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Why men get the 'glamour work' assignments more than women

Some work gets you noticed, while other responsibilities do not. But in most workplaces, the two are not equally dist...

Posted: Jul 31, 2018 3:19 PM
Updated: Jul 31, 2018 3:19 PM

Some work gets you noticed, while other responsibilities do not. But in most workplaces, the two are not equally distributed.

Research shows bosses often give white men more access to the noticed work, or "glamour work," while women and minorities get stuck with the less-desirable tasks.

What counts as glamour work can vary from office to office or industry to industry. Typically, these assignments are more rewarded because they're also higher-profile: scoring a major client, managing a new team or product, even giving a presentation to the head honchos at the company.

In a university setting, for example, one study showed male professors did more research while female professors served on more committees. Both kinds of work are important, of course, but only research gets you tenure.

The unpaid work that always falls to women

"There's nothing inherent about the glamour work that makes it more valuable," says Joan C. Williams, director of the Center of WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. "It's just very situational. And also what is valued depends on what kind of work is important for [workers] to do in order to be successful long-term in their careers, and that varies from place to place."

The "office housework" that's left over - the day-to-day organizing, note-taking, semi-administrative tasks - often gets pushed onto women.

Recognizing the imbalance

A lot of the imbalance comes down to access. In one study of engineers, women of color were 35% less likely than white men to say they had equal chances to shine.

Part of this may also be that women are more likely to volunteer for some of these less-visible assignments. Managers may also unconsciously see women's time as less valuable than that of their male colleagues.

You are not the office mom. So why do you do the office housework?

"Women are devalued in our society and these are tasks that are devalued in our society," says Linda Babcock, professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University. "You think 'Men, they have so much more important things to be doing, I don't want to bother them,' but you think, 'Oh it's OK to ask a woman.'"

Meanwhile, their male colleagues have more time to score plum assignments and rack up the accolades.

"People have to recognize that what is going to get you promoted is the glamour work," Williams says. "So you have to go out and get the glamour work."

Balancing the workload

To break the cycle, women first have to drop the office housework without fear of a backlash. Williams suggests the "strategic no" approach.

"You go out and you get some of the glamour work, and the next time someone tries to drop a housework assignment on you, you say 'I'm working with Robert to bring in a major client,'" she says. "Then you suggest someone else for the office housework assignment, for whom it may actually be a good assignment."

This way, female employees can free up more time to do the work that will get them noticed, and they're also spreading some of the other work around, instead of carrying the burden themselves.

But women can't fix the imbalance on their own. Managers need to open their eyes to the inequity in their own offices. Then they have to do something to fix the problem.

Luckily, that part is easy.

"This is not rocket science," Babcock says. "It's saying 'Oh, wow, actually, instead of asking Gretchen, I should ask George. He should do his fair share.'"

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 292811

Reported Deaths: 6613
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19560229
Hinds18674385
Harrison16512276
Rankin12595262
Jackson12451217
Lee9663160
Madison9400195
Jones7891145
Forrest7140136
Lauderdale6784225
Lowndes6008137
Lamar584480
Lafayette5707113
Washington5159128
Bolivar4594120
Oktibbeha439991
Panola426892
Pearl River4116128
Warren4114113
Pontotoc407368
Marshall399492
Monroe3980126
Union392873
Neshoba3767166
Lincoln3464100
Hancock339973
Leflore3358118
Sunflower317185
Tate300874
Pike298393
Scott292567
Alcorn290360
Itawamba288871
Yazoo283862
Tippah275665
Copiah274557
Coahoma272766
Simpson271778
Prentiss268658
Leake251770
Wayne251340
Marion250778
Covington247878
Grenada245876
Adams233277
George230645
Newton224751
Winston220275
Jasper211844
Tishomingo211765
Attala206269
Chickasaw200650
Holmes181670
Clay178149
Stone171429
Tallahatchie169839
Clarke168671
Calhoun156428
Smith151831
Yalobusha142936
Greene126833
Walthall123540
Noxubee122729
Perry121434
Montgomery121237
Lawrence119321
Carroll117623
Amite110832
Webster109929
Jefferson Davis100531
Tunica98623
Claiborne97729
Benton93124
Humphreys91626
Kemper89522
Quitman77014
Franklin75519
Choctaw69516
Wilkinson62226
Jefferson61427
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 491110

Reported Deaths: 9831
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson706291356
Mobile35894721
Madison32255442
Tuscaloosa23996409
Montgomery22462494
Shelby21820215
Baldwin19670274
Lee14900150
Morgan13599249
Calhoun13175285
Etowah13143319
Marshall11226206
Houston10048259
Elmore9337183
Limestone9335134
Cullman8869179
St. Clair8783220
Lauderdale8581210
DeKalb8429174
Talladega7481163
Walker6504251
Jackson6477102
Autauga620389
Blount6086125
Colbert5978118
Coffee5230102
Dale4621106
Russell401831
Franklin397876
Covington3956106
Chilton384298
Escambia377172
Tallapoosa3572141
Clarke342949
Dallas3397141
Chambers3392108
Pike293071
Lawrence281384
Marion280894
Winston246166
Bibb244260
Geneva238670
Marengo233354
Pickens223954
Barbour209951
Hale208868
Fayette199756
Butler195165
Henry182041
Cherokee176438
Monroe165938
Randolph163140
Washington156634
Crenshaw143554
Clay143354
Macon140943
Cleburne136839
Lamar131732
Lowndes130648
Wilcox120825
Bullock116336
Conecuh106523
Perry105327
Sumter98431
Coosa87823
Greene87032
Choctaw54823
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