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Companies Insist on Collaboration, So Women Do More


In workplaces around the country, it’s not uncommon for employers to encourage or even insist on a collaborative environment. In fact, studies show that time spent on collaborative tasks in the office rose by roughly 50 percent over the last 20 years. However, there’s just one little problem: women are the ones getting stuck with the bulk of the work.

carrying burden

(Photo Credit: dany13/Flickr)

The sad reality is that “[w]omen help more but benefit less from it,” says Adam Grant and Sheryl Sandberg in their piece about women doing “office homework,” published in the New York Times.

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While a man gets praised for his generosity and willingness to help, a woman is almost expected to help and deemed selfish if she declines. This mentality is embedded in our society and our own minds, and the worst part is, we don’t even know we’re doing it. In other words, women are expected to take on the “lion’s share” of office work because, as the unconscious bias tells us, women want to … right?

Mika Brzezinski, co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, hits the nail on the head when she tells the Washington Post, “There’s a fine line between paying your dues and knowing when to say no.”

Although women are being urged to lean in and help bring gender equality to the workplace, they must also be careful of overdoing it by taking on too much for the sake of parity.

Women are also more likely to feel emotionally exhausted because they are often sacrificing their own time to help others, and often without the same recognition and reward as their male counterparts. In fact, Grant and Sandberg note that, “For every 1,000 people at work, 80 more women than men burn out,” and this is largely due to the fact that women “fail to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting others.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

We all have to be careful not to confuse gender parity in the workplace with expecting women to out-work their male counterparts in the office. By doing too much, women are actually taking steps back in the battle for equality and creating unrealistic expectations that will be nearly impossible to maintain, regardless if you’re male or female.

I believe Dave Willis’ quote can be adapted to all aspects of life and help remind us of what collaboration should be: “Marriage is not 50-50. Divorce is 50-50. Marriage has to be 100-100. It isn’t dividing everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got.” For the sake of this article, I’d argue that collaboration is not 50-50, either. True collaboration means everyone is contributing 100 percent and giving it all they’ve got, regardless of their gender.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you a working woman who feel like you have to work twice as hard to be considered half as good? Share your experience and how you plan to change that in 2016. Join the conversation happening on Twitter, or leave a comment below. 

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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