As part of their ongoing Women At Work series for the New York Times, Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg took a look at how gender stereotypes have women doing the brunt of ‘Office Housework,’ and why they aren’t receiving any recognition for it.
According to Grant and Sandberg, the "sad reality" is that men are expected to be "ambitious and results-oriented, and women to be nurturing and communal."
Meaning that when a male employee helps out with administrative tasks, like taking notes in a meeting or planning an office holiday party, he’s praised for taking on the extra work. When a woman declines to do the same she’s vilified, as her cooperation is expected.
A study done by NYU psychologist Madeline Heilmen confirmed what Grant and Sandberg have seen in so many work places.
"Participants evaluated the performance of a male or female employee who did or did not stay late to help colleagues prepare for an important meeting. For staying late and helping, a man was rated 14 percent more favorably than a woman. When both declined, a woman was rated 12 percent lower than a man. Over and over, after giving identical help, a man was significantly more likely to be recommended for promotions, important projects, raises and bonuses. A woman had to help just to get the same rating as a man who didn’t help."
These unfair and extra expectations of women in the workplace aren’t just annoying, they’re time consuming. Grand and Sandberg warn that they’re also causing women to miss career opportunities.
"The person taking diligent notes in the meeting almost never makes the killer point."
However, the authors do provide suggestions as to how to combat this problem, the first of which is to acknowledge the imbalance that exists and work to correct it. One simple solution is that organizations can keep track of employees' "acts of helping" as well as evenly assigning communal tasks.
They also state that women will need to have a shift in their mind-set.
“If we want to care for others, we also need to take care of ourselves…by putting self-concern on par with concern for others, women may feel less altruistic, but they’re able to gain more influence and sustain more energy. Ultimately, they can actually give more.”
The cooperation of men is also needed for change to occur, according to the authors. Men should speak up for their female coworkers and draw attention to their contributions, as well as stepping up to do their fair share of administrative tasks.
You can read the full piece "Madame C.E.O., Get Me a Coffee" on the New York Times here.