Were you the one to buy that cake for your colleague’s birthday last week?
The one to pick up a team present for your boss’s new baby?
The one to organise the Christmas party?
If so, stop. Stop right now.
If you’re regularly roped into tasks like the ones aforementioned, you’re almost certainly a woman. And your generosity isn’t propelling your career, it’s actually hindering it.
A new study conducted by the Harvard Business Review shows that women are getting duped in a major way when it comes to office housework. Economics professors Linda Babcock, Maria Recalde and Lise Vesterlund found that women were most likely to volunteer for “non-promotable duties” that benefit the organisation but have no impact on their own advancement at work.
“This can have serious consequences for women,” the report explains. “If they are disproportionately saddled with work that has little visibility or impact, it will take them much longer to advance in their careers.”
In a group exercise involving 696 students, researchers found that when a volunteer was needed for tasks outside of general role requirements, women were 48 percent more likely to raise their hand. Managers were also far more likely to pick a woman rather than a man to complete such tasks.
“Both male and female managers were more likely to ask a woman to volunteer than a man,” the report states. “This was apparently a wise decision: Women were also more likely to say yes.”
Women were also shown to accept these requests from managers far more readily than their male colleagues.
“These differences matter because they help explain why, despite women’s significant educational and general workplace advances, we continue to find vastly different promotion trajectories for men and women,” says the report. “Women will continue to progress more slowly than men if they hold a portfolio of tasks that are less promotable.”
While putting your hand up for office housework may make you feel like a dedicated team player, all it’s really doing is robbing you from the actual role you were employed to do. It allows biased managers to exploit your goodwill and holds you back from the real recognition you deserve at work.
A recent Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) report suggests that women undertake a whopping 20 hours a week of chores around the home compared to 13 hours committed by their male counterparts. This gap is no easy fix.
Let’s do our best not to drag this same injustice to our workplaces.