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Why Women Should Do Less Office Housework

“Madame C.E.O., Get Me a Coffee” is an article in the New York Times Sunday series on Women at Work written by founder of LeanIn.Org. and Facebook C.O.O. Sheryl Sandberg, and Professor Adam Grant from the University of Pennsylvania, author of Give and Tale: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.

The article discusses the contrasting ways men and women deal with ‘office housework’ (anything that's not necessarily part of one's job description from menial tasks such as making the tea to staying late to train a new team member), that women tend to do more of said housework and how this can influence and affect how they're perceived as well as their career progression.

If you’ve ever experienced this gender struggle, Sanberg and Grant’s article is sure to provide some food for thought. We’ve summarised their observations, explanations and tips from the gender debate below:

·       The sad reality in workplaces around the world is that women help more but benefit less from it.

·       In general men are expected to be ambitious and results-orientated; so when he offers to help we shower him with praise and rewards, but if he says no, he faces no backlash.

·       Women are expected to be nurturing and communal, a team player, so when she helps we feel less indebted. But if she declines to help a colleague, we like her less; she’s seen as “selfish” and her career can suffer.

·       In a survey men were rated 14% more favourably than women for staying late and helping, and when both declined to help a woman was rated 12% lower than a man.

·       Despite giving identical help a man was significantly more likely to be recommended for promotions, important projects, raises and bonuses – woman had to help just to get the same rating as a man who didn’t help out.

·       Studies show that men are more likely to contribute with visible behaviours (e.g. showing up at optional meetings) while women engage more privately in time-consuming activities (e.g. assisting others and mentoring colleagues).

·       Teams with greater helping behavior attain greater profits, sales, quality, effectiveness, revenue and customer satisfaction - but doing the heavy lifting takes a psychological toll.

·       Women are significantly more likely to feel emotionally exhausted in their quest to care for others as they often sacrifice themselves. To combat this it's essential to equalize and value office housework, acknowledging the imbalance and then correct it – by assigning communal tasks evenly meaning work is shared, noticed and valued - regardless of whether a male or female carried it out.

·       For women, the most important change starts with a shift in mind-set: If women want to care for others, they also need to take care of themselves. By putting self-concern on a par with concern for others, women may feel less selfless, but they’re able to gain more influence and sustain more energy. 

·      Women need to think of more practical and less time consuming ways to contribute to office house work. For example, rather than handling questions / inquiries from team members reactively in endless phone calls and one-on-ones, a manual of F.A.Q.s shared with colleagues would free up time to focus on the elements of a job role that will lead to career progression.

·       Men within an organisation should be encouraged to help solve the inequality problem by speaking up and drawing attention to the contributions of their female colleagues. 

·       Finally, remember that in a meeting the person taking diligent notes almost never makes the killer point…

To read the full article visit NYTimes.com