Subtle Sexism: The Extra Work Expected of Women


A recent CNN Money article pointed out the extra work expected of women in the workplace. Women are assumed to be better at certain tasks simply because they are women. And although they may be busy with their regular work requirements, they’re often saddled with extra work. They are not paid for this work and generally the work is not even acknowledged by their bosses and coworkers. Their efforts are unappreciated and invisible.


This extra work may seem harmless, but it is subtle sexism that many women themselves may not think about because it’s just how things are done. More disturbingly, these extra responsibilities can be draining and can cause the women performing the tasks to be viewed as less capable at their regular jobs or even less powerful. Over time, it can prevent promotions and pay increases because employers assume the women are content to do free, menial tasks rather than move forward in their careers. Some extra work that is often expected of women:

Emotional Support

As the CNN article mentioned, women are often looked upon to provide emotional support at work. Although it is good to offer support to coworkers, it can be draining when it becomes a regular responsibility. Simply because they are female, it is thought that women will be able to help an emotionally distraught or unhappy coworker. However, that is not always the case. Many women would rather be working on an important project than dealing with emotions.

Employee Orientation

Helping employees get adjusted is a common task that falls upon women. They may even be expected to informally train the employee, taking precious time away from their own careers. This task is generally unrecognized and taken for granted.

Remembering Birthdays and Special Events

Women are often the social planners at home and this role usually extends to work. They are expected to remember birthdays, anniversaries, retirements, etc. In addition, they usually find themselves in charge of cards, flowers, and other accompanying purchases.

Planning Parties

Adding on to the previous point, women often get saddled with event planning at work. Cooking food, setting up the party room or finding a venue, and other planning tasks fall to women much more than men. This takes time away from women’s day-to-day tasks and time they may otherwise fill pursuing more prestigious roles within the company.

Running Errands

Picking up supplies, food, and other items is a task often left to women. Of course, errand running is part of certain job descriptions, but if there is no designated errand runner the task will likely be given to a woman. This is a subtle acknowledgment that her time and role in the company is not as important as her male coworkers.

Answering Phones

Even for women who aren’t receptionists, they often end up being the “back up” phone answerers or customer support. No matter their skills or other responsibilities, they may be expected to jump and answer phones if a receptionist is unavailable.


Women often find themselves cleaning up after others. Why? They’re expected to for one thing. Women were likely raised to do more cleaning than their male peers and continue to do so as adults. Bosses and coworkers may exert either overt or subtle pressure on female employees to pick up the cleaning slack at work.

How can women stop being taken for granted at work? First, they should know their job duties. If their responsibilities don’t include the tasks above, then women are not obligated to do them. And just because a task is not getting done (cleaning, running errands), women should not feel obligated to step up and do them at work even if they do such chores at home.

Women: What extra tasks are you expected to take on at work?

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