May 5th, 2015

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Why Our Work Culture Sucks and Sexist Reporting Thereon

This is fascinating for both the report and the way the result is reported in the news.

The underlying paper which is the subject of the article describes how a specific large firm has a "workaholic" culture that punishes formal attempts at work/life balance. The paper describes how some men, and a smaller number of women, develop strategies so that they can spend time with family and have a healthier work/life balance while still appearing to those doing employment evaluations to be "workaholics."…/how-some-men-fake-an-80-hour-workw…

There are many interesting conclusions one could draw, although as the author points out "single study, small sample size." First, it is important to note that both men and women feltl equal pressure in the same firm to conform to work culture, but women were still more likely to request formal means of balance (and be punished accordingly).

Second, despite the graphic and general tone of the article, the examples cited are about men trying to spend time with family. For example, men requesting paternity leave or a lighter schedule after the birth of a child were penalized. So they adopted a different strategy than formally requesting maternity leave or a lighter schedule on return to maternity leave.

Nevertheless, the newspaper article likens this "cheating" and "faking." The graphic that is part of the framing is a cartoon of a man in a suit at a kids soccer game saying into his cell phone "Oh yeah, the meetings going real well." But the report describes no actual cheating or misreporting, such as pretending to be at a meeting when taking a child to a soccer game. Rather, the description was that these men (who were "passing" as workaholics) were engaged in a strategy of client selection and work from home that allowed them to carry a lighter load while STILL meeting client and supervisor expectation. In other words, they were working "smarter." (Also of note, the article does not describe the 11% of women in the survey who employed the same startegy as the 31% employed the same strategy.)

As the article itself concludes, perhaps the "real" problem is that carrying an 80 hour a week workload is more about showing devotion to the firm than about getting done what is necessary to get done. But I would go further. The REAL problem is characterizing men and women who manage to meet the expectations of the clients and employers while working a "mere" 50 hours rather than 80 hours as somehow cheating their employer and scamming someone.