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Office Housework: Unpacking the “Woman’s Place” in the Workforce

Office Housework: Unpacking the “Woman’s Place” in the Workforce

According to a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women aged 15 and older spend 5.7 hours daily on housework, childcare, and eldercare, whereas men in the same age range only do so for 3.6 hours each day. Now, these numbers may not come as a surprise to you, since many women have firsthand experience with this disparity. But, have you ever considered how this statistic can carry over to the workplace? 

Allow me to introduce “office housework”— This concept relates to any “housekeeping” duties inside the office: tidying up in shared spaces, grabbing extra handouts for the group before meetings, refilling the printer paper, taking notes during brainstorming sessions, etc… These tasks aren’t written in job descriptions, but they are disproportionately done by women. In an article written by Tidal Equality, women said they don’t always realize that they’re filling the

role of “office mom”, but when they do, they often don’t mind that those responsibilities fall on their shoulders. 

So, why does this matter? If most women who are doing office housework don’t mind it, what’s the problem? The answer lies in the huge gap that exists between men and women in the workplace, but starts with the original statistic in regards to actual housework. A woman’s tendency to pick up domestic, tedious tasks at work stems from the fact that she most likely does the same at home. Women are conditioned to pick up the extra slack when it comes to domestic labor, but don’t get anything extra in return. In a study conducted by researchers at NYU, men were found to be more likely to receive some form of praise for completing office housework, including recommendations for promotions, important projects, and bonuses. For men, these tasks are seen as “going the extra mile”, because it’s an expectation set for women by the gender roles that have existed for years— housework is women’s work. Taking the time to regularly complete office housework also takes away from the time, energy and resources that could be dedicated to the actual requirements of your role at work, which results in lowered job satisfaction and performance. 

As college-aged women navigating our future careers, I encourage you to dive deeper into researching and familiarizing yourself with office housework. Connect with and listen to others who’ve experienced this systemic issue to help find solutions. And of course, remember your worth and why you were selected for a specific role— whether it be a job, internship, or other position. You have the freedom to define who you are, gender roles don’t!