Statistics and research in the field of gender equality at the workplace show that women do more “office housework” than their male colleagues.
Women typically do office housework outside of the spotlight. This doesn’t directly lead to a promotion or bigger influence in the organisation. Administrative work is a typical example of office housework. Taking notes or scheduling a meeting at time that suits everyone, keeps office going forward. But it doesn’t really contribute to moving women’s career forward.
Why women need to do ‘office homework’?
Women themselves often volunteer for doing relational work. For example, arranging a gift for a colleague, or initiating and organising diversity and inclusion activities. Such work is often crucial for the well being of the workforce. Women typically need to do ‘office housework’ on top of their own ‘content focused work’. This leaves them less time for ‘glamour work’.
Many women are afraid that if they say ‘no’ to the ‘office housework’, people will not give them the ‘glamour work’ later on. Or they keep doing relational work and ‘office housework’ because “If I don’t do it, no one will.” Some women are also worried how will their colleagues react if they say ‘no’ to an assignment. They are worried to be seen as ‘not nice’.
In fact, research in the field of neuroscience shows that due to our unconscious gender bias, we expect from women to be both nice and professional. On the other hand, we unconsciously expect from men to be only professional. People typically don’t expect men to be nice and caring at the workplace. Saying ‘no’ to arranging a gift for a colleague might come across as ‘not being collegial’ and neither nice.
When to say ‘no’?
Saying ‘no’ to doing ‘office housework’ or simply asking to take turns in doing such activities gives you more time to say ‘yes’ or ask for ‘glamour work’. Sometimes, you can strategically accept to do lower impact type of work. For example, chair a committee or organise an international conference. But make sure that afterwards everyone know what were your achievements and how this contributes to your path towards your career goals.