Women take on ‘unpromoted’ jobs at work that hurt their careers

  • Women spend an average of one month a year doing work that doesn’t help them advance in their careers, according to a new book.
  • These tasks are often voluntary and the responsibility of women, according to “The No Club”.
  • Such work costs women greater opportunities at work, say the authors.

Working women spend an average of one month a year on tasks that don’t lead to promotions, according to a new book by four American academics called “The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women’s Dead-End Work.”

This work, described as “unpromoted duties” by authors Linda Babcock, Brenda Peyser, Lise Vesterlund and Laurie Weingart, involves vital tasks that keep workplaces running but are not directly related to a company’s financial goals. business.

“The primary definition is work that doesn’t advance careers but is important to the organization,” Laurie Weingart, a professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University and one of the authors, told Insider. of the book. “Someone has to do them, but they’re usually not part of anyone’s formal job.”

These can include onboarding new employees, working on diversity, equity and inclusion policies, and taking notes during meetings.

And the problem is not limited to white collar workers.

“It’s universal,” Weingart said. “It happens across all industries and at all levels, there’s even evidence it happens among grocery store clerks and TSA agents.”

Doing these tasks leaves less time for profiling work

The authors supplemented pre-existing research and studies with their own studies and focus groups.

In an analysis of the billable hours of 300 professional services employees from 2015 to 2017, they found that women across all seniority levels spent an average of 200 hours a year on tasks that don’t lead to promotions, either l equivalent of one month per year.

“The organization was very surprised to see the scale of the problem,” said Lise Vesterlund, co-author and behavioral economist at the University of Pittsburgh. “They were also surprised to see that it was not just a phenomenon at the junior level, but also at the senior level.”

The more time women spend on these kinds of necessary administrative tasks, the less they spend on projects that get the boss’s attention.

“By the simple definition, you just can’t move forward at the same rate if you’re doing less valuable work,” Vesterlund added.

If a significant portion of women’s time is spent serving on committees, training younger employees, or gathering company policies, they will ultimately find themselves with less high-impact work to show for themselves – especially when vying for promotions against male colleagues who can show that their work has led to immediate and tangible results.

It also contributes to the


gender pay gap

because the non-promoted tasks are not immediately considered economically interesting for the company.

Nearly nine in ten companies said supporting co-worker wellbeing was vital to the organization, but only 25% said it was factored into performance reviews, according to a 2021 survey of employees. more than 400 organizations by McKinsey and Lean In.

“The employee who is given the non-valuable work will receive a lower salary,” Vesterlund said. “And if you’re given non-rewardable work, you can’t improve your salary by bargaining.”

Women are supposed to say yes

The instinct to accept this type of work is deeply embedded in women’s upbringing, starting in school and influencing the way they go about their working lives, according to the book.

Weingart said women are often designated as the default note takers in male-dominated college courses. A 2006 study found that female medical residents were even asked to perform support tasks such as cleaning up meals for patients alongside their training.

“When people think of unpromoted jobs, they think of so-called office housework, like planning office parties,” Weingart said. “But it’s much more pervasive in terms of work and how work is distributed.”

Women also tend to say yes.

“In our studies, we looked at an environment where there is no difference in performance. And what we found was that women were asked to do this job 50% more than men,” Vesterlund said. “And when asked, they were 50% more likely to say yes.”

Academics found that in mixed groups, women volunteered 50% more for tasks like note taking. But “if you only have men in a group and you only have women in a group, the overall volunteer rate is the same,” Vesterlund said. “It turns out that men are perfectly good at volunteering, but they just don’t volunteer when women are around.”

“Disparities come from the expectations we all have, and many of our own responses come from the expectations we have,” she said.

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