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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: 161516

Reported Deaths: 3916
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10708104
Hinds10519205
Harrison7555113
Jackson6708128
Rankin6130112
Lee547697
Madison5202110
Forrest400187
Jones382189
Lauderdale3727147
Lafayette344057
Washington3367108
Lamar307550
Lowndes261167
Oktibbeha259962
Bolivar250185
Panola240253
Neshoba2311122
Marshall227151
Leflore213991
Monroe212278
Pontotoc211231
Lincoln200867
Sunflower195555
Warren184958
Tate184051
Union176826
Copiah172540
Pike168360
Pearl River163870
Yazoo162940
Scott162730
Itawamba162637
Alcorn160428
Coahoma157844
Prentiss156732
Simpson155153
Adams148352
Grenada147145
Leake143344
Holmes135761
Covington135541
Tippah132530
George131725
Winston131726
Hancock130942
Wayne124924
Attala124735
Marion124248
Tishomingo114844
Chickasaw112132
Newton112129
Tallahatchie100727
Clay97127
Clarke95653
Jasper88523
Stone83115
Calhoun81513
Walthall79930
Montgomery78826
Carroll76315
Smith75716
Lawrence75214
Yalobusha74428
Noxubee74217
Perry69326
Tunica63519
Greene63022
Jefferson Davis60217
Amite59315
Claiborne59316
Humphreys55719
Quitman5117
Benton50518
Kemper49318
Webster47914
Wilkinson41322
Jefferson38712
Franklin3726
Choctaw3697
Sharkey33117
Issaquena1234
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 260359

Reported Deaths: 3776
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34716513
Mobile20452370
Madison14215153
Tuscaloosa13755173
Montgomery12731243
Shelby1110278
Baldwin9341137
Lee801566
Morgan722855
Etowah692170
Calhoun6809121
Marshall675058
Houston552739
DeKalb512940
Cullman480246
St. Clair460357
Limestone455046
Lauderdale443357
Elmore432567
Walker3861112
Talladega381157
Jackson361623
Colbert341546
Blount315845
Autauga289342
Franklin262634
Coffee257717
Dale244454
Dallas234932
Chilton233641
Covington232434
Russell23153
Escambia206932
Tallapoosa190291
Chambers187551
Clarke164120
Pike163814
Marion148236
Winston144725
Lawrence137336
Pickens129720
Geneva12818
Marengo126724
Bibb125238
Barbour121429
Butler120042
Randolph107022
Cherokee106724
Hale101432
Fayette99916
Clay94825
Washington93921
Henry8996
Monroe84611
Lowndes82629
Cleburne80714
Macon77122
Crenshaw73330
Conecuh72914
Lamar7258
Bullock70919
Perry6987
Wilcox65518
Sumter59522
Greene44518
Choctaw43519
Coosa3824
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