A recent NY Times article by Facebook COO’s Sheryl Sandberg (of “Leaning In” fame), examined workplace gender stereotypes.

In studies, male employees who volunteered to stay late to help prepare colleagues for an important meeting were rated 14% more favorably than women employees who did. When both sexes declined, women employees were rated 12% less favorably than the males. Women have to help to get the same rating as men who don’t help.

Understandably, this can mean women burn out far more often than men. Of 183 studies spanning multiple occupations and countries, for every 1000 people, 80 more women than men report emotional exhaustion.

How do we address this?

Organizations can:

  • Find ways to track and recognize helping. (I was pleased to learn some schools do this–my 13-year-old goddaughter was recognized recently for her habitual helping.)
  • Assign and rotate communal tasks rather than relying on volunteers.

Women can:

  • Find creative ways to say no without appearing selfish. For instance, if a client makes an unreasonable request, say it would stretch your team to the breaking point. (Protecting others protects you from appearing selfish. See my “Sweetening a No” for more suggestions.)

Men can:

  • Draw attention to women’s contributions.
  • Offer to do their share of administrative “housework” and mentoring of others.

May we pursue our paths, recognizing that invisible helping helps us all,

Best wishes,

Elizabeth