my office sticks women with all the party-planning

A reader writes:

I’ve noticed in my office that nearly all of the holiday planning responsibilities fall to women. This is in a traditionally male-dominated industry where there has been progress in hiring/promoting women, but we’re still generally underrepresented. However, in the party planning efforts, usually all, or all but one, of the representatives are women.

This isn’t some vast management conspiracy. Usually what happens is a call for volunteers goes out, everyone ignores it, and each component organization either designates a representative or a woman volunteers. I don’t think it’s intentional in any way, but I can’t help but be frustrated that these types or roles always seem to fall to women.

Is this actually a problem? If so, whose responsibility is it to ensure a diverse representation in these things? How do they best do that? And how do I, as a low-level manager in this organization, approach it with my leadership?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 266 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Zona the Great

    I make a very pointed effort to never ever volunteer for these things. I also never push in any chairs besides my own or offer to set up the meeting room unless I created the meeting. I had a boss who would plop down toner cartridges on my chair indicating it needed to be changed so I would simply put it by the printer and let them handle it.

    When I get in the serving line at my job and see that only the women serving, I make a point to say, “my, did all the men suffer an accident or something?” and to thank them for their willingness to serve.

    Reply
    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      Not long after I got here, someone asked me to help with the department holiday party. I blurted out “Oh god no, I hate party planning so much I got the wedding of my mother’s dreams.” No one asked again.
      You guys who are annoyed by this… remember that sometimes one guy leading the way can make a huge difference. I will admit that I *really* one of the new execs in our corporate hierarchy — when he visited, he instigated a thankyou ice cream event AND HE DISHED OUT ICE CREAM. Ever since, the breakdown on social tasks has been much more equal… upper level marketing managers in fancy suits vying to dispense the whipped cream or chocolate sprinkles has gotten pretty entertaining.

      Reply
        1. Just me, Vee

          That happens at our annual bbq and any ice cream social. Executive staff serves us and does so cheerfully. Hashtag WhyCan’tItBeLikeThisEverywhere?

          Reply
    2. Anony

      I had similar issues when sitting near a printer, as the only woman in a team of 5. People from all over the floor would come over, realise the printer needed changing/the paper had run out/some other minor admin issue, then turn around and ask me if I knew how to fix it or where the paper was kept. In some cases, they’d even turn around in annoyance and say ‘Jane, why hasn’t the paper been replaced!?’

      My response was always a highly puzzled look and ‘I’m not sure.’ before turning straight back to my work. If they pushed again, then, ‘Generally everyone manages that stuff themselves. Have you tried X?’ X usually meaning ‘reading the instructions on the screen in front of you’.

      Reply
      1. Fortitude Jones

        Right. I worked for an insurance company where men volunteered to be on our party planning committees mainly because then they’d get to chose some sort of sporting activity for everyone to participate in/watch (going to football/baseball games and renting the suites were very common).

        Reply
    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      No.

      Just about all my male bosses do the planning themselves, the most I’ve done is post it and then collect the RSVPs. They choose the venue, menu and do all the leg work otherwise.

      Reply
    2. MOAS

      Not my company– we have issues but this isn’t one of them lol. It’s closer to the what Allison mentioned in her answer. We have an office manager who is responsible for these type of things–organizing the monthly “birthday party” (i.e. ordering cupcakes), stocking the kitchen, the “housework.” The role has been filled by both men and women in the past and currently is male.

      We have a huge group chat about lunch where 1 person decides what to eat and whoever wants to join will join in the group order. The two people who usually do the order, are men. And managers (they love to eat lol). If anyone is distributing the food, it’s usually the male admin.

      When a manager got married last year, it was his male boss who was asked by their female boss if he is planning anything for him since they’ve worked closely together for several years.

      The only time I, as a woman, has ever been tasked with something like this…is when my (male) boss was expecting a baby and I just really wanted to do this, so I passed around a greeting card for certain people to sign and bought him a gift card for the baby. Another (male) manager did the same thing for someone else reporting to his team (also a man whose wife was expecting).

      So I think this is one of the things that my company gets right IMO. Certain tasks fall to the office manager, and anything extra is dependent on the managers who want to do something for their team. I can’t say that there’s been the attitude of “you’re a woman, you should do this task” (unless it literally involves someone going in to the ladies restroom, which…has never happened I think?)

      Reply
      1. Fortitude Jones

        Yeah, most of the places I’ve worked have left this kind of stuff to admins to plan (and admittedly, most of the admins were women), though there was an exception that I noted above. And the only time I’ve ever cleaned up after anyone or set up a meeting room was eons ago back when it was literally in my job description (I was an office assistant). Otherwise, party planning usually falls to a work BFF for whatever event we’d be celebrating (e.g., Karen is having a baby, so Jane throws the shower since they’ve worked together for years or Mike’s birthday is coming up, so Chris organizes the potluck and card signing since they play ball together after work).

        Reply
    3. Oryx

      Not all. We have a guy in charge of all of ours and he is INCREDIBLE at his job. Our parties have gotten so much better since he took on that role.

      Reply
    4. SheLooksFamiliar

      Not every company, no. I’ve worked at places where everyone was on a rotating schedule to plan events or meetings. Men and women alike grumbled, and men and women alike loved planning events.

      At other employers, events were planned by volunteers. I’ve heard leaders tell the regular volunteers, ‘No, you’ve done a lot this year. Let’s get someone else on this…’ and they volunteered men and women to plan the event.

      Reply
    5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead

      In my office it tends to be the people who are the biggest slackers who dive into party planning, fun committee, worksite wellness team, etc. as a way to get out of routine work, and that tends to be an evenly distributed characteristic.

      Reply
    6. 1234

      OldOldJob had a monthly optional company party/event where employees took turns planning them. The (male) co-owners of the company threw a BBQ one July or August and they were the ones who planned it out.

      Reply
      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        Yep, our team loves their BBQs! And the whole thing is “Sure we can have one but who wants to be the one who has to go buy the stuff [with company funds but it’s still the shopping aspect that many aren’t fans of].” Sure enough, multiple, men in the company said they’d be happy to go round up the supplies!

        I even have one guy who keeps nudging me for some help getting decorations since he loves to set a fancier table. We use a picnic table and he’s like “But can we get some table cloths over here and some vases? Thanks!” I sourced the stuff because I’m purchasing but he’s the one who puts everything out, sets up the stations and everything else.

        Everyone also helps break down the celebration afterwards. Grab what you can and take it upstairs. It takes us all about 15 minutes of breakdown because everyone just grabs what they can and it’s not one person doing multiple trips.

        Even our CEO is involved. We have a couple slackers among us but it’s really very much the minority.

        But our entire structure is built around a “pitch in, be good to each other, do your part.” culture. So we wouldn’t really be a good fit for people who don’t like to at least clean up after themselves.

        Reply
    7. HR Stoolie

      The past 3 companies I’ve worked with are not like this at all. Men and management have always been part of the party planning and execution. Not only that, also empty the dishwasher, grind coffee beans, and wipe counters down too.

      Reply
  2. roger that

    My office makes the newest two hires plan parties. Whenever someone new is hired, they take over party planning. It seems to do a good job getting away from gender issues here, as the new hires are a mix of people with different levels of seniority and different genders.

    Reply
    1. Wednesday of this week

      This sounds like a good system. It also avoids the dynamic where someone is said to be “good at it” because they did it the last time…and the time before that…etc…and so are expected to keep doing it.

      Reply
      1. TooTiredToThink

        It also seems like its a good way for the new hires to get integrated into the company – get to know people, etc. I like it.

        Reply
          1. Richard Hershberger

            I would hate it, as party planning is not within my skill set nor have I an aptitude for it. I suppose there is value in doing this, but I suspect I would end up devoting a lot of time for uninspiring results.

            Reply
            1. Temperance

              For a work party, you’re making an invitation/sending an email, and ordering food and drinks. It’s not complicated.

              Reply
              1. Wednesday of this week

                And as I said, this system would avoid perceptions that certain people are naturally “good at it” or not! Everyone has to learn.

                Reply
            2. Dahlia

              Seems like that’s the beauty of it constantly rotating.

              Also seriously, you buy a fruit platter and a cake. It’s not that deep. That… kind of sounds like the thing that some dudes do where they deliberately do a thing badly so that someone else (a PPW) will do it for them. Not saying you’re doing that, but it does ring those bells for me.

              Reply
                1. Devil Fish

                  Nah, if they’re intentionally and obviously doing a shit job, that’s “performative helplessness.”

                  Like when we were kids and my brother would rinse off the dishes instead of washing them and spend like 2 minutes vacuuming the living room without dusting or moving the rugs, so the whole mess had to be redone (by me, obviously). Lawnwork was fun, so he did that right.

                1. hbc

                  No one knows how to do it by default. But you’ve probably been to a party or 20, so maybe just think back at what’s there and figure out how to get it. It’s also the age of the internet, where you can search “how do I organize a work party” and probably get good advice.

                  “I can’t figure out this really simple task” and making other people do it is not a good look.

                2. Zombeyonce

                  Have you ever had a few people over to your house for a meal? It’s just like that, but bigger.

                  Men pretending they “just don’t understand” that a party is just people eating [food] at [a location] is exactly how women got stuck with this crap to begin with.

                3. Autumnheart

                  Really? How did you ever manage to get hired anywhere? Does your boss have to show you how to do your job every morning because “you wouldn’t have known how to do that, so you’d be horrible at it”?

                  I mean, jeez, when I don’t know how to do something, I just google it and find out.

                4. Dahlia

                  Who do you think is born knowing how to plan a party?

                  You have the opportunity to learn now, and Google ready and willing to go. Learned helplessness is seriously a terrible trait.

                5. SS Express

                  I mean… what strategies do you usually employ when faced with a task you haven’t done before or explicitly been told how to do?

                6. LadyL

                  To the other people replying in this thread, I’m a woman and I don’t know how to do that stuff. My parents didn’t host parties, and neither do I. I’m not great at planning and detail, which is why I don’t work as a party planner. If I were asked to plan a party at work it would be a source of a lot of anxiety for me.

                  Sometimes the “this is something women know how to do so men ought to figure it out on their own” type stuff makes me feel like a defective woman. I am in 100% agreement that “feigned helplessness” on tasks is a real thing men do and can get called out for, but can we not pretend that all this stuff is super easy and obvious to everyone? Sometimes especially for women, people won’t teach you because they assume you ought to already know. I think we can both call out sexism and not deride people who get anxiety about a task that’s outside of their wheelhouse.

                7. Zombeyonce

                  @LadyL, I don’t think any of us think “this is something women know how to do so men ought to figure it out on their own”. What we’re saying is that women are expected to know how to do this and we think that’s unfair, too. Women have historically found that it can be detrimental to how they’re treated to not go along with it, so they’ve often figured out how and that if they’re expected to just figure it out, men should also be expected to just figure it out. Not that it’s easy for everyone/anyone to figure out, but that the expectations of women and men should be identical.

                8. LadyL

                  @Zombeyonce Oh yeah, I get the concept in general and I 100% agree, but what I’m reacting to is the specifics here. The first commenter mentioned a way their office does parties (newbies do all the planning), someone responded by saying they wouldn’t like that policy because they don’t know how to plan parties, and then the replies are mostly people suggesting it’s not that hard to figure out (suggesting you can just google it or it’s the same thing as having a friend over for dinner). And all I’m saying is, it’s really not that easy, nor is it unreasonable for someone to balk at being asked to that specific task as a newbie, without any guidance.

                  (My solution: each party is planned by newbie + the previous newbie, so everyone plans 2 parties, once as an assistant to an older employee, and once as the main planner with a newbie assistant)

                  The general concept (learned helplessness) I understand and absolutely agree is prevalent and insidious and needs to be called out, but I feel like it becomes a less useful conversation if it devolves into specific skills that one feels others ought to have.

                9. Jennifer

                  Super late – but I agree with you. I hate party planning. I never do it in my personal life. I prefer getting together with people in smaller groups and doing something low key, like going to dinner or ordering take-out and just talking or watching a movie. If it wasn’t in my job description, I’d decline being on the party planning committee.

              1. Elitist Semicolon

                I think y’all have worked in very, very different places than I have, if your parties are only a fruit platter and a cake. And “not good at it” could mean anything from “I’ll forget to bring napkins” to “I once passively cancelled the room for a big donor reception by not noticing that the venue had left it off our contract when I signed for another event the same day.” I am legit not good at planning work events.

                Reply
                1. SarahTheEntwife

                  I’m really hoping these are cake-and-snacks sort of parties, because otherwise making the junior person plan them by default is a weird way to go about it since actual larger-scale event planning really is a significant skillset that someone isn’t necessarily going to be able to do with a quick internet search or 10 minute conversation with the last person who did it. But “buy food, put food on table, send out invitations (like you would for a meeting, which is something you are presumably going to need to do in this office anyway) is something most people should be expected to be able to figure out.

            3. Koala dreams

              As a woman, I hate how woman are automatically assumed to have the skills and aptitude for lowly valued tasks. Not everyone is good at those things, and it sucks to have to do them just because you’re a woman. It’s even worse when there are disabilities in play. Somehow nobody expects women to have disabilites that makes it extra difficult to do tasks that are considered “woman’s work”.

              If everybody is expected to do the work, at least there is not that awful pressure on the women.

              Reply
    2. Mazzy

      This makes it sound like party plan is a dirty, low level task. But it is? At my company someone pretty high level does it, I think it’s because she likes fine dining and likes to experiment with restaurants and research what they look like and what different dishes they order, and she has more leeway to spend without approval, so there’s that. It works out fine, and heck, they even have parties when we don’t necessarily need them! I don’t get the assumption here that it is a bad, unpleasant task. Yes, I know the sexist history of certain work. On the other hand, that point has been made as naseum, and if a woman wants to plan a freaking party, let her do what she wants

      Reply
      1. Richard Hershberger

        I think it depends. Are we talking cake and punch in the break room, or renting the grand ballroom at the Ritz Carlton?

        Reply
      2. roger that

        It is kind of low level – I work for the federal government so parties are in the hallway and with food that employees either make or purchase themselves. We legally can’t spend any agency money on the parties, so they are not fancy.

        Reply
    3. WellRed

      That’s one way to do it and it makes a certain sense. However, I would probably under order food, etc, since I have little concept of feeding a crowd.

      Reply
    4. Semprini!

      Did you ever run into problems of the party being unsuitable to the office’s needs/culture/expectations because the newbies aren’t that familiar with the company yet?

      Reply
      1. roger that

        No, because there’s two people doing it, so at least one has been to a party here before. Plus it’s the government, so the expectations are “this is in a hallway and you’re just asking for volunteers to bring in food.” :)

        Reply
    5. smoke tree

      I used to work somewhere that put the interns in charge of party planning. It was an equitable system, but resulted in some weird parties.

      Reply
    6. Clisby

      Sounds like a good way for your new hires to know they should start looking for a new job. Unless, of course, their official job description includes “party planner.”

      Reply
      1. Less Bread More Taxes

        I’m surprised you’re the first person to point this out! This would be an enormous red flag for me.

        The work parties I have attended have all involved renting out rooms at hotels, organised games and activities, and some entertainment act. My experience organising parties? Once I invited a bunch of people to my apartment during college. THAT’S IT. If I got hired and then was told I’d have to organise a work party, I’d probably start crying.

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        1. flippet

          SO MUCH THIS.

          I truly don’t understand all the ‘well, just learn to do it’ comments above.

          I am not a party planner. Planning parties gives me extreme anxiety. I have two children, love them beyond measure, and I will not plan parties even for them, because doing so makes me feel so ill. Why on earth should my coworkers feel they’re more important/entitled to a party (from ME) than that?

          In my office, I finally put my foot down and refused to be on the party planning committee, because I hate it so much. I told them that I am happy to be set-up/clean-up crew if they need help, I will be the purchasing go-fer if I am given a list and money, but I will not plan, because it spikes my anxiety and makes me feel terrible.

          I just don’t understand the people who would then feel entitled to make me feel terrible, because they want a party. If they want one, they’re free to plan one.

          Reply
    7. Tisiphone

      It sounds fair on the surface, but what happens when there’s a hiring freeze or the attrition isn’t enough to have openings or the job isn’t high turnover?

      I’ve been in the last group hired before a hiring freeze. That would stick me with party planning forever and I’m not interested in being the official workplace party planner. In fact, I often miss the parties because they’re on an evening I work and if they plan it for a day I’m off, I’ll volunteer to work so someone who would be working and wants to go can attend the party instead of me.

      If the party id during work hours, at work, and lasts only an hour or two, I’ll put in an appearance, grab a plate of goodies, talk to a few people, and go back to my desk to deal with the latest “emergency” that ususally happens when events like these come up. Certain individuals putting in work requests don’t trust us to make sure someone is available to pick up the work while the party is going on. So my manager comes to me (usually) and he remembers it when review time comes along. My manager: One of the good ones,

      Reply
  3. JamieS

    Are there any consequences, either real or plausibly assumed, to women not volunteering? For example is Jane in Marketing being pressured to volunteer and being given the impression it wouldn’t be favorable for her if she didn’t? If so that’s the first thing I’d address. More broadly, I don’t think it’s acceptable to force party assignment on others for the sake of equality (unless part of their actual job) but making women feel comfortable to not volunteer would help.

    Reply
    1. Yorick

      I’d think so. On an unconscious level, women who don’t volunteer aren’t team players and are unfriendly to coworkers. Men who don’t volunteer are focused on work, which is great.

      Reply
      1. lemon

        Yup, this. This happened a lot at my old workplace. It was a male-dominated team with two roles that weren’t admins, but always filled by young women. The two women in those roles were tacitly expected to plan parties, decorate cubes for birthdays, bring baked goods, and manage the kitchen cleaning rotation. When I was hired into the role, the other woman on the team was decorating someone’s cube without my knowledge. One of my dude co-workers came into my office and was like, “why aren’t you helping her?” I told him decorating wasn’t really my thing and he was shocked, like he’d never heard of a woman who didn’t like decorating before.

        I very quickly got a reputation on the team for being weird and standoffish– it really set the tone for my time on that team, unfortunately. So there weren’t any hard, tangible repercussions. It just made it harder for me to do my job because all the guys thought I was weird.

        Reply
        1. Librarian1

          That’s awful. I hate decorating, bringing in baked goods, and managing cleaning. party planning is ok, but only if it’s very rare and for something I care about. I would hate that job.

          Reply
      1. Zombeyonce

        There’s really no upside to volunteering. If you volunteer, you’ll likely be pegged as someone who is “good at those sorts of things” and be voluntold the next time. If you don’t volunteer, you may be seen as someone that’s not a “team player” as Yorick said above. But by not volunteering, you’re able to spend your work time in ways that may actually help your career so the downside could really lead to an upside.

        Unless your dream is to become an event planner, volunteering for party planning at work will very rarely get you ahead in a way that improves your career.

        Reply
        1. The Original K.

          This is why I don’t do it. I have never worked anywhere where taking on these duties meant anything other than taking on extra work that went unappreciated and unthanked, with no professional benefit.

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        2. Food Planner

          My experience has been the opposite. I am in insurance, so nothing party planning related. However I volunteered to run a program to bring in food throughout the year and was given a 40k budget. Through this program I spoke with a lot of higher ups as everyone seemed to he lobbying for their favorite cuisine. In August of this year I applied for a promotion opportunity and one of my interviewers was a VP who had lobbied (and failed) for hisfavorite restaurant. He started off by saying he had already told NewBoss to hire me cause he knew me and I was great. Now that was just one of 4 interviews I went through but it was great to get that reccomendation from being known.

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          1. SS Express

            That’s not volunteering for party planning though – that’s volunteering to manage a large project. I expect if you’d volunteered to put snacks out for your team’s EOFY morning tea and clean up after, the VP wouldn’t be singing your praises.

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      2. Artemesia

        Me either. I think you can create an aura of seriousness and commitment to work that makes you a bit bulletproof for this. No one every questioned my ‘team player’ credentials because is did a lot of team leadership — because I didn’t organize the parties or make the coffee or set up rooms for meetings not mine. I think it helped my advancement as a serious contributor not an office ‘Mom.’

        Obviously some places make this harder to do but the first step is for women to not volunteer.

        Reply
    2. sacados

      I think it’s probably mainly just because culturally, women are more likely to volunteer for these sorts of things. Women are more conditioned to pick up the slack on any type of “chores” or emotional labor because they know that somebody has to do it. Whereas men are more likely to just assume that whatever it is will get done somehow.
      (Caveat, this is obviously speaking in the most broad, societal generalization terms)

      So if the party planning at OP’s company always winds up in a “we’re asking for volunteers” type situation then it’s likely to continue to be women who do step up.
      The way to fix that would be to have some kind of rotating system where certain people are designated the party planners, whether it’s “three newest hires” as others have suggested, or “this month it’s Dept A and this month it’s Dept B” or what have you.

      Reply
    3. Clisby

      I’ve never been asked to volunteer for anything like this (I’m now retired, and 65.)

      If I had been pressured into it, they’d never have done it again, because it would have been the lamest party ever. I’m not good at that kind of thing.

      Reply
  4. SigneL

    If you don’t volunteer for these tasks or make it known you don’t want to do them, you will be labeled “not a team player.” Don’t ask me how I know.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      I think it’s possible but it’s really not a given in every workplace; that’s a belief that can be internally driven and not externally.

      Reply
        1. Quinalla

          I agree it is not the case in every workplace/situation, but it is smart of women to be cognizant that this can be a thing sometimes too. But even if it will have consequences to say no to this kind of thing, it is often still worth it. Also, there are ways to say no without saying the word no that can make it much more diplomatic. ie. “That sounds interesting, but I wouldn’t be able to get to it for at least 6 months.” or “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m terrible at party planning/making coffee/etc.” or “I can’t take that on right now without dropping X, Y or Z. You can take it up with my boss if you want?”

          Reply
          1. Zillah

            Diplomacy can be helpful, but it can also send the message that this is something that’s on the table. I think being more straightforward and matter of fact in a situation like this is going to get better results, unless you have reason to think that your workplace will react badly.

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        1. LunaLena

          I’ve been working for 15 years and I definitely have, in at least two different companies that were in two different regions of the US. Boom, “this never happens” myth exploded.

          (sorry if I sound snarky, but I hate the “well I’VE never experienced this so it must not be that bad” argument)

          Reply
    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

      Meh. As I’ve aged, I’ve gotten really comfortable with being labeled things like “not a team player” and other silly schoolyard taunts. Someone thinking I’m a meanie-boo-boo shouldn’t really be a consideration at work as long as I’m doing my job at a high level. Caring about things like that also tends to be a female thing — I’ve observed that not a lot of men really suffer angst when they’re labeled as difficult. They tend to use it to their advantage.

      Reply
        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

          Or just lean into it, “You’re right. I’m more of a (golfer/tennis player/bicyclist/whatever individual sport) than a football player.”

          Reply
      1. LawLady

        If it were just silly schoolyard taunts, fine. But being perceived as “not a team player” can have real impact on your reviews, your salary, the projects your putting it on. Dismissing the concern makes it sound like if we just learned to say “I’m rubber, you’re glue”, we wouldn’t have any problems.

        Reply
        1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain

          I’m saying that women should act more like men sometimes — elbow your way in, don’t wait for an invitation to speak, take up space in the room, assert your experience or skills and demand an equal share, care less about feelings and more about results… will this bruise some toes, yep, they better get their toes out of the way. The most judgement I get for acting “like a man” is from the type of women who end up doing all the party planning, set up and clean up — because it’s THEIR team that I’m rejecting. It’s been my experience that men don’t have as much of a problem with it.

          Reply
          1. LawLady

            I think this advice is good, and I’m glad you have found that you haven’t been penalized for not being “a good team player”, but studies still indicate that likeability affects career outcomes, and that women are perceived as less likeable for things like this.

            I just think it’s worth recognizing that this isn’t a thing in women’s heads, that they could get over if they just adopted a more male mindset. It’s also real bias that exists and needs to be counteracted.

            Reply
            1. Kimberlee, No Longer Esq.

              I also feel like it’s worth noting that I don’t *want* to work in an office where everyone is taking up space in the room, elbowing each other to get ahead, and the loudest voices win. I want an office where people are nice to each other and we have birthday celebrations that men arrange sometimes! The solution of “just act more like men” cedes the entire territory to them, that they can take their (frankly crappy) way of operating and force everyone else to play their game. I’m not a fan.

              Reply
              1. smoke tree

                Yeah, ideally I’d prefer to live in a world where men strove to be more like women, but I can see how there are strategic advantages to being more aggressive and competitive in certain workplaces. Personally I prefer to avoid that kind of environment.

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                1. Avasarala

                  Agreed. I recognize that being aggressive “like a man” can be helpful to women but I’d prefer men to be more “like women” and have everyone pitch in in caretaking roles, consensus-building before barging forward, apologizing if we stepped on someone’s toes.

          2. Keladry of Midelan

            I took this approach just a little bit and got dinged on my review by my male manager and now have to take soft skills training. And for context, I’ve been praised for and even recruited specifically for my soft skills my whole career – this feels very gender specific and it’s incredibly frustrating.

            Reply
            1. Nom de plume

              It’s so hard to prove being a young woman is why I’ve consistently gotten negative feedback on my soft skills, but it’s so hard to believe that the problem is *I’m* too direct when their are several men at the company who keep getting promoted for godknowswhatreason who are pretty consistently unnecessarily nasty to people.

              Reply
          3. lemon

            Unfortunately, there are some environments where the sexism is so deeply ingrained that even when women “act more like men” (or, to be more gender-neutral, act assertively and advocate for themselves), it doesn’t make a difference, or worse, they are penalized for this. I’ve experienced this first-hand– being assertive and advocating for myself really caused a lot of tensions and resentment from my boss.

            I read some research somewhere (that I will probably never be able to find again, sadly) that said that women are more likely to find success with the “act like a man” strategy in environments where male-dominance is very secure– the hypothesis being that when one or two individual women succeed, men see them as outliers and not as threats to their dominance. But in environments where male-dominance is being threatened (too many women starting to reach the top, a highly competitive environment, heavy top-down management, etc), women are far less likely to succeed with the “act like a man” strategy.

            Reply
          1. Anon All T

            Depends on the company. I was told to “join more internal committees” at one of my reviews. I already had a full workload and these committees also had meetings during the workday…

            Reply
    3. Zombeyonce

      If anyone ever says that to you, I recommend asking them if they also consider Fergus and Billy Bob and John to be team players as they have never helped out, either. Be sure to name men that both haven’t done this kind of work and are treated well by management.

      Reply
    4. Wilmer

      Not always the case. Usually the majority of people benefiting from the party would not be doing the work anyway… too many cooks in the kitchen sort of thing. If you had 20 women in the office would the 17 not volunteering be judged?

      In my office there is a small group of women who usually do this kind of thing, and seem to take it on almost like a social club. I always figured they like it because it basically gets them out of their usual job for the day (picking up food, setting up, cleaning up or whatever). Most of the women in the office have nothing to do with any of this and I have never thought or overheard anything negative about that group. Have heard bickering from the non-volunteers about the volunteers brown-nosing though…

      Reply
    5. Pennalynn Lott

      This was the case at two of the companies I have worked for. At one company, there was a monthly potluck breakfast. It started super early. Like, two hours before our normal starting time. I never participated. As in, I never showed up and I never ate any of the leftovers. I got called into my manager’s office and was giving a talking to for not being a team player because not only did I never attend the potlucks, I also never brought any food for the office. The HR woman was even in the room. This place was a house of evil bees in a hundred other ways, so I was already interviewing elsewhere at the time. I left before the next potluck took place.

      Reply
  5. Sorrel Gilbert

    Same here! We used to send engineers into schools to do STEM events. I never did a single one because I didn’t want it to become a thing (and I’d done them before and just didn’t enjoy them)

    Three years in my manager started referent apprentices to me (not my male equivalent mind) saying I was an “expert” in them.

    Sigh

    Reply
    1. The New Wanderer

      I think this might be a different category than party planning for the office, though. I could see women volunteering more for STEM outreach programs because it normalizes the idea of women becoming/being engineers or doing other high tech work, which is not something kids might otherwise get that much exposure to. Our company’s chapter of Society of Women Engineers specifically offers these opportunities to members (who are predominantly female) for exactly this reason.

      Though if you’re getting typecast as the ‘helper’ to new employees or doing generic recruiting activities and your equally qualified male colleague isn’t then that’s problematic.

      Reply
      1. Another worker bee

        +1 – representation matters. As a fellow woman in tech this is one of the rare types of things that I always do volunteer for, just for this reason.

        Reply
      2. Close Bracket

        It’s a different category, but not very different. Outreach is still a service and emotional labor role, and more women do it than men. It doesn’t normalize the idea of women becoming engineers nearly as much as you might think—I walked from my employer’s booth, where I was volunteering, to the booth across from us not 5 feet away to see what they were doing, and the person staffing it asked me if I was a teacher. No, skippy, I am not a teacher. I am staffing the booth for my large, well-known, engineering employer bc I work there.

        And you will notice that SWE has more outreach than ASME, IEEE, ASQ, etc. There’s a reason, and it’s rooted in gender and volunteering.

        Reply
    2. Iris Eyes

      I could see a well intentioned boss doing this to make sure that interns know that women are present and seen as experts generally.

      Reply
  6. Engineer Girl

    This is a problem, especially for women in junior level roles.

    If the women are busy planning parties then their time won’t be available for special assignments and other career enhancing tasks. These career tasks raise visibility of the person and helps get them noticed for other career enhancing tasks. They affect the trajectory of the career and also promotion opportunities.

    Junior tech women are not in administrative roles and should not be treated as such. Oh, and watch out for the women getting handed the administrative side of any technical roles too. Many times women get handed the bookkeeping roles of a tech job.

    Absolutely bring this up with your manager (or better) with your managers manager.

    It would be a shame to waste that brilliant energy on anything other than the thing they were hired for.

    Reply
    1. MOAS

      “Many times women get handed the bookkeeping roles of a tech job.”

      First time I’ve heard bookkeeping is a typically administrative/feminine role. I come from a tax/accounting background but now manage a department of bookkeepers. I have 2 men and 4 women working under me.

      Kind of makes sense now–I told a friend about getting promoted and he said I must have been really bad at taxes (I was not)

      Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        I don’t think Engineer Girl meant literal bookkeeping roles. I read that as referring more to the general housekeeping work that happens behind the scenes in any department – changing the toner in the printer, ordering more paper, updating calendars, taking meeting notes and typing up recaps for the team, developing/maintaining process documentation, etc.

        Reply
      2. VictorianCowgirl

        Well that’s an interesting point.
        I’ve been in accounting for well over 20 years, and the only male bookkeeper (as opposed to accountant, not including tax preparers) I’ve ever met is the one I hired and trained myself. They have all been 100% female-presenting in any workplace I’ve ever been.

        Reply
        1. Koala dreams

          There is definitely a glass ceiling in accounting. The higher the position, the less chance of it being held by a woman.

          Reply
          1. MOAS

            In response to Koala — I can see how that’s possible.

            I’m just sharing my own experiences here–when I was interviewing years back, all the interviewers (owners of small companies) were women. My grandboss, who’s the director/head/VP etc , is a woman. When I first started here, both of my managers/seniors were women. I was recently promoted to management as well. A while back, we had one admin employee complain that there were no women leaders, esp at this company. That rubbed us the wrong way because our VP was/is a woman, head of HR is a woman, I was her supervisor, but apparently I didn’t count. (Giant side eye here–this employee had a lot of other issues). And no, we weren’t just put there to “show off” that the company is! so! progressive! (forgetting the term for it). As much as we’ve sometimes clashed, at the end of the day, we all put in the hard work and dedication to doing our jobs well to earn our positions.

            Reply
        2. MOAS

          Now that I think about it, I’m seeing the same in my company. I’m used to being in a mostly-male group as the accountant, but my bookkeeping team is 2 men to 4 women. Since I moved to this side, a lot of people have said they do not like bookkeeping–this is both men and women lol.

          Reply
      3. Engineer Girl

        Actually I meant things like

        Running the simulators (instead of designing them)
        Data entry
        Data collection
        Collecting the test results and tracking them

        These behind the scenes things need to get done but they should be done by all.

        Too many times the man is the one that takes the completed report and distributes it to upper management. Then he gets all the credit.

        Reply
        1. Sleve McDichael

          Oh my goodness yes! That was exactly what happened in my first job as a mechanical engineer. I ended up getting stuck compiling the maintenance budgets, collecting data and writing condition monitoring reports (that other people would then distribute and act on), and learning the maintenance scheduling software. All important, none of it engineering though. Also I was of course the one expected to order all of the printer paper and pens etc for our department. After a couple of years I yeeted out of there into a much more satisfying design job but not every woman can do that, and if you miss out on those growth opportunities early days then it can be hard to catch up to your male peers who are seen as much more competent because they have the experience you’ve been denied while you were hard at work making data collection spreadsheets.

          Reply
      4. The Man, Becky Lynch

        Bookkeeper is one of those roles that gets a bit squished and manipulated at times. I have had a lot of people list “bookkeeper” on their resume when it’s clear they’re not actually bookkeepers, they just counted down cash drawers and did cash drops at their retail jobs but got that title because they were doing some of the bookkeeping work. So sometimes data entry things will get lumped in there and data entry is pretty unisex.

        But yes, in my experience most of the bookkeepers in the traditional sense are women. However to think of it as a demotion or something like that is absurd and grossly sexist.

        Reply
    2. Jadelyn

      “It would be a shame to waste that brilliant energy on anything other than the thing they were hired for.”

      I actually just had this conversation with my great-grandboss yesterday, who was visiting our office and meeting with everyone individually (sort of a culture checkup thing?). She asked if I had any concerns, and I mentioned that word on the grapevine is that another team is going to poach our team’s admin (and pretty much all of us are super happy for her, there’s no room for growth in her role with us, she deserves this opportunity). And because I originally started in that team admin role when I was hired 5 years ago, I’m already preparing my arguments to push back in case team leadership looks around for help with admin work in the interim and says “Oh hey Jadelyn, you used to do that role so you know how to do all that stuff, can you do that while we’re looking for a new admin?”

      Great-grandboss shook her head, made some kind of vehement NOPE gesture. “Don’t even waste the brain-space on marshaling your arguments for that. It’s not even a possibility. You’re working on several mission-critical projects right now, and we moved you out of admin into your current role for a reason. It would make absolutely NO operational sense to take your time away from what you’re doing now just to cover admin work. If or when she goes, we’ll get a temp in until we hire someone. If anyone asks you to help with the admin stuff after she leaves, go straight to Boss and Grandboss, and if they don’t shut it down immediately, come to me and I will.”

      And I loved that phrasing: it makes no operational sense. Same here – it makes no operational sense to have women who were hired for technical roles taking time away from what you hired them to do, for admin work (which includes party planning).

      Reply
  7. Dwight

    Hmm, see I would never volunteer for this because I’d rather not face the criticism about how the parties work out (and actually I don’t care for office parties either, but when they happen we have to attend).

    Reply
      1. TimeTravelR

        Yes… and when the next one rolls around none of the complainers want to do the work… Let the work parties go away, I say!

        Reply
      2. sandwiches!

        You know the thing on here about Not everyone can eat sandwiches? Half my office complains about not wanting to eat sandwiches. So yeah, it’s a thing.

        Reply
      3. Liane

        I think the appropriate reply to such complaints–especially from people who never help–should be, “Oh, it’s so great that you offered to handle our next party!” followed *immediately* by putting it on their calendar.

        Reply
        1. Clisby

          Yep. If I were ordered to plan a party, I’d probably call Domino’s and have them deliver X number of cheese pizzas, and X number of pepperoni pizzas, and there you go.

          Reply
          1. Evan Þ.

            My team has actually had those parties: order pizza and book a conference room. Maybe someone brings a board game from home; maybe someone brings a frisbee and we go outside after eating.

            No complicated planning, and fun.

            Reply
    1. Kiki

      Yes! That’s actually the only reason I don’t like volunteering for this stuff! I by-and-large enjoy party planning and find a lot of the tasks associated with it to be a welcome break from my very technical job, but it’s the criticism that makes me reluctant to volunteer. Why would I sign up to have someone criticize me for not knowing everyone’s preferences*?

      *Especially annoying when I did send out an email asking for preferences/restrictions/etc.

      Reply
  8. portsmouthliz

    The book “Feminist Fight Club” has really great scripts and suggestions for tackling everyday office sexism like this.

    Reply
  9. Bunny Girl

    Ugh yes. Our department take this a step further. We have some socials throughout the year – we are only strongly encouraged to go to one and the rest are truly optional. We have four people in the department who are hourly instead of salary, and guess who is the one that plans all these? But we never go because the one that’s “required,” we end up doing all the work and it’s not fun; it’s just that – work. But everyone questions why we never go to the other ones – well it’s because we are expected to do the cleaning and planning and whatever else, but not paid for it. Well how fun.

    Reply
  10. Oh No She Di'int

    This absolutely should be addressed at the company level. These kinds of disparities reveal hidden group biases, even if there is no active conspiracy. I think this is a risk not only for the women actually doing the work but for other women in the company, as it sends a message as to what sorts of roles seem appropriate in this company.

    As a business owner myself, I do what I can to work against those kinds of patterns, because optics matter. Ditto, by the way, for always relegating black and brown men to tasks that require getting down on the floor or lifting things.

    Reply
  11. LunaLena

    Ugh, this reminds me of the time my father very sincerely told me that, at family gatherings, women cook and clean in the kitchen while the men play chess/watch TV/drink beer because women just naturally LIKE doing those kinds of things. To be fair, he thinks like this because he’s a super traditional/conservative Asian person, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar mentality is the reason women in OP’s company are getting assigned party planning duties: obviously, women love doing things like that, just like all women love shopping and are yearning to get married so they can have babies.

    Reply
    1. Clisby

      Once, out of curiosity, I went with my parents to hear a time-share pitch they had been invited to – it included a tour of a sample rental unit.

      Slimy Salesguy: Of course, the ladies will want to see the kitchen!
      My father: I think you have the wrong two ladies.

      Reply
    2. DAMitsDevon

      Hah, reminds me of the time I was at an aunt and uncle’s house for a Christmas Eve dinner, and my aunt came into the living room to specifically ask me to carry a heavy serving dish to dining room for her, even though I was surrounded by a bunch of just as much, if not more capable men who could have done it instead. (Also, I say more capable, because at the time I was recovering from both injuries from a very recent car accident and a cold, and as far as I know, all of the men were healthy and uninjured. Just god forbid they should be asked to stop watching The Departed and drinking beer for all of 2 minutes.)

      Reply
        1. DAMitsDevon

          Luckily, my dad was sitting next to me and noticed that I was in pain and having sneezing fits, so he was like, “I can do that so DAMitsDevon can keep resting.”

          Reply
    3. Asenath

      Oh, dear, I heard something quite similar from a relative (not Asian, and only somewhat conservative, so maybe this was a common idea). The male summer workers got to go out in tents and work in the woods. The female ones got to site in hot dusty buildings preparing samples for analysis (for less money, of course). This was because the boys were very bad at detail work and wouldn’t treat the samples properly but the girls naturally had a gift for tedious boring detail work. (I may have editorialized that last bit.) My response was that of course the girls did the boring work well because they didn’t have any alternative, since summer jobs were few and far between, and these was one of the better ones.

      And sales…back when I wanted to buy a car, I got a male friend with a car to drive me around to the various dealerships, since naturally they weren’t really accessible if you didn’t already own a car. Quite often, the salesman would address him first, and he’d grin and point to me “She’s buying the car”. One of them asked me what I wanted – I’d done my homework and listed off basic model, standard transmission, no luxury add-ons, and he promptly tried to sell me an expensive luxury model, just the thing for a young woman to drive around town, he said. That might have been normal upselling, though.

      Anyway, no one suggests I organize parties because I don’t do it. Well, technically, there are a few work events I plan and order food for,. my own convenience being an important consideration – A delivers to the room and cleans up afterwards, B delivers to the main entrance so I have to get a trolley, meet them, deliver the food, and clean up. We’ll order from A. But social things? No, I don’t organize them.

      Reply
      1. it's me

        “This was because the boys were very bad at detail work and wouldn’t treat the samples properly but the girls naturally had a gift for tedious boring detail work.”

        This is how women ended up doing (what men thought of as the) the boring rote (and lower paid, less prestigious, and less creative) things like programming punch cards, inking and painting animation cells, and editing film. (Any creativity and expertise now associated with these sorts of roles was not intended by those who relegated “the girls” to them.)

        Reply
      2. Free Meerkats

        When buying my wife’s last car we’d walk into dealerships and tell the salesperson, “She’s looking for a car, I’m just along.” When (not if) they addressed me, I’d point to her and say, “It’s going to be her car.” If they did it again, we’d ask to see the manager, tell the manager exactly why we were walking out without buying, and leave. We went through almost every local dealer of the car she was looking at. Finally, one didn’t treat her as an accessory and we bought that day.

        Reply
      3. Pebbles

        I was with my boyfriend while he was shopping for a car and the salesman tried to upsell him to the electric version of the vehicle which he had already stated he did not want. The salesman pitched it as yes, it’s more money upfront, but the money he would save by not buying gas he could use to take me out for nicer dinners. I told him “I like White Castle”. Pretty much killed his pitch.

        (NB: I like going to nice steakhouses too, but I wasn’t lying when I said I like White Castle. Don’t try to use me to make your sale.)

        Reply
      4. Avasarala

        Meanwhile when you plan a (heterosexual) wedding, everyone assumes the bride wants to jump in and dream up all these details, while the groom does the music and the bar. The two least difficult areas to plan. But that’s what everyone “likes to do”!

        Reply
    4. OrchidDragon

      It cannot assume that employees desire traditional gender tasks. Nor should traditional tasks be automatically assigned based on gender. That sets a dangerous precedence in the workplace. I agree that junior roles or entry level positions normally receive the party planning responsibility. If it is critical for client retention or appreciation, then it should be included in the job description. It it is only for employees, it should be scaled back or infrequent if it becomes too much of a burden. Companies should step back and be aware of how this impacts their employees.

      What an individual chooses to do in their personal life is no one’s business. I am female and I repair the appliances and command over the grill, even though my husband is skilled in all that. I loath it when family members assume I am the only one who can plan a family event. I don’t want that attitude at work too, especially since I served my time in a junior role.

      My department would bring up an event in our weekly meeting and bounce around ideas. Then based on what the majority rule was, it was either catered or potluck. For potluck, the non-cooks purchased something exciting and would be extra generous in setting or cleaning up. No one was allowed to just show up with a plate. If it was catered, the details were discussed in the meeting and our boss would do the actual ordering. It seemed more fair this way for our department since everyone would vote or was put on the spot for a task.

      Reply
    5. QueenoftheCats

      When I was in college, my dad hosted a holiday party for a university group that he was once a part of. This party was something I wasn’t interested in, and he knew that. I wouldn’t have known anybody there, and there was no common interest or whatever for me and his guests to bond over. The night of the party, my mom and I told him, “We’re going into town; have fun.” The next words that came out of his were “Are you sure? If you stay, you can play hostess!”

      Reply
    6. Tisiphone

      My family was the same when I was young. Enough people to populate a small village converged on someone’s home for (name your holiday – we always got Mother’s Day because we had the best outdoor space) Women set up, prepared food, called around to make sure everyone knew when to come, all stuff Chief Logistics Officers get paid big bucks for. The men got down the folding chairs and then vanished from sight into wherever the best TV was.

      The women also brought the food to the table, minded the toddlers and babies while the children’s fathers piled food only on their own plates and ate their food hot, cleaned up, and picked up. The male host carved the meat and that’s it.

      Whenever I was asked to pitch in with dishes and cleanup, I’d point at the nearest male relative and say “Only if Zeus Jr. helps, too.”

      I never had to do any of this work. It was more important that Apollo Jr, Ares Jr. Zeus Jr, Theseus, Perseus, and the rest of the men and boys didn’t do anything than to make sure all of the females are working. I was seven when I first called them out on it.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        I am so glad my own family wasn’t like this — my FOO was — my mother and aunt in the kitchen and the men plopped on their butts being waited on — but my husband and I didn’t create that kind of household and our siblings didn’t either and so our kids grew up with Dads cooking and doing dishes and such just as a natural course of things and now in their own families, have similar patterns.

        Left my first husband 50 years ago partly because although I worked full time and went to school evenings while putting him through school, he occasionally ‘helped me out a bit with my work at home.’ (to expected applause – and not much work — like poured out the cereal for breakfast and made the coffee.) Got old fast. Now at 47 years with second husband who never did that crap — a very pleasant way to live.

        Reply
        1. Tisiphone

          The good news is that my cousins and siblings and younger generations than us are sharing the load. It’s the 21st century and I party like it’s 2019 and beyond.

          Reply
    7. nnn

      Reading this and other anecdotes in the thread, I’m surprised the frequency with which men seem to think women *like* doing these housekeeping/organizing/emotional labour tasks.

      I can see thinking “I’m not good at this, I’ll stay out of the way unless someone gives me orders.” I can see thinking “Meh, I don’t want to do it, someone else will do it.” I can see not noticing that the task needs to be done at all. (That’s my own flaw, in my capacity as a woman who’s terrible all these kinds of tasks – I don’t notice what needs to be done.)

      But I can’t imagine arriving at the conclusion that “she’s doing the task” = “she likes the task”. Do…do they never ever do chores they dislike themselves?

      Reply
      1. Devil Fish

        Yes, that’s exactly it.

        Men (generally) refuse to do things they don’t enjoy doing, therefore if someone else (generally women, also sometimes men in other demographics that traditionally have less status/privilege) is doing something, that other person must enjoy the thing or else they’d obviously refuse to do it, right?

        Citation: The ex-boyfriend who explained to me that the half a dozen bowls half-full of cereal and milk scattered around the living room while his mother was out of town visiting family for a week was because his father and brother “don’t like to clean up like Mom does” (and apparently he also couldn’t be bothered to put dirty dishes in the dishwasher unless they were his dirty dishes wtfsrsly).

        Reply
  12. Shawn

    Something very similar ocurred at a company I used to work for. The team was a marketing team. There were four men and two women. Everyone was in a non-administrative role. The department was often involved in tradeshows and used to have to assemble and prepare marketing materials. Several of these marketing materials were printed and assembled by the team. Sure enough, one of the two (or sometimes both) of the women were assigned these tasks. They were also tasked with going down to the supply room and grabbing items such as keychains, caps, pens, etc. to be given away at these shows. They would often talk about how the assembly of all of these materials was extremely time consuming and often took them away from their tasks of properly preparing for the tradeshows. They would often either not be well-prepared at the tradeshows or up late the night before in their preparations. I noticed this and took it to our manager. When I mentioned, “Why is it that only the women on the team get tasked with printing, etc.” he sat up and looked like a deer caught in the headlights. I don’t think it was even conscious on his part but I will say that it changed after that. The assembly and prep tasked began to rotate among the entire team!

    Reply
    1. EPLawyer

      This is how you change that. A manager steps up and say “Thanks Linda, but you volunteered the last time, how about you Bob?” If Bob says no, you point out that Linda is a great team player for doing it and that Bob should be too. And use the same subtle pressure on Bob, while absolutely refusing to accept Linda’s volunteering, until Bob gives in. If its easiest to assign, then there’s a rotation. Linda did hers, Bob you’re next. Then Tom, you are after Bob., etc.

      But it takes management forcing the change. because the guys will not volunteer themselves because they don’t see doing these things as part of being a team player.

      Reply
      1. Lehigh

        I agree. And I think that what Shawn did was much more effective than if he had just, personally, started to volunteer. I can’t blame an individual man for not wanting to be the only man (along with the women) saddled with these kinds of unpleasant tasks. It should be distributed equitably.

        Reply
  13. TimeTravelR

    In many cases, I was the lone or only one of a very few admin types, so the party planning always seemed to fall to me/us. At my current position I put my foot down immediately. I don’t enjoy party planning, I don’t want to do party planning. When they discovered that there would be no party if someone else didn’t step up, people started stepping up. And, for my money, if the parties fell away because no one wanted to plan them, I would care anyway.

    Reply
    1. TimeTravelR

      Edit that last phrase to read: I wouldn’t care anyway.

      (Also to add, even though my position is administrative, I am not low paid or entry level. Our organization’s lowest paid are still way more than “entry level” at most companies. All that to say, that if our company wants parties, it’s going to be very expensive labor-wise, regardless of who does it…)

      Reply
    2. Jamie

      And, for my money, if the parties fell away because no one wanted to plan them, I would care anyway.

      You just described my idea of workplace paradise.

      Reply
    3. Dan

      I work for a very large non=profit, and there’s like two social events per year at the corporate level, one in the summer and one for Xmas. We’re big (as in a couple of thousand people) so legit planning needs to be done by people who have real responsibility and skill at these things.

      Beyond that, different departments do different things from time to time. My last department does Secret Santa and I hate it. My current department does not do that and I love it.

      I don’t need “fun” at work. If the parties don’t happen if they’re not volunteer planned? Then fine with me.

      Reply
    4. Penny Pincher

      As a team manager somehow I was stuck with all the planning and washing up for several large scale team events while others just got to attend and enjoy my efforts. Recently I admitted to my manager that I have no time for this kind of thing anymore. It lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. Now someone else is taking on that role. Lesson learned – will never get caught up in that kind of thing again.

      Reply
    1. TimeTravelR

      Once I told them I’m not doing it, our company started rotating it around requesting a rep from each division. That has helped a lot although it still tends to be heavily female… baby steps I guess.

      Reply
      1. MechanicalPencil

        Happened that way at one of my previous jobs. Which semi-worked. Except a good two-thirds of the people had absolutely no interest in being their division’s designated rep, which was actually almost more work than if they hadn’t been there at all. After that disastrous experiment, they dissolved that method.

        Reply
  14. irene adler

    They -management- decided that I would plan the party to mark the 20 year mark for many of the employees (including myself!).
    Someone sat me down, told me about the assignment, and then walked away.

    And nothing ever happened. Just never got around to it.

    No one missed having a party because this company does not do these types of things- for anyone.

    Reply
  15. Rebecca

    I truly hate event planning (and truly love event planners, b/c it’s an incredibly detailed, difficult, and often thankless job) and thus have strategically avoided it in most of my workplaces. In fact I’ve even said “That sounds an awful lot like ladies’ work,” in response to being told I’d need to order food for a meeting or set up a room for something. This tends to wake people up to the fact that they’re being A Certain Way about something.

    But in some jobs that wouldn’t fly – so generally I position it more as “Oh, that’s actually something that’s not in my skill set, but I’m happy to do X.” Alternatively: “Hm, I’m not sure I have a lot of time to coordinate the catering, but if Ken will do that, I’ll do [other thing].” Spreading out the work can help to get around the perception that housekeeping-type tasks are exclusively handled by women.

    Reply
    1. banzo_bean

      Yeah, ordering food for office events is hell. It’s hard to keep track of everyones order, nail the timing down, clean up, etc. I get that this type of event planning is part of some positions but it also just defeats the perk of having food bought for me. Thanks, but no thanks, I am happy to pay for my own burrito if it means I never have to do this again.

      Reply
      1. Rebecca

        One of my early jobs was in an admin role – the entire admin staff was female and I was in a very junior role, so I was expected to do a lot of this stuff (make coffee, order lunch, arrange golf foursomes, clean up after working lunches, etc). I had more than my share and won’t do it anymore. I cook and clean in my own home and that’s enough, thanks!

        And yes on the food ordering. It’s thankless.

        Reply
    2. Richard Hershberger

      This is where my philosophy of performative incompetence kicks. Demand that I do some nonsense task that has nothing to do with my actual job and I will do it. But not well. Not well at all. Perhaps spectacularly not well. But with enthusiasm! A complete victory is when I ensure I will never be asked to do this again, but everyone feels bad about not asking me because I was so enthusiastic.

      Reply
  16. cheeky

    I work for a company like this, and as a woman in a technical role, I simply refuse to participate. I’m one of two women in a group of 30. I don’t cut cake, I don’t bring in treats, I don’t volunteer to set up or clean up events. Plenty of times, this has meant that the informal party or whatever doesn’t happen, and I’m okay with that. If people want to celebrate office birthdays, the men are fully within their rights to make it happen. Shockingly, it’s not a priority for them. That is why it’s not a priority for me. And this has been effective- people do not treat me like their secretary, their den mother, or their wife, though I see that happen to other women.

    Reply
    1. !

      I hear that, my techie sister! You made a GREAT point when you wrote if the informal party or whatever doesn’t happen, you’re okay with that. You have to be okay with taking a stand not to be seen as the wife/mother, and I’m actually only one of those things (wife), so hell no, if I don’t mother anyone at home, I’m not doing it at work either.

      Reply
  17. !

    Yes, I have done my share of that stuff and I’m a senior technical lead (and a woman). We have a (woman) administrator who usually does all the social stuff. When she is out though, and because my cubicle is right next to hers, people come to me and ask me an administrative type question…my response, “I don’t know, will have to wait for admin to come back.” (even if I know the answer). The key is not to worry about what anyone else thinks when you stand up for yourself. I’m very much a team player where work is concerned, and don’t even view cleaning up after a party in the same category. If we are all supposed to be pitching in, then make sure ALL are pitching in. I’ve seen way to many guys hit and run a party without batting an eye, women need to do the same.

    Reply
  18. Autumnheart

    My company has historically handled this type of thing pretty well. We have an organized Fun Team that has a ton of people on it, both men and women. They handle all the event planning for departmental team events, they get a budget, etc. Our review process also includes a metric for contributing to company culture/employee engagement, and volunteering on the Fun Team definitely counts. So a) people aren’t voluntold to plan events for everyone else’s benefit, and b) it increases their reward at review time.

    Reply
    1. Anon For This One. Really.

      I wonder if you work at my old job. Everything you described sounds like something they would do. Of course, I wasn’t told anything about the teams nor invited to join anything and then just blindsided at review time about my lack of joining things like Fun Team.

      Reply
    2. Clisby

      The Fun Team sounds terrible. There are companies that manage to keep going
      without organizing dang social events for employees.

      Reply
    3. mf

      My company has a similar setup, but the problem is that the team consists of only women. :( I think what your company did right was attach a culture/engagement metric to the Fun Team involvement. This ensures people are recognized/rewarded for their participation, because we all know men don’t pitch in with party planning unless there’s something in it for them.

      Reply
  19. Sour Patch

    Oh goodness, I ultimately left my last company over this, so this question brings back so much rage. I also worked in a very male dominated industry. Most of the roles women filled were more accounting and administrative in nature. Also no female management or diversity. This was a 600+ company and almost no women in leadership.

    I was asked by my former boss to plan an employee appreciation party, I wasn’t an admin, nor did I live in the state where this party was supposed to happen. We also had an entire team living in that state, but I happened to be the only woman. My boss asked me initially if I was good at party planning, I said “no, I don’t plan parties.” He then asked if I could plan our employee appreciation party in small-town WV, despite having a team of people who lived there and knew of venues and food vendors. Ultimately, I got stuck doing it and my boss was unhappy with the food vendor I chose because they were expensive. When I told him that there wasn’t many options, several people who lived in this state expressed all the different food caterers they knew of. Yes, this is exactly WHY I didn’t want to plan this party. I quit the next week. My boss was enraged at my lack of willingness of wanting to take this on, despite the fact this was supposed to be a party he was putting on for his employees.

    I’ve never felt so insulted in my entire professional career.

    Reply
      1. Sour Patch

        To be honest, I didn’t, but I had started to push back on a lot of things. I was hired on in a junior role, but I was treated like a personal assistant. The most frustrating part of this whole experience was that we had floor admins who were hired to do these types of things, such as party planning, ordering food, setting up conference rooms, booking travel and scheduling meetings, but he constantly asked me to do these tasks despite having a large admin team to do it. I would always try to redirect him to the admins, but then it would turn into “Can you ask the admin to do XYZ then?” Our floor admin sat 10 feet away from HIS desk.

        He was so lazy.

        Reply
    1. Anon For This One. Really.

      I can’t even. I would’ve purposely picked the most expensive caterer just to spite him.

      Did you express to him “You have Bob, Jim, Sue and Mary who ALL live in WV and will know more about caterers than I will since I live in _____. Perhaps they will be able to make this party more of a success than I can!”

      Reply
      1. Sour Patch

        I sure did! His response was “yeah, but this is an employee appreciation party and I don’t want to ask my employees to plan it…” *crickets*

        Reply
  20. Anonya

    I’m on the heels of a workplace family picnic that I sincerely wish would just … go away. It’s supposed to be a recognition of employees’ hard work and a chance for them to kick back. So why is a mid-level manager and the people she supervises getting tasked with putting together this party? It’s this way every year. The mid-level women are the planners and the doers; probably not coincidentally, there is only one man in this level of leadership. All the other men are on the senior team, who shows up and maybe pushes baked beans at people but doesn’t actually do any of the work.

    Reply
    1. Sour Patch

      This seems to be such a problem in a lot of places. It gets so old. I think women, just as much as men, don’t want to take on the burden of organizing these types of things. If there’s not an expectation of everyone participating in organizing parties then don’t single out the women. It really is sexist.

      Reply
    2. OhBehave

      Then you make the party all about women. Mani/pedi stations, make over booths, fashion lectures, etc. Serve tiny sammies and fru-fru food. Turn up the feminine vibe! All the stereotypical “girlie” stuff because all women love that stuff, right? SMH Just kidding – but it would be fun.

      Reply
  21. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

    At my last company, our department had about 100 people. A CIO council was started, with the members being chosen by leadership, and the council planned fun stuff for the department. This worked because the people were chosen, and it was always a diverse group.

    Reply
  22. Semprini!

    If you’re looking for a way to address it without specifically bringing gender into it,* an option might be to introduce a policy where (in the absence of volunteers) the person designated for this kind of work rotates, and no one is designated a second time until everyone has done it at least once. So if the group consists of Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer, and Elaine did it last time, she isn’t going to get ordered to do it again until Jerry, George and Kramer have each done it once.

    In parallel, if you are in charge of people’s performance evaluations, something you could do is note positively on their performance evaluation that they did the party planning work (especially if they volunteered) and see if you can use that to give them a higher score than a comparable worker who didn’t contribute.

    *I mention a way to avoid bringing gender into it because sometimes in male-dominated environments like this, if you mention something is gender-based, you’re automatically seen as less credible and/or the issue is automatically seen as Not A Real Problem. OP is best placed to know whether or not this applies to their workplace.

    Reply
    1. blaise zamboni

      I second pushing for a rotation. Hell, my site is ~75% women. Our monthly department meetings include exactly 3 men in a group of about 25. But the planning for the meeting rotates between the different department heads and their teams, so the work is shared evenly. It’s a really good system IMO, especially compared to my last job where I was literally the only person who kept track of birthdays on a 10-person team.

      I like the concept of recognizing people for their willingness to take these tasks on! It doesn’t make sense to me why soft skills, like fostering good relations with coworkers, aren’t valued more highly in general. I know Alison has talked a lot about that but…yeah.

      Reply
  23. SameSameSame

    My organization has traditionally faced a similar issue. The last party I was tasked with planning was not only all women but also only had one manager who volunteered. When our annual holiday party fell to our division and I once again had to lead the effort (I’m the EA to the VP who drew the short stick) I went directly to my VP and pointed out the inequality of volunteers. He agreed and changed how we take volunteers for events our division works on. He asked one of his two directors (both men) to be a co-chair with me, let them know that we required a diverse team from all levels of the organization, age range and gender. Our team this year has more men than woman and several managers. I feel lucky that I work for someone who sees the patriarchal creep and wants to help combat it. It truly starts with an advocate at the top to change the way things are done. For reference we’re a government organization and I work within a construction division (very male dominated).

    Reply
  24. Mockingjay

    I’ve posted about this before, but years ago I was part of an all-female technical writing team. So “naturally” we were asked to plan the annual barbecue and other events. We finally got fed up with party planning and one year refused. Our supervisor told the other managers, find other volunteers; we’ve done our part.

    So the IT Department (all men) stepped up and threw a fantastic barbecue with music, fantastic food, a keg of good Irish beer instead of the usual watery domestic stuff, and so on.

    Yes men can plan parties too.

    Reply
  25. Zapthrottle

    At some point, women need to also stop feeding the problem. Stop blaming men. Stop blaming managers. Stop blaming the system, companies, Christians, the CEO, CFO, office manager, and certainly stop blaming millennials, Texas, society, Jesus, Donald Trump, Buddha, and the ozone layer.

    Don’t volunteer for it or stand your ground when volun-told….unless it’s part of your job (i.e. you work in a department whose goals include supporting company culture…then it’s your job, not sexism). If you have valuable skills and make a strong contribution to the company you can do this. No reasonable company will risk a strong employee over gender stereotypes. If they do, they do not deserve you.

    If you are being assigned this and not feeling like you have the standing/caving when this happens, then it is your fault. Seriously. It is. Why? Because if you are a top performer who has earned respect, you wouldn’t be the first choice for this. Your projects and your time are too valuable to reassign to other activities. You are being picked because what you produce is roughly equal in value to organizing birthday parties. No one anticipates a loss in value for the company when you pick up birthday cakes. Think about that.

    Now…if you are thinking, “Well, not everyone can be the best sales person at a company” or “it’s easier for others and not everyone, especially women, will be respected at every organization” then you are already feeding the problem by accepting these excuses. It is true, not everyone can be the top sales person, top analyst, top administrator….but any women can be excellent, exceptional, and produce too much value to be distracted by activities not related to their job. You can create a reputation as such a strong accountant, A/R specialist, designer, account manager or project coordinator that the thought of you coordination the company potluck is met with, “WTF” by people. So be THAT person and not the person who produces average work then blames everyone and everything under the sun when their time is valued equal to coordinating the company potluck.

    1. I never volunteer to be on a birthday committee, I don’t do employee party planning, I don’t clear the conference room unless I led a meeting in it, I don’t make coffee, and I do not familiarize myself with how the break room gets stocked, cleaned, and maintained.
    2. I do bring an occasional treat to share….Krispy Kreme donuts, actually, because I like them.
    When we do a potluck, I sign up for paper plates.
    3. I will sometimes volunteer to take the mail to the post office when the admin leaves early but only if it’s on my way and I don’t have to change up my work plans for the day.
    4. I do run the company Christmas party because it is my job- it’s an actual line item that I run it. And I do like it because it is a major company event, it has a very good budget (because I set it) and there is no committee who gets to vote on the menu, decorations, or location. I run it with an event planner, do menu planning (yum), and only present the plan to the CEO. Our company parties are badass events. And when anyone tries to press me to plan a baby shower because, “I do such a great job with parties” I respond with, do you have $10,000- $50,000 for this event, because that’s the type of event that I would carve out time for. And now, no one asks me to coordinate random baby showers.
    5. I do handle charitable events because it’s an important part of our company’s marketing program and when I run it, I never assign tasks based on gender, age, or seniority. I request volunteers and when I do not get them – I work things out with my team and then assign remaining tasks to VP’s…all of them. :)

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I agree with much of this, but not all of it. In particular, it’s just not true that if you’re great at you job, you won’t be asked to do stuff like this. I can think of lots of situations where top-performing women have been subject to these requests/assignments. Now, if you’re very senior, probably not. But if you’re junior or mid level, you can be top-performing and still have it happen. It’s not those women’s fault, it’s the fault of deeply rooted sexism.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        And it is true that there are workplaces where women will be not just subject to those requests (or silent expectations) but also be penalized for not taking on these tasks. It’s like a meta-level of frustration that we have to parse our workplace to figure out if we’re going to be hurt if we don’t fulfill these expectations or if we’re going to hurt ourselves by assuming an expectation that isn’t there.

        Reply
      2. Dan

        What the OP is saying is that a strong performer can say no and hold their ground, because the company wouldn’t risk their departure over a party planning issue. It’s the “stand your ground” part.

        I will tell you that one of the hardest things to learn in the work place is when a boss is asking a true question vs using imprecise words to tell you to do something. This is tough, because if one can truly say no without repercussions, it is very hard to know.

        Reply
          1. Dan

            Sure it does. Quotes because I don’t know how make the blog software happy:

            “Don’t volunteer for it or stand your ground when volun-told….unless it’s part of your job”
            and
            “No reasonable company will risk a strong employee over gender stereotypes.”

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              No:

              any women can be excellent, exceptional, and produce too much value to be distracted by activities not related to their job. You can create a reputation as such a strong accountant, A/R specialist, designer, account manager or project coordinator that the thought of you coordination the company potluck is met with, “WTF” by people. So be THAT person and not the person who produces average work then blames everyone and everything under the sun when their time is valued equal to coordinating the company potluck.

              Reply
            2. Avasarala

              The problem is, this comment thread shows that many many companies WILL risk a strong employee over gender stereotypes. Maybe they’re all unreasonable. You still get the effect of women having to change jobs/recalibrate their career to avoid sexism.

              Or men could just stop asking women to do these things.

              Reply
        1. Kimberlee, No Longer Esq.

          But saying no and holding your ground doesn’t prevent your boss from internalizing “Kim’s a b*tch, she wouldn’t even do this one little thing for us”. At a subconscious level. Which impacts how you’re evaluated in your performance review.

          That same boss won’t internalize the same negative feelings about a man refusing to do this task, but will internalize it when a woman does. This is demonstrated. And it’s not conscious, it’s not just a small handful of overtly sexist men.

          If you’re a man (not specifically you, Dan, I’m speaking to literally every man and most women) and you’re not *consciously* trying to counter these biases in yourself, you’re probably perpetrating them. That’s how bias works! People don’t know they’re doing it, and aren’t doing it on purpose, but that doesn’t mean they’re not doing it! Zapthrottles’ comment that lays the blame entirely at the feet of women completely ignores this rigorously demonstrated reality.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            Yes. Of course the possibility for pushback exists, but the degree of loss of political capital for doing so tends to be tied to things that it shouldn’t be; women and minorities are much likelier to be punished for such pushback. Therefore a man’s experience of the consequences of pushback don’t necessarily translate to what a woman will encounter.

            Reply
          2. Dan

            One very serious question I have:

            Can we just stop with the parties, at least the non serious ones that have nothing more than a “petty cash” budget? No joke. I don’t need monthly cake for the department birthday celebration. I don’t need a monthly department birthday celebration at all. The annual Xmas party? That one’s not too bad, and I hope to god it’s planned by somebody who has that thing, at some level, as a core part of their responsibility.

            TBH, I would resent getting told it’s my turn to plan a party I don’t even want to have. If the party doesn’t happen because Jane can’t/won’t plan it any longer, then I’m fine with that. If it’s a chore, it’s not fun.

            I put it this way, because this isn’t about getting other people (men or women) to do more party planning. It’s about asking if it’s really necessary in the first place.

            Reply
            1. Sour Patch

              To be honest, Christmas Parties are my least favorite of all the parties because they are the biggest ones and they’re usually after hours and sometimes on the weekend! NO! I feel like most people don’t enjoy forced parties. I don’t mind the holiday stuff that happens during the workday. One year my company hosted a gingerbread house decorating contest. It was a ton of fun and you only had to participate if you wanted to. I think a lot of people prefer the more low-key events. At this same company, we had a party committee and people were randomly drawn from a basket in each section, it didn’t matter WHO you were. The party committee was rotated out every 6 months and the same person couldn’t be redrawn again. I feel like this is the only fair way to have a party committee.

              Reply
            2. The Man, Becky Lynch

              It’s because you’re outvoted in most situations. A large population is conditioned to expect and even enjoy parties, they don’t think about nor care about the preparation parts, they care about the outcome. It’s part of being selfish and self centered in the end, which in reality a large portion of humans are at the very base.

              I agree that if nobody wants the job, then they should be canned though. If someone says no, ask around and if it’s an all around no, then okay cool, the response is nobody has the interest in planning, therefore there is no party in the works.

              But then we get into that nasty spot where someone is happy to help prep for Nancy’s baby shower but when Nelly announces her pregnancy, she’s not too well liked and has no work BFF, so there’s no baby shower setup for her. Hurt feelings happen, morale drops and all that sort of thing.

              So in reality, in order to keep what parties are supposed to be doing [keeping people engaged and happily fed with free food], you need it to be someone’s job. Stop depending on volunteers, write it into a job description. Just about everywhere has some kind of assistant or junior level that can feasibly saddled with it! Stop depending on people at work to do things out of the kindness of their hearts and all that stuff.

              Reply
              1. Dan

                In those cases, I really don’t think there’s such things as “pleasing everybody.” Management cannot stop “unofficial” get togethers, and I would look very sideways at a manager who would. For the sake of conversation, assume I’m talking about innocuous stuff here, not golf outings for “the boys.” I’m even talking about Nancy’s baby shower. There is no way that management can stop people Nancy works with from acknowledging/celebrating her baby shower. Because when Nancy has an official one for friends/family, can management really say that people Nancy has a work relationship with cannot attend? Methinks not.

                Which leaves us with Nelly, and I don’t know the answer other than to say “life isn’t fair.” If Nelly has no work BFF, then Nelly likely won’t have a party. In the spirit of sparing hurt feelings, if the company/department/whatever declares “everybody gets a semi-work approved celebration so nobody feels left out” it better fall to someone who has official (paid) responsibility. Because otherwise we’re stuck with the conversation we have here, which leads to the same circular argument about do we need these in the first place.

                So I guess I’m saying that if we’re trying to figure out how to change the culture of party planning in the workplace, it’s either no parties or part of someone’s job description. No more volunteers.

                Reply
      3. Sour Patch

        Thanks Allison. I posted my experience up-thread. Me standing up for myself ultimately made things very uncomfortable at my job and my boss labeled me as difficult and that I made him “uncomfortable” because I pushed back on admin tasks. I wasn’t an admin. I quit after one year.

        Zapthrottle- I think it’s misguided to imply I am solely responsible for the way people treat me. I’ve put up with a lot in jobs and every time I have stood my ground, it made the situation even worse because “you’re not a team player.” It’s nice to see not everyone has had to experience this, but many people are still very sexist. Especially in heavily dominated male industries, it’s the truth. I didn’t believe it until it happened to me. People have unconscious biases whether they realize it or not and it can cause problems just like the OP posed. A friend of mine is a reputable attorney in a niche industry. She has 15 years of experience. As of last year, she joined a firm where she is the only woman out of 15 employees. Her boss has been asking her in every meeting to take meeting minutes. She finally called him out on it and he apologized and admitted that he thought women “enjoyed taking meeting notes, which is why he only asked her.” After that convo, he stopped, but now he always makes backhanded comments about it. She shouldn’t have to prove her worth anymore than any of her male counterparts, especially when she has the most experience. You can’t deny these toxic and sexist biases don’t exist and people shouldn’t be held accountable for them. It’s 2019, let’s progress.

        Reply
        1. Ginger Baker

          WTF. Working for a BigLaw firm, I have only ever seen the least-experienced attorney get tasked with meeting minutes…because WHY would you set the person with the $1,000/hr billing rate on meeting minutes versus the $150/hr guy…or better yet, the admin? UGH. That’s freaking terrible and I’m sorry your friend experienced it and worse that the asshole who asked her has NOT in fact been gracious about moving on.

          Reply
          1. Sour Patch

            Yeah, it’s insane, but I wanted to make a point to Zapthrottle that these situations constantly happen even to the people in prestigious jobs because they are women and people are still sexist. Even when you point out these sexist behaviors, people can sometimes make it still seem like you’re overreacting or you’re being disagreeable.

            The other day we had contractors at our house and we also decided to do some landscaping/ grading. One of the contractors says to me “Wow, your husband must be really busy with all of that dirt, that’s quite the project!” Despite the fact that we both had been outside shoveling dirt. I made a point to say, “Nope, because I’ve been out there pulling my weight with him!” I know that seems like an innocent thing of the contractor to say, but why would you assume that only my husband does yard-work? It’s a small bias that can bleed into all aspects of life. That women are here to fulfill specific tasks that men aren’t capable of (party planning), while men are out there shoveling dirt since women aren’t capable.

            Reply
        2. Kat in VA

          I am very, very good at notes – I can type them as fast as the words fly out of your mouth.

          Do I naturally, as a woman, enjoy taking them? No, I do not. I would much rather be doing something else than laboriously transcribing the same circular thought that’s been running through your brain that you’ve struggled to enunciate for the last 15 minutes – and then later editing it so it has some semblance of coherence.

          It’s like that “Women LIKE taking care of kids / baking / doing housework /managing feelings / cleaning up because they’re good at it” trope. I’m not good at this because I like it; I’m good at it because it’s a necessary component of my job.

          Reply
    2. Don't Blame the Ozone Layer

      Good for you that you’ve never feared for your job, or being called a bitch, or being looked over for serious responsibilities, or decried for “not being a team player” for not playing this game. Yes, it’s stupid and it’s a game, but some people have no choice, until someone else with power stands up to the ones who control these situations.

      Reply
    3. Temperance

      Just curious, are you a woman? Because a lot of your comment is incredibly presumptuous relating to the value that women bring to the workplace.

      I once had a male intern approach me and insist that I was the secretary for one of our male partners. I am no one’s secretary. He actually -argued- with me about checking whether Mr. Man was on the phone and pulling up his calendar, even after I said that Mr. Man’s secretary was named Joan and was down the hall. One of our more senior female partners, who is a department head, often gets asked to scan documents and do other admin tasks, -just because she’s female.

      Reply
      1. OhBehave

        I agree with you. Zap seems to be blaming women for being asked/told to do these tasks. What about the pinheads expecting women to do it because they ‘love doing this kind of thing’? Yes, until more women stand up and refuse or at least push back, nothing will change. But to blame them is wrong. It’s still a very male dominated work world with old ideas. Penalization for not going along with this kind of thing is very real.

        Reply
  26. Party planning data scientist

    Ugh. I am one of very few females on a mostly male, very technical team (and the only one who is regularly in the office). My manager added me to do party planning “because you’re female, and you’re better at it than us”. I was so shocked by the blatant sexism that I couldn’t think of how to respond well in the moment and agreed to do it (I did say I wasn’t good at it, but still agreed to do it). Not really sure how to address it now without being really confrontational about it, because this isn’t unconscious sexism that I could just subtly point out – he was quite upfront about his reasoning, and seemed okay with that! At least I’m going to get an Amazon gift card out of it soon… (promo from the catering company).

    Reply
      1. Lexi Lynn

        One cheese pizza, one with everything even if 10 people are attending, cheapest paper plates, no beverages. It will be the last time you get asked. And then point out you told them you didn’t do this.

        Reply
        1. Sarah M

          Pink Diet Everything! And only order about a third of the amount of food that is actually needed, so everyone gets two or three bite-sized pieces of ___ to nibble on and no more. Oh – and baby carrots.

          Reply
        2. Jadelyn

          I once decided to have fun with some sexist guys at my office – I was the admin, and I had to create these worksite binders for them and we didn’t have dividers, so I was just using colored paper to mark sections.

          So the next round of binders I had to make, I used bright pink for the dividers.

          And yes, I did hear them grumbling about it later, which…are you allergic to pink? Do you think merely touching a pink substance will cause your manhood to fall off? Grow up, it’s just a color!

          Reply
            1. nnn

              I really want someone to write an article about societal reaction to the colours switching. I’d imagine there’d be some pretty appalled grandparents, but I haven’t been able to actually find any information.

              Reply
    1. Artemesia

      You are stuck this time. Before next time have a talk with the boss about assigning women professionals to do this sort of work and ask him to rotate this assignment. You can be fairly frank about not wanting to get a weak professional reputation because you are being assigned non-professional work.

      Reply
    2. Blue Horizon

      When life gives you lemons… do you have any training data sets that need manual classification? Make a game out of it, form people into teams, and have a prize for the team that gets through the most in the time limit (say 3 hours). Cater drinks and finger food (nothing alcoholic or that might impair data quality).

      They won’t ask you again.

      Reply
  27. That Girl from Quinn's House

    I worked somewhere where the Big Boss decided we needed to have a Staff Appreciation Party!!! at the end of our busy season. The party portion would include a barbecue, and unlimited llama rides in the llama riding ring for all staff, after hours!!

    Yes, that meant the staff of all the other departments got a party, and the Llama Department Staff got extra work planning, scheduling, setting up, and supervising everyone else’s appreciation party during what would normally be their time off.

    Reply
    1. The Original K.

      I was in a situation like this – they told (told, not asked) the department I was in (marketing, and all women in that office) to plan and work the employee appreciation event. We were like, “That doesn’t make us feel very appreciated,” to no avail. Our boss was new so didn’t want to push back too hard (her boss, the managing director, had delivered the order), but she was really mad. I took a day off the following week as my way of appreciating myself.

      Reply
  28. BlueClearSky

    I struggle with this because I am in a male-dominated industry and I, as the lone female on my team, do all the party planning. But the difference is I like doing it, everyone else hates it, and I think they suck at it (someone else planned our trip to see EndGame, don’t get me started – they didn’t buy enough tickets, messed up the food, didn’t tip the wait staff…) My boss is very aware of how it looks, but when I actually want to do it he’s reluctant to force someone else who doesn’t. Thankfully we have very few team-based events (maybe 1-2) so it’s not a huge deal, but I still feel kind of bad.

    Reply
    1. Grapey

      I see a similar trend in parenting where dads go “I’m not good at it, that’s why she does it” and often the mother doesn’t even want the dad to try because it might suck a little bit.

      You will just have to let people fail, and your boss will have to be more egalitarian.

      Reply
      1. OhBehave

        That’s been happening on the parenting front for years! If dad does something but mom doesn’t like it because he didn’t do it the ‘right’ way, he stops helping (flip genders too).
        Thankfully it’s trending the other way in that things are split fairly.

        Reply
    2. 1234

      Is there a way you can have one of the males partner up with you to plan an event? That way, you share the workload and can give them tasks they might actually be good at.

      Reply
    3. Jaydee

      Like anything else, planning an event isn’t an innate skill. It has to be learned. It’s just that society tends to encourage/expect women to learn it and doesn’t have the same expectation of men. But men *can* learn it just fine. They’ll make some mistakes at first, and they might need more explicit instruction if they have way less previous experience. But they can learn to do it just fine.

      Reply
  29. Never Been There, Never Done That

    I loathe party planning with the heat of a thousand suns. If you want a party in my office you better damn well figure it out yourself. Lucky for me there are some people in my office who like that sort of thing.

    Reply
    1. Kat in VA

      I hate it myself.

      Sadly, I’m an EA in Sales…which means we have team lunches, offsite dinners, big two day sales training events with folks coming from all over the country, random manager offsite complete with food for two days, meeting rooms, planned *fun* events…the list goes on and on.

      Wait – did I say just Sales? Also Engineering and Professional Services. So.many.events to plan. I suck at planning events. I HATE planning events. But here I am, planning events like a house on fire… and the crappy part is I’ve gotten really good at it (probably in self defense). Doesn’t mean I enjoy it, though.

      Reply
  30. NopeNopeNope

    At a previous job, I was asked to join a new committee whose purpose was to support and recruit a certain demographic of employees. They said they needed my research skills. I was the only female, and was immediately volunteered to be the committee secretary. Even though I declined to be the secretary, at the first meeting I attended, everyone acted like it should go without saying that I would take the meeting minutes. I wrote and designed a mock up of the first newsletter, which ended up being sent to the entire company without any changes. In the e-mail it was sent on, one of male members of the committee was thanked for putting it together. I ended up quitting the committee soon after. I wasn’t expecting to gain anything from being a part of it, but it seemed detrimental to stay if I was going to be the default secretary and do work other people would get credit for. Would never volunteer for anything like that again.

    Reply
  31. Triumphant Fox

    My problem is the opposite of most here. I love event planning – or rather event designing. I get way too into it. I want all the things. I want the balloons and a hand-painted backdrop and the custom cupcakes and the twee straws and the tablecloths and the little note cards designating what each menu item is. I always want to volunteer for these things because they are so much fun to me, but I’ve realized that work is a very bad venue for this. The amount of effort and detail I put into parties is jarring and leads people to question when I’m getting my other work done. I have to extricate myself completely, because I really cannot help myself. Luckily my current company has a designated events person who does all our internal events (birthdays, company bbq, etc.) as well as our bigger external ones.

    Reply
    1. 1234

      Have you ever thought about moving into a role as an event planner? Or, is this a “once in a while I could see myself doing this” type of thing?

      Reply
    2. cmcinnyc

      I just want to cry reading this! The times I’ve been voluntold to party plan (and I am the last person who should be party planning) I always got paired with a Triumphant Fox-type and they were so happy! And I was so grumpy! The worst dynamic. I apologize to all Triumphant Foxes but I just cannot even pretend to match your enthusiasm and we should not have to put up with each other.

      Reply
  32. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

    My mom told me, an adult professional with a doctorate, that I should bring cookies or cupcakes into work my first day to “make a good impression.” She also recommends the same at the holidays. I asked if she recommended the same to my brother and she just got mad that I pointed out how gendered that was. The crazy thing is that she’s also a professional in a male dominated industry!

    Reply
    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Lots of women in the professional world have accepted or even supported sexism over the years. It’s not always malicious of course, I don’t think your mom is doing it for that purpose of course but it’s one of those things where “she’s one of us, why would she support setting us back like that!” comes from.

      My mom says some weird sexist things about how I should have my partner do things for me and it reads as “He’s a man, he should do that for you!”. No, I can throw the trash out myself. No, I can go car shopping myself. No, I can get my oil changed myself. No, he doesn’t only eat beef, yes he will enjoy this sushi I picked up for us…that’s why I bought sushi, mom!

      Reply
      1. Fortitude Jones

        My mother is the same way and when I call her on it, she gets offended. I’m like, “Well now you know how I feel.”

        Reply
  33. kittymommy

    In the department I’m associated with (my actual department is just me and the higher-ups) used to be a little more neutral on this than it currently is. Most of the staff is female admin so they end up doing the planning; we used two have 2 men and one of them also did the planning, but the only (current) male admin does not celebrate holidays or birthdays, which is the primary type of parties we have.

    Reply
  34. Duvie

    At LastJob, the best interns were offered entry positions. Each department normally had three or four newbies each year. Each year’s new hires became that year’s social committee, charged with planning the annual picnic, the department Christmas party, and one or two off-the-grounds events like a river cruise or a trip to the local arcade. They had a management resource, which also changed annually. It was considered good training, because they had to learn to liaise with a lot of people in different departments. (And because they were young, they still had enough stamina and enthusiasm to pull it together!)

    Reply
  35. Just a Guy in a Cube

    To the point about how if all your admins are women, that’s a whole ‘nother discussion …any suggestions about that? I’m low on the .org chart, and our admin assistants are all assigned to a whole department, but all of them are women.
    I don’t like the setup (though I do really like working with each of them, and try to show my appreciation whenever we work together), but is there anything I can say/do to point out the general pattern to those who could do something?

    Reply
  36. Lou

    OP, if you’re in a position to do so, it’d be great to reply all and say something along the lines of, “I can see Jo, Meg and Amy have volunteered, could we also get a few men to volunteer too?”

    Reply
  37. dan

    Maybe, like 98% of the men I’ve ever worked with, the men don’t care about having parties? Maybe if they’re responsible for planning a party they don’t care about they’ll do the bare minimum and then get criticized by the women in the office. If you don’t want to plan the parties, then don’t have them. The men will thank you.

    Reply

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