describe men.