In keeping with deeply held gender stereotypes, we expect men to be ambitious and results-oriented, and women to be nurturing and communal. When a man offers to help, we shower him with praise and rewards. But when a woman helps, we feel less indebted. She’s communal, right? She wants to be a team player. The reverse is also true. When a woman declines to help a colleague, people like her less and her career suffers. But when a man says no, he faces no backlash. A man who doesn’t help is “busy”; a woman is “selfish.”
The Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter observed that women do the lion’s share of “office housework” — administrative tasks that help but don’t pay off.
Someone has to take notes, serve on committees and plan meetings — and just as happens with housework at home, that someone is usually a woman.