In a recent op-ed essay in The New York Times, Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg and Wharton Business School professor Adam Grant, address the issue of “office housework.” This piece is the third within a four-part series about women in the workplace. In it, Sandberg and Grant state that regardless of their role within an organization, women are likely to “help more but benefit less” than their male counterparts.
Sandberg and Grant reference a study conducted by Madeline Heilman, where men were more likely to benefit than women for equal help. “Office housework” tasks can comprise of mentoring junior colleagues, taking notes during meetings, planning an office party, etc. Grant and Sandberg summarize the findings by saying, “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.” So, are women feeling compelled to take on these tasks in order to advance their careers?
Additionally, Sandberg and Grant point out that while women are more likely to complete “office housework” behind the scenes, men are likely to make their contributions known publically. Whether helping others behind the scenes or publically, women are more likely than men to burn out over time. Sandberg and Grant cite research saying, “For every 1,000 people at work, 80 more women than men burn out — in large part because they fail to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting others.”
How best to move forward? While there are no simple answers, Sandberg and Grant suggest a change in individual mindset – for women this means prioritizing their own needs before assisting others, for men it means acknowledging women’s efforts and assuming more responsibility for “office housework” tasks.
What do you think? Have you experienced this in your career?