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  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting

Equal pay for invisible work

I always love Women’s History Month—seeing all the celebratory posts and learning about women who made history, and are making history today.

Mixed in are the sobering reminders, like Equal Pay Day on the 14th—the day when the average woman will have finally made what their male equivalent earned at the end of last year. (The Equal Pay Days for some women—from LGBTQ+ women to Latinas—fall later in the year, all the way in November for Native Americans.)

Not only are women still paid less than men for the same work, but they are often asked to do additional work outside of their jobs that colleagues take for granted. Studies show that women are 44% more likely to do tasks that are essential but aren’t factored into promotions. Things like organizing the holiday party, re-organizing the supply closet, or choosing the birthday gift and sending around the card for people to sign.

The value of these activities is indisputable. Try working somewhere without them. But they come with no glory. I know from being the last one to leave the conference room, a bunch of half-empty coffee cups in my hands.

Even the more skilled contributions that women are more likely to do—like sending the follow-up email, organizing the charity fundraiser, or serving on the DEI committee—tend to be less acknowledged. And it’s not just because of rank or seniority. I know female senior executives who get assigned the routine administrative tasks at the end of every meeting.

This office housework is unappreciated. More importantly, it rarely shows up in performance reviews or gets factored into promotions.

So while you’re celebrating the women in your organization, remember not to burden them with unpaid labor. When you look for volunteers or hand out tasks, stop and think about how you’re distributing the invisible work. Is it anybody’s job? If not, are you making assumptions about who has the time and willingness to do it? If it’s not in a person’s job description, don’t keep assigning it to them; rotate those assignments.

And, of course, pick up your own coffee cups. :)


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