This Sunday, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg cowrote a New York Times opinion piece with Wharton School professor Adam Grant about office work. Are you feeling titillated yet? Because I am… not. Not surprisingly, they found that women work more, and often end up doing more grunt work–the workplace equivalent of housework.
They sum it up pretty well in this sentence:
This is the sad reality in workplaces around the world: Women help more but benefit less from it.
AWESOME. They explain further with this example:
Late one Friday afternoon at a leading consulting firm, a last-minute request came in from a client. A female manager was the first to volunteer her time. She had already spent the entire day meeting with junior colleagues who were seeking career advice, even though they weren’t on her team. Earlier in the week, she had trained several new hires, helped a colleague improve a presentation and agreed to plan the office holiday party. When it came time for her review for partner, her clear track record as a team player combined with her excellent performance should have made her a shoo-in. Instead, her promotion was delayed for six months, and then a year.
Then, they explain why this was the case:
In keeping with deeply held gender stereotypes, we expect men to be ambitious and results-oriented, and women to be nurturing and communal. When a man offers to help, we shower him with praise and rewards. But when a woman helps, we feel less indebted. She’s communal, right? Shewants to be a team player. The reverse is also true. When a woman declines to help a colleague, people like her less and her career suffers. But when a man says no, he faces no backlash. A man who doesn’t help is “busy”; a woman is “selfish.”
According to a study Grant and Sandberg reference, which was conducted by NYU psychologist Madeline Heilman, participants were asked to rate men and women employees who did or did not stay late to help colleagues organize a big meeting for the next day. When both agreed to stay late, the man was still rated 14% more favorably than the woman. However, when both declined, the woman was rated 12% more unfavorably than the 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.
In another study conducted by Joan C. Williams, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, she found that professional women in business, law, and science fields are still expected to bring food, answer phones, and take notes. These activities, while totally necessary, end up wasting valuable time that their male colleagues wouldn’t give up. But it’s not just about doing more tasks, it’s about the fact that women have to do more just to be seen as competent as a dude doing a mediocre job. Yup.
As a result, it’s been proven that 80 more women out of every 1,000 men will burn out due to the added work stress. Luckily, Sandberg gives us a few suggestions, such as having corporations track these helpful acts with an individual’s performance, and that women should prioritize self-care and how they mentor.
So, what does that actually mean? Sandberg gave us some examples of what she’s done, and I have to say, they sound pretty darn intelligent: She began hosting group mentoring lunches, and wrote an FAQ to decrease one-on-one calls.
While I do believe Sandberg wants to change how women work, and how to make women feel more valued at work, I also don’t believe her suggestions are enough. We need to change how boys are raised in order for them to think and act differently. Nothing can really change if the majority of men in the workforce believe women are “better suited” to certain tasks, despite their credentials. Let’s teach boys early how to manage with compassion and care, and you know, to bring the cupcakes sometimes.