Unless you’re a raving extrovert – or a manager who needs something to put on that annual review – you probably hate meetings. For the vast majority of office workers, they’re essentially time away from the real work that makes up the bulk of our jobs. But a recent survey shows that men are more likely to respond to a boring meeting by doing something else entirely, whether it’s check email, text, or play fantasy sports. Are women just super responsible, or what’s going on?
First, the data. As reported at Slate, the survey, from video conferencing provider Highfive, asked 1,200 office workers about what distracted them during the workday. During meetings, men were more likely than women to do something other than the activities outlined on the agenda, including:
- Send texts (36% of men, 25% of women)
- Browse the internet (27% of men, 17% of women)
- Check personal emails (27% of men, 17% of women)
- Look at fantasy sports teams (11% of men, 5% of women)
Men were also more likely to bring laptops to meetings (55% of men, 33% of women). Finally, 64% of those who admitted to catching a nap in a conference room were male.
Men Get the Benefit of the Doubt
First, let’s assume that this data is accurate – always iffy when you’re talking about self-reporting after the fact. It’s possible that what this survey shows is that men are more willing to admit to these behaviors than women, not that they participate in them.
Either way, that’s significant, because it points to a major issue for women trying to get ahead at work: namely, that the guys tend to get a pass when the ladies don’t.
“If a man’s office is dark on a Wednesday afternoon, people assume he’s at a closing. If a woman’s office is dark, people assume she’s at the playground,” says Debbie Epstein Henry, the president of Flex-Time Lawyers, in an interview with the Atlantic.
In fact, a study from Boston University recently found that men in demanding jobs were more likely to lie about their hours in order to strike a better work-life balance, while women were more likely to ask for accommodations, including less time at the office.
The result? Men were “able to ‘pass’ as ideal workers, evading penalties for their noncompliance,” writes lead author Erin Reid at Harvard Business Review.
In short, companies often expect men to be able and willing to burn the midnight oil, but not women, and this expectation might allow men to get away with doing less, both as a whole and while they’re putting in face-time at the office – provided they’re willing to be a little sneaky about it.
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