Let’s say your office is throwing a holiday party. The boss needs a volunteer to help with the general planning and organization. Now, this task won’t advance your career or help you get a raise, so who is going to volunteer for it? According to the Harvard Business Review, the answer is likely to be a woman. In a recent study, they found “that women volunteer for these ‘non-promotable’ tasks more than men; that women are more frequently asked to take such tasks on; and that when asked, they are more likely to say yes.”
For clarification, Harvard Business Review describes non-promotable tasks as those that “benefit the organization but likely don’t contribute to someone’s performance evaluation and career advancement.” This may include throwing the holiday party, office housework, filling in for a colleague, or routine work.
In their study, Harvard Business Review had male and female participants sit at a computer and make 10 rounds of decisions. The participants were sorted into three groups (though they didn’t know who was matched with who) and the round ended as soon as someone clicked a button and “volunteered” for the task. The incentive was money: if no one volunteered, each group member received $1, if someone did volunteer, that person received $1.25, while everyone else received $2. Read their findings below:
- 84% of groups found a volunteer in the allotted time, however, both men and women were reluctant—a volunteer was usually found in the final seconds of the 2-minute rounds.
- In same-sex groups, women were no more likely than men to volunteer, suggesting “that the real driver was a shared understanding or expectation that women would volunteer more than men.”
- In all-female groups, women shared the volunteering evenly, while in the all-male groups, it tended to be the same men over and over.
- In a mixed-sex group, men will hold back on volunteering and wait for women to volunteer.
For the full story, head over to Harvard Business Review.
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