Tip 4: Interrupt task assignment biases

The situation:

Perhaps you’ve noticed that certain people often end up doing the note-taking or other kinds of tasks? Evidence suggests that biases exist when it comes to who gets assigned (or who takes on) certain tasks or responsibilities. Sometimes this manifests in women taking on more organizing, note-taking, or relational kinds of tasks – what Williams (2014) terms “office housework.” It also can result in women being channeled more frequently into technical execution roles (e.g., QA or testing) with less access to core, creative technical roles.

What you can do:

  • If you are a team member or individual contributor, be on the lookout for everyday instances where women are asked or volunteer for “office housework.” Offer to take on these roles yourself or suggest that others take them on periodically.
  • If you are a manager, reflect on your own task assignment patterns. Do you see subtle patterns where certain people are often given high visibility tasks or more risky, “scapegoat” tasks? Do you make subtle assumptions about who might want more or less responsibility?
  • If you are a manager, talk with your employees to get a sense of how satisfied they are with current task assignments and patterns.


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