my male colleagues wait for me to set up all our meetings (even meetings I’m not in)

A reader writes:

I am a senior manager at a nonprofit. I am also female. I do not have an assistant.

Increasingly I have noticed that my male colleagues at other organizations or divisions, equal to me in stature (and even people I consider close friends), are deferring to me to schedule meetings for them. Even if it is a meeting the male colleague requested, they will not take the initiative to set up the meeting.

• They will share their calendar availability via email but not offer to send the Zoom information, leaving me to do so.

• Or they will ask an unnecessary “Do you want me to set up a conference line?” once the time is already set. If I say yes, I would still need to reply as well as hold the time on my own calendar until they get back with one, so it is often faster just to send the invite myself.

• (Perhaps relevant to one of your previous posts on calendering, I also notice that men are far more likely to send women a self-scheduling link on a platform like Calendly than they are to other men.)

This even happens when I am doing a favor for someone. Today, one colleague asked me if I would join an intro call to introduce him to another colleague. I started the introductory email chain as requested. Both jumped in to say nice things about wanting to meet each other, but neither mentioned any interest in scheduling the call, leaving it to me to either let it drop or schedule it myself. I do not notice these sorts of situations occurring when women are included in the meeting.

There are ways I could navigate this without doing the scheduling, for instance by using the same tricks my male colleagues do (being silent or sending an unnecessary “should I send a conference line” email). But I’m loathe to be as presumptuous as they are. Moreover, it’s not the same person, nor is it the people I manage, so it’s hard to approach them directly to solve the problem.

Do you or your readers have any clever hacks for navigating this type of gendered scheduling politics?

One of the many frustrating and difficult things about sexism is that not only are women often seen as the default people responsible for office housekeeping tasks (setting up meetings, taking notes, showing the new intern around, etc.) but we ourselves often step in to do those things even without being asked because we’ve been socialized to feel responsible for ensuring someone does them … whereas men, as a group, are far more likely to just let their end of that rope drop.

So yes, part of this is that you need to be as willing as your male coworkers to not take the initiative and to let stuff drop. That is hard to do when you are a conscientious person who cares about such things! It can also be tremendously liberating.

But there are other things that can head some of this off too:

* At the same time that you confirm a meeting, in that same email write, “2:00 sounds good. Can you set up a conference line and send me a calendar invite?” (which will make it clear you’re not doing it and will head off your colleagues’ unnecessary “Do you want me to set up a conference line?” queries).

* If someone is requesting a meeting with you and you prefer to send your own scheduling link, it’s fine to do that! They’re asking for your time; you get to make it convenient for you. Even if they’ve already offered their calendar link, you can reply, “Actually, would you mind finding a spot on my calendar? Thanks!” (But only do this if they’re the one who requested the meeting and they’re not more senior than you.)

* If you’re doing a favor like introducing two contacts, once you’ve done your part of it you can assume they are adults who can manage the rest. In your example of introducing two colleagues where neither of them took the initiative to schedule a call, you had done your part when you made the introduction. You could have completely let it drop at that point. It’s highly likely that one of them would have realized action was needed and decided to initiate an appointment themselves, but if they didn’t … oh well. That’s not your problem! You did your part. The rest was up to two presumably competent professionals. You don’t need to handhold them or fix it for them.

When you have been socialized to step in and ensure things run smoothly, it can be really hard to just … not. (There’s also a whole frustrating thing about why women should have to lower our standards for ourselves rather than expecting men to raise theirs.) But try it for a month and see how you feel at the end of it, because I suspect you’ll love it.

Read an update to this letter

{ 494 comments… read them below }

  1. YB*

    Thank you so much for this, LW and Alison! I must admit, as a man (and one who tries to be aware of gender dynamics and to undo sexist practices at work), this was a complete blind spot for me – I never realized I was expecting my female colleagues to do this work for me until this letter called that out. Once I thought about it, it took me about two seconds – “Do I do this? Oh, crap, I do!” I will do better, and I will encourage other men to do better.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Ok if I can ask, why do you think you do it? Is it that scheduling just seems mundane and beneath your time? Is it that thing where guys think women are “just better at it” ?

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I think it goes back a lot further than that. In most families, if stuff happens it’s because Mom scheduled it. So when you’re a kid you don’t notice that there is work involved, and at some point a wife, who was probably also raised that way, often takes over. (I’m in my 40s. It might not be as divided now for younger generations.) I really don’t think most men consciously go, “Oh, women are better at this”, they’ve just been raised with it happening out of sight, usually done by a woman, and it’s not on their radars.

        1. Sloanicota*

          Ugh, it really grosses me out to think of male coworkers seeing me and thinking on any level, “oh, a mommy figure!”

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Again, I don’t think it’s that conscious. I think it’s just out of sight, out of mind because nobody has ever called this kind of thing to their attention before. They just don’t realize/think about the work behind it.

              1. Courageous cat*

                Don’t forget too though that the patriarchy hurts all of us, not just women. We all have a lot of work to do with our subconscious, internalized assumptions.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            I think it’s less a “she’s my mom” and more of a “I bring up a meeting idea, and everything seems to take care of itself after that.” Like cleaning and maintenance work, scheduling is really only noticeable when it falls through.

            Women are socialized to take notice when that work hasn’t been done (a.k.a. emotional labor), so it often falls to us to either ask someone to do it or just give up and do it ourselves.

            1. Sloanicota*

              I like the commentary here, but I worry we’re giving men a little too much credit in some cases. There are definitely people who plan to get out of administrative tasks that aren’t going to be rewarded with prestige or promotions, and they deliberately dump that stuff on female colleagues of their same level, or even higher, in order to get ahead themselves. There are definitely men who think they shouldn’t have to contribute to the upkeep of the household because they’re too good for it.

              1. BubbleTea*

                My dad definitely actively avoids what he refers to as “adult things” which is basically anything he doesn’t want to do. Ordering at a cafe, housework, booking things… his partner finds it very annoying and is trying to train him out of it but he’s 70, he isn’t going to change much.

              2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

                Agreed. I (AMAB) deal with this with my male colleagues a lot. I can’t guess at their motivations, but when the four of us have a meeting and a non-prestige task comes up, 90% of the time I end up volunteering to move the meeting along. Would be great if our shared manager recognized that pattern *and* stepped up to make sure those tasks were distributed evenly (instead of openly acknowledging it but expected it to be sorted out on our own).

                1. madge*

                  “I’ve volunteered the last 43 times, so I’ll let one of you have a turn now.” Then silence. I’m serious. It will be uncomfortable for everyone and that is fine. Let someone else give up their power and speak first.

                2. The Starsong Princess*

                  I decided sometime ago that my role wasn’t to do these things but decide who does them “Dave, Jan booked the meeting last time so it’s your turn to do.” I actually tell my male colleagues when it is their turn otherwise they stay silent until someone, always female, volunteers. They may protest doing it but I just say blandly that I’m sure they can manage. I also gave my male boss the feedback that he shouldn’t just only have the women do notes and meeting bookings. He’s a good guy and took that onboard.

                  But I still get it – just a few weeks ago, a male product leader tried to get me to take his notes from a presentation. He actually said my notes are so much better! Everyone else, all women, planned to take their own. I told him no straight out. It’s not like he planned to take notes for me during my section. He wasn’t pleased but he got the message.

              3. Dust Bunny*

                Yeah, there are, and they aren’t always even men. I don’t think they’re the majority, though.

                I think MigraineMonth nailed it–that for most of their lives they’ve come up with ideas that then just happened somehow, and since they weren’t that involved in the execution it doesn’t really register.

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  I am a woman and I will cheerfully admit to letting other people set things up. I know I’m hopeless at organising stuff. Or rather I find it very frustrating! Just this morning I sent a link about a show that’s on when our son will be visiting us, asking if he wanted to come. He asked whether we didn’t already have something on that night, I explained that it had been moved to the next night. Then he just answered “oh right”. But didn’t answer the original question about whether he wanted to come with us or not, so I have to ask again. I find it exhausting!
                  The NGO I volunteer at organises conferences. I never volunteer to help organised them, but I do turn up a couple of weeks beforehand and say “OK I’m here, tell me what needs doing” and I’ll plough through whatever thankless task the by-now hapless organisers can’t face doing typically I end up ironing the tablecloths). But I need to just be told to do it, I don’t want to have to think about what needs doing.
                  There’s a woman who does the organising, she has everything in her brain, she knows that the key to room A is with Jane, and that Fergus will be bringing the programmes at 11, and that there are three people who haven’t paid up yet, their goodies bags have been put under the table. I watch her and I’m just amazed at how she remembers everything and remains impeccably turned out and unfazed throughout.

              4. Clobberin' Time*

                Exactly. While there are men like YB who are just blinkered, there are plenty of men who are perfectly aware of what they’re doing and don’t care, because they’re happy to leave (unpaid, unacknowledged) support work to women.

                I once had a male colleague try to explain to me that he couldn’t find an important document because he’d forgotten his password to access the relevant database, and could I send it him a copy? I turned around to the admin assistant sitting ten feet away from us and said “could you please get Fergus updated login credentials since he’s lost his?” He did not like that, not one little bit.

              5. MigraineMonth*

                With people I need to have a relationship with (such as coworkers), I try to start by assuming ignorance or incompetence.

                If they’re actually just an a-hole, in my experience they out themselves pretty quickly.

              6. Koalafied*

                There was a classic episode of That 70s Show about this, where Eric is trying to get out of doing wedding stuff with Donna by pretending to be bad at everything so that she’ll decide to do it herself. Except he’s bad at pretending to be bad at things and she catches on to the ruse pretty quickly.

              7. Ellie*

                Men are individuals as much as women are. There are probably a lot of different reasons this happens.

                I suspect it happens a lot to me because I’m usually the only female engineer in the room. There can be fifty desks, all populated by men, and me, and then the two female admins at the end of the building. I think a lot of men who don’t work with me directly, forget that I’m not an admin. I think a lot of others are just lazy, and don’t care who does the work, so long as its not them. And then there are others who see me and my work as less important, because they’re sexist, and for some of them that’s conscious, and for some it isn’t.

                There have been rare occasions where there’s been a man in the office who’s extremely organised, and competent, and I’ve noticed they do get lumped with that kind of work as well (particularly after I’ve dropped the ball a few times, because I refuse to do that kind of work). It can help a little bit to name what you’re seeing. As in, just don’t book the meeting, then if someone calls you on it, say, ‘Why would I book a meeting between A and B? I’m not an admin.’ and just look confused and see what happens. Most aren’t willing to push it, and those that do, end up being pulled into line.

                1. LabRat*

                  In fact if it’s happened multiple times, name it even more explicitly “Why would I do that, I’m not an admin? Are you asking me specifically because I’m the only woman in the room?”

              8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Yeah, but all these replies here are to a comment from a guy who has realised he does this and will try to do better in the future.

        2. ferrina*

          I’ve got kids, and that’s def the dynamic that they have. Their dad constantly waits for me to set up the kids appointments, extra curriculars, tell him when the school holidays are….the works. I take over because if I didn’t, my kids wouldn’t have routine doctor visits or play their favorite sports.

          His mom def raised him to expect a woman to take care of the messy admin parts of life- he was told not to do things that he wasn’t good at, and taught to always outsource things that he didn’t want to do. Since no one wants to do admin, unless it was clearly designated to him or if it was solely his responsibility, he just waited until someone did it for him. So he would make his own doctor’s appointments, but never make appointments for the kids. It was unconscious for years until I started pointing it out to him (then it became deliberate and he became my ex)

          1. Dust Bunny*

            This is my dad, who is less sexist than most men his age. Part of it is that he is, regardless of gender, someone who is [almost certainly on the autism spectrum, for starters] bad at this kind of thing, and part of it is that my mother is a natural micromanager (as were, as far as I can tell, both of her parents), and part of it I’m sure is that they were raised in the 1950s in pretty typical 1950s households where wives did all of that.

            And, yes, it’s a lot easier to ignore/forget/not notice work that nobody wants to do in the first place. Plus if you’ve never done it you just don’t have any idea how much death-by-nibbling work goes into what seem like trivial tasks.

            1. Sloanicota*

              Finding a time to schedule a meeting is definitely one of those things that sounds easy and straightforward if you’re never the one who has to do it. Some groups are so unwieldly there are never any good times and it takes three doodle polls, two polite follow up messages re: doodle polls, an invitation email, a reminder email, and two “hey, are you still able to join us today?” texts.

              1. Miss Muffet*

                it’s only really easy when you’re all on the same calendaring system and can see each other’s calendars. Otherwise it’s a nightmare.

              2. Mallory Janis Ian*

                What I’ve seen from men is that they don’t realize it’s that hard, and then when they start to do it and it gets to the hard part, they think it’s outrageous that it’s that hard and surely they shouldn’t be expected to spend time one something that outrageous.

                Then they start looking for someone to whom this work “comes easily” — 99.999% of the time a woman. And it doesn’t come any easier for women! We just know that’s how scheduling is and that it has to be done!

                whew this thread is making my blood pressure go up! these male blind spots that leave so much extra work on the women — it is beyond aggravating!

          2. Campfire Raccoon*

            Yuuupp. I’ve been pushing back at this REALLY hard lately. I’ve got two teenage boys and I’m not sending them out in the world like this.

            1. Mrs Katurah*

              Same! My soon to be ex and my teen chose to live together while me and the other kid moved out of state. This man didn’t realize everything needed to register our kid for high school. Not to mention a notarized letter from me giving him permission. Nor the fact that school started 3 weeks earlier than up North. Poor kid just started this week, a month after school has begun. Oh and there’s still a bus schedule to work out. He’s a firefighter that works overnight twice a week…. so who knows how they will get to school and from school… And I’m not lifting a finger.

            2. Mrs Katurah*

              Other comment was for a different reply. But i came here to say that as a claims adjuster I appreciate it when a young adult has to call in their own claim and follow the process to choose a repair shop and rental. Granted it can b annoying when the parent is in the back ‘tell them ur name sweetie’, but they will never learn if they aren’t given the chance.

              1. JustaTech*

                I was amazed by the maturity of a friend of mine who did all the work to set up a FASFA (student loan stuff) for herself, rather than asking/letting her parents do it for her. Especially since at least half of that is the parent’s taxes and banking stuff, and I know if I’d offered my dad would have just been like “no thanks, it’s easier for me to do this” because he knows where everything is.

          3. bamcheeks*

            I’m a woman and so is my partner, and for fifteen years we have been assuming X is our job and then being all surprised when it turns out the other has already done it for us!

            1. Elle*

              I have been scrolling through this thread just SO grateful I don’t have to date dudes. My girlfriend and I are about to move in together and we keep finding that the other person has already handled the new utilities account, the parking permits, etc.

              1. Twix*

                Heh, I’m on the flip side of this coin. I’m a bi man whose parents raised him to be able to run his own life, and after only ever having serious relationships with women in the past I’m now dating another man. He is absolutely wonderful and I love him to death and he is great at following directions, but man, either I run the whole show or nobody does. Honestly it has been a very eye-opening experience.

              2. Tracy Flick*

                Yeah. There was a classic feminist essay called “I Want a Wife” by Judy Brady Syfer, and, well.

                1. MM*

                  I have a Wibblies poster in my kitchen exhorting men to do the dishes (I am a woman who lives alone), as a reminder to myself not to feel too bad about chores piling up because academia is a job designed for people with wives.

            2. Emma*

              Ehehehe. My partner is Not Great at admin stuff due to ADHD so I generally handle it, but more practical stuff is both our wheelhouses.

              The highlight was when a lightbulb blew in a lamp and we agreed we should get round to replacing it before going on holiday. As we’re about to leave, she says, “oh by the way, I replaced that light bulb”
              “No you didn’t”, I say, “I replaced it”
              “Uh, yes, I just did it ten minutes ago”
              “Well, I did it an hour ago”

              Yep; there was a brand new, fully working bulb in the bin.

          4. Michelle*

            This is my husband, too. I’ve been calling him out on it for years, and he’s fortunately willing to see why this isn’t ok, but it’s complicated by the fact that he also has ADD. For a while he insisted he couldn’t do things until I put them on his to do list. I stopped when I saw he wasn’t even checking items off when he did them. It was MY to do list of things to remind him to do!

            1. Jack Bruce*

              oh I relate to this comment so much! I also have exec functioning issues but my husband has a worse time with his. So now he has his own to-do list and I have one we share so I can throw stuff on there as I think about and don’t have to remind him to do. So it doesn’t eat away at me and I don’t have that additional labor of reminding him (most of the time).

              1. ferrina*

                I hear this. I’m ADHD too, and I’ve tried a ton of strategies to get to where I am today. It’s a long journey, but it’s something that each ADHDer needs to take and find out what works for them.
                That was the ironic thing in my relationship- I struggle to get myself in to see the doctor, yet my ex would expect me to take care of appointments for both me and the kids.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              and I’m sitting here reading your comment while my to-do list sits to the side of the laptop, only three things checked off (and one kind of resolved itself without any input from me)

          5. ShanShan*

            It’s the not wanting to do it part that always grinds my gears.

            It’s like asking a man to do the dishes, and hearing, “oh, I’m going to do a different chore instead. I hate doing dishes.”


            it’s one thing to trade off chores (or office tasks, or whatever) if someone genuinely likes one. But when NOBODY likes a task, why do dudes get to bow out if it and women get stuck doing it anyway?

            1. Lizzo*

              PREACH!!!! If I have to point out, “You’re doing what you’d prefer to do, not what I asked you to do [to help out around here], and that is the opposite of helpful,” one more time, my head is going to EXPLODE.

            2. whingedrinking*

              My partner used to live with two male roommates. One day he and one of them were in an accident, and both were injured, my partner much more seriously with a broken leg. I moved in for a week to look after him, and to my intense frustration, cleaning the kitchen apparently just didn’t cross the last guy’s mind. This was a tiny galley kitchen and a few dirty dishes could take up the entire counter, making it unusable. After a couple days, I told my partner that of course I would look after him no matter what, and I didn’t mind helping the injured roommate out with things like getting groceries as long as I was there. However, Loud Brian was the only other person around who could walk without being in pain and needed to step it up at least enough that I wasn’t cleaning up after a man-baby as well. Partner informed him of this when I wasn’t around, and while he apparently took it just fine (and did start doing his damn dishes), my partner said, “It was like it had never occurred to him that you might have enough to do with helping two other people and that he could in any way make your life easier.”

            3. The Otter*

              Alternatively, maybe the dishes just sit unwashed in the sink for a night, and the world revolves around its axis?

              The neater partner is always going to do more housework. If you dislike that, stop being the neater partner.

              1. Emma*

                I mean, they can sit overnight, but someone still needs to do them eventually, so the conflict is just being delayed, not avoided.

              2. askalice*

                “The neater partner is always going to do more housework. If you dislike that, stop being the neater partner.”

                Oh – so the only solution to not liking living in filth is to either do an unequal amount of housework, or just – live in filth? Nope nope nope. I cannot just live in a house where the bathroom sink fills with hair and the stove becomes ingrained with grease and the hall fills with dustballs. It makes my skin crawl. I am a person who changes my sheets at the least once a week, sometimes twice. I’d become wildly grumpy in a house that got gross, and then we’d Really have a problem on our hands.
                The dirtier person needs to step up, or move out. Or hire a cleaner I suppose. But just putting it back on the cleaner person is NOT the solution.

                1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  When my sister and I were roommates her philosophy was that whoever cared about a task the most should just do it. And she didn’t care about anything! She was content to live in filth if it meant she didn’t have to lift a finger. I decided that if someone’s philosophy is that the burden belongs on the one who cares, and they don’t care, then we’re just not compatible living partners AT ALL. Like they can just get out of my (or our commonly shared) house.

                2. Despachito*

                  I am a woman, and I definitely do not mind living in filth (I also have my limits but they are pretty low). I also hate cooking.

                  I reckon that I would therefore not be compatible with someone on the opposite side of the spectrum, as you are describing here – and this is perfectly OK!

                  I understand that if you live with somebody, it is not fair to say “I will have it my way and not budge an inch”, and that I do have to adjust my attitude somehow, and so does my partner. So I am probably a little tidier than if I lived on my own, but I am not going to change my personality altogether.

                  My advantage in this is that I would consider it so absurd if anyone suggested that I am a woman and therefore the state of the house is mostly on me, that I would never even consider doing this. And I prefer that person not liking me to being stuck in something I hate.

                  I think this is the key – it must be the battle you are willing to die in :-)

                3. SoloKid*

                  “so the only solution to not liking living in filth is to either do an unequal amount of housework, or just – live in filth?”

                  Well, yes… slobs don’t really change their stripes so it’s good to know what you can live with. I’m a slob woman that had grew up with a neat father and a firm believer that people need to understand the cleanliness styles of the other before deciding to cohabitate. (and before it turns into a “I’m leaving you over the dishes in the sink” kind of scenario)

                4. Ilima*

                  “The neater partner always does more housework.” Yeah, that was my husband’s rationale too. We’re divorced.
                  Sorry, you live with another human, you have a responsibility to help maintain the shared space and not leave your mess for someone else.

              3. ShanShan*

                Obviously, that’s not going to happen, because the partner isn’t going to like doing the dishes any more tomorrow than he did today.

                But setting aside what, honestly, is a pretty disingenuous argument, is your overall point that if my partner doesn’t feel like doing something, for no particular reason, my only reasonable option is to say “okay” and stop asking? Is that a relationship that you would consider healthy and mutually respectful? In real life, not just on the internet?

              4. ferrina*


                I will never be the neater partner, yet in my last LTR, I def did more housework. I have ADHD and I struggle hard with housework and general life admin. I’ve been written up at multiple jobs for having a messy desk (and I’m not even public facing!)- my brain literally isn’t wired for neatness.
                My (ex)partner was indisputably neater. He kept his workspace tidy, yet somehow couldn’t be bothered to do housework in shared space. He was never too busy to go out with a friend, but somehow too busy/tired/had a headache when it came to any kind of housework. Only exception was if friends were coming over- then suddenly he found the drive to clean.

                In my case, it wasn’t about who was neater- it was about who was willing to step up and do something they didn’t like (and in my case, struggled with) and who was content to let the other person do the work.

              5. Gabrielle*

                I have lived with over 20 different people, and this strategy does NOT work most of the time. Some people get worse at cleaning when mess piles up. Some people, including me, can have a mature adult conversation about a pattern of behavior that isn’t working, and change our habits. And as at least one roommate would often be neater than me, you have to be pretty callous to not care that someone is cleaning up after you.

              6. Totally Subclinical*

                What if the issue is not dishes sitting unwashed for a night; it’s dishes sitting unwashed for a week? or a month?

                And no, this isn’t a rhetorical exaggeration; this is an example from my own experience. I have absolutely relaxed my standards of tidiness and even cleanliness to compromise in a relationship. But if the messier partner isn’t willing to meet a very minimal standard, I’m going to stop being the neater partner by changing “partner”, not “neater”.

              7. LavaLamp (she/her)*

                In my house leaving dishes overnight means you wake up to a formerly white cat who now has orange paws because he got into said dishes.

            4. Twix*

              Oh man, my ex-wife did this constantly. Any discussion of dividing household duties started off with her declaring which ones she she had dibs on because she didn’t mind them and which ones I had to take because she didn’t want to. She never understood why I had a problem with that system.

              Absolutely not trying to make a “Women do this too” argument or anything like that. It’s just something that hit home that always deeply frustrated me. I can’t imagine how much more frustrating it must be for people to regularly assume it’s okay because of your gender.

            5. Gnome*

              My husband doesn’t believe me when I tell him I can make most women jealous with the sentence: my husband does all the laundry.

              And most of the dishes and takes out the trash 95 percent of the time. So I don’t mind setting appointments, because I’m mich better at it… And if we left it to me, the sink would always be full and we would only wash clothes when things got dire… And never fold.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                I let so much disorganization slide because my husband balances it by handling at least 90% of our cooking.
                We can’t usually do that at work …although I did once have someone offer to bring me lunch from the cafeteria if I could help him with a spreadsheet task. He then walked down and brought back my lunch. Sure he may have charged it, but the point is he thought about it and offered and carried through –before I realized how close to cafeteria closing time we were.

              2. Anon Supervisor*

                My husband does the dishes and I do the cooking. He has clinical OCD, so he does a fantastic job. Dividing chores for us is determined by how long said task would take for someone with OCD. So, I do the vacuuming and dusting (because he would just make himself nuts) and he does the dishes and wipes up the kitchen. When he was laid off and I worked 2 jobs, he did the majority of the housework (even the laundry!). I kind of miss those days…lol.

          6. Middle Aged Lady*

            I would let the sports slide since non-critical, and let the kids complain to Dad when they miss a game/don’t get signed up. A woman can omly do so much!

            I cut the party and Christmas planning down because I was exhausted. I asked did he want to pick up the slack, and he said no. Anyone who complained was directed to complain to my spouse. ‘He was the one who decided we couldn’t keep it up” I would say, so sweetly.

        3. Mek*

          This is my husband. His mom scheduled everything. When he moved out, he just… didn’t schedule things. Didn’t go to the dentist. Didn’t pay bills until the cable got cut off. He did the bare minimum because he hadn’t been taught any executive skills at all.

          When we started dating and he saw all of the stuff I schedule, he was like “oh, that’s how that stuff happens”. Def some ADHD involved, but also a big education deficit. Luckily I am an executive assistant who doesn’t mind bringing my work home, and he is a good learner!

          1. Koalafied*

            The “wow” moment for me with one ex came when we were standing in the kitchen chatting while he made himself a PB&J sandwich. After he finished making the sandwich and putting the food items back where they belonged, he picked up his plate and started to walk off, leaving a fine coating on the counter of bread crumbs and a sticky spot or two where he’d rested the knife on the counter after spreading. I asked, “Uh, are you planning to clean that up?”

            Reader, I sh*t you not, he looked at me, looked at the counter, looked at me again, and said with genuine sincerity, “Clean what up?” He literally could not even see the mess because wiping down the counter was something that he literally never did, so there was no part of his brain that routinely thought “and now time to make sure the counter is clean!” after he finished preparing food.

            To his credit, I never saw him walk away without wiping down the counter again after that in the roughly year and a half we lived together. He was capable and willing to learn. But still, the fact that he had never been in a situation that prompted him to learn this until age 26…

        4. English Rose*

          I’m not even a Mom, but this stuff definitely gets ingrained. I almost had to leave the room yesterday when I could see a male colleague was going to be late for a meeting. It took all my self-control not to say “Don’t you think you should be making tracks to meet Jane?” And he was late. And the sky didn’t fall in!

        5. Artemesia*

          Exactly. This is why the concept of emotional labor is such a revelation to so many. Women knew but didn’t articulate how more work they were doing in seemingly peer level situations; somehow the women in the office gets tasks with secretarial and organizational housekeeping — which cuts into her creative/productive time and no one acknowledges or finds it odd. In. private life, even when men do tasks around the home, often the organizing of those tasks falls to the wife.

          The only way to stop this is to stop doing it. If it isn’t your meeting, you specifically let them know you are expecting meeting details when they have them set. With the intros in the OP’s example, you could say ‘well I’ll leave it to you two to schedule a follow up..’ If you sense the expectation is that you will do something, heading it off at the pass can help the retraining project.

          1. Despachito*

            Yes, that.

            STOP DOING IT AUTOMATICALLY!!! And push back if anyone wants you to.

            There is no other way to get rid of this BS.

        6. Some Dude*

          This is my family set up -we are in our 40s, and my wife is the scheduler for social stuff. There are other things at play – my wife is much more social and extroverted than I, so I’d probably plan 1/3 the stuff she does. But she 100% schedules stuff, and I am slow to. With my male friends (we are all in our 40s) we won’t hang out for over a month because no one schedules it. I have a male friend who almost never invites me to do anything, but if I reach out to him he is super grateful to hang out. We don’t schedule. I’m not saying this is ok, but it is very much a thing. And here’s the thing: when someone is the scheduler, you don’t schedule not just out of laziness/ingrained sexism, but also because that hat is being worn and it isn’t always appreciated for you to take it up too.

          That said, I try not to do this with colleagues.

          1. ShanShan*

            Honest question: have you ever actually offered to do more scheduling, put in an honest, non-token effort to do so, and gotten a negative reaction from her? Or is “well, she wouldn’t appreciate it if I tried, since that’s her job” just something you’re assuming?

            I’m not trying to accuse you of anything. It’s just that this is something a lot of men assume without actually asking.

            1. Some Dude*

              My wife: “By the way, Cersei is dropping matilda off for a playdate tomorrow and then we are going out with the Hendersons in the evening.”

              Me: “By the way, I made plans for us to meet up with the Chens next weekend.”
              My wife: “where? when? what? who? What are we bringing? What are we doing? where are we going?” And she will continue to ask me this 1,000 times before the event. So now what I do is say, “I’d like to meet up with the Chens. How about next weekend?” and more often than not she’ll do it because she wants to be in control of it and is uncomfortable with me doing it. BTW I am the same way when she steps into my, I mean our, kitchen.

              1. Starbuck*

                “My wife: “where? when? what? who? What are we bringing? What are we doing? where are we going?” And she will continue to ask me this 1,000 times before the event. ”

                If she didn’t ask, would you be the one to prepare a dish to bring, including shopping for ingredients or whatever? If she didn’t ask, would you have taken the initiative to wash any laundry needed so that everyone would have appropriate outfits for the weather/planned activities? Etc. Just something to think about. If she didn’t make a plan to take care of all the related tasks and prep, would you have done it?

              2. Middle Aged Lady*

                Clearly you need to take care of those details, then, so she doesn’t have to worry about it.
                “We are seeing the Chens. I arranged with Mr Chen that he’d do burgers and we’ll bring drinks and chips. It’s just us so we won’t need much. I told him we would come at 4, and all I need your help with is getting the kids ready. I’ll do laundry Friday when I get home from work.” That’s how you do it!

              3. Some Dude*

                It’s ironic that you both assume I’m not the one that takes care of those details anyways.

                The point is that the planner very much does not like other people doing the planning.

          2. ferrina*

            There’s also a difference when someone is territorial and genuinely doesn’t want help, and when the helper “helps” in a way that is detrimental.

            My mother is territorial- you do not go into her kitchen. You are not allowed to help cook (though you can do the dishes). It doesn’t matter that I’m a better help, and I’m a genuinely great (home) sous chef. The cooking at her house is hers alone.

            My ex was just a bad helper. He would completely take over a task without paying attention to what was already happening. If I got the vacuum out and was decluttering, he would just grab the vaccuum and declare himself helpful (without decluttering, so he’d only get half the carpet). If he scheduled, he’d completely ignore my energy level or interests, fail to plan half the event (so we’d end up without food or waiting in looooong lines) and there was a 50/50 shot he would schedule over something. We had a grocery list on the fridge that he would ignore- he’d keep his grocery list on his phone so I never knew what was on it (though I’d try to call and check before I went shopping), and on the rare even he went grocery shopping, he never got anything that was on the fridge list. His “helping” was doing the parts he wanted and not paying any attention to what other people wanted or what systems were already in place. He would trample through existing processes and expect us to be grateful. He didn’t operate this way at work, so I have no idea why he thought it was okay at home.

            1. Some Dude*

              I’m not commenting on your situation – i’m sure your ex was an insensitive tool. And there is 100% entitlement in what men choose to ignore. But I also think sometimes we are not let into spaces and when we try to enter them and help, rather than being invited in we are told we aren’t doing it right and that is a signal that we are not in fact welcome and shouldn’t bother trying to help. I do this to my wife in my domains, and she’ll do it to me in hers. I have to work really, really hard to include her in the areas I generally take care of, and to persist and ask how to help in areas she generally takes care of. And I try to make sure that our division of labor is as fair and equal as possible.

              1. Middle Aged Lady*

                When you’re told you aren’t doing it right, the correct response is will you please teach me, not boo-hoo and cut and run!
                Or pout because ‘gee I am just trying to help!’ There will be anger if you don’t listen and screw something up. It is not ‘help’ when you ruin a $50 cut of meat or wash my delicates on hot! Watch, learn and respect!

          3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Same setup for us, I’m the introvert. My partner sets stuff up. If ever I try to, he’ll organise something else that takes precedence over what I set up, because he won’t remember my thing, it’s not important to him.

        7. Beth*

          Yes, I think a lot of people assume the Scheduling Fairy will handle meeting scheduling, the same way the Dishes Fairy handles the sink of dirty dishes at the end of the night and the Cleaning Fairy will make all the clutter on the coffee table disappear. We all know that these things don’t actually happen by magic…but if you’ve never been the one responsible for doing them or keeping track of them, it’s easy to forget that someone is in fact putting work into them. It takes a shock to pull people out of that–either being told explicitly that it’s their job now, or seeing it pile up when the person who used to do it gives up on doing unacknowledged labor.

          1. Despachito*

            It would be much quicker if the person did not start doing unacknowledged labor from the very beginning.

            1. Beth*

              That’s not really fair. The person doing the dishes doesn’t start out doing them angrily and with a feeling of unfairness; they start out just doing the dishes because the dishes need doing, like any responsible adult would. And if their partner did the same, probably no acknowledgement would be needed for things to feel good! It only becomes a problem if a pattern of unequal and unacknowledged labor builds up over time–and that’s not something I think people need to take on the added burden of predicting and heading off in advance.

              1. Despachito*

                Why angrily? The anger comes from not addressing it early.

                I fully agree that adults should do the dishes because the dishes need doing, but I strongly disagree it needs no acknowledgement.

                It is work nobody likes doing, needs to be done and is repetitive. The acknowledgement is necessary because otherwise it becomes invisible and builds up – and it is not necessarily the other partner’s fault because if somebody does something without you noticing, you may not realize how much work it is (we distribute chores pretty fairly and it happens to us all the time that both of us feel “oh, I do the laundry all the time”).

                In my opinion, we should do the dishes BUT announce we did them, and if we start thinking we are doing them too often, don’t stew in our juice and TELL IT IMMEDIATELY and require the other person to carry their weight.

                This is absolutely the hill I am willing to die on, and if a partner would not be responsive to this, I would not want to live with him.

          2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

            I am really annoyed at the dishes fairy right now! I need her to get with it and clean my dishes! And yes, I am a woman … I just hate unloading the dishwasher for some reason!

      2. Former Gifted Kid*

        I’m not a man, but I don’t think its this conscious. Our brains are made to be efficient. When something is always done for you, you literally stop thinking about it. Your brain isn’t going to waste energy on something it doesn’t have to do. If you’ve been socialized to have emotional labor or social organization done for you, you don’t think to do it yourself.

        There is the ongoing struggle of women in our society in relationships with men around household chores. I have been in those relationships. I don’t think most of the men who neglect their household duties literally think their partner should do it for them. In fact, I bet if you asked most of these men, they would say they do half of the chores because they aren’t processing all the work their partner is doing.

        Imagine if you grew up in an environment where every time you set a glass down and walked away, someone else picked it up and washed it. Especially as a child, you wouldn’t be thinking about the fact that someone else has to clean up after you and do the work of washing the dish. All you think is that when you put a glass down an walk away, you don’t have to worry about that glass anymore. That gets reinforced over and over again. By the time you get to be an adult, it becomes automatic. You set down a glass and your brain completely ignores the glass. In an effort to be efficient, your brain devotes no more time to that glass because all of your past experience has taught you that the glass is no longer your problem when you set it down. Then your partner blows up at you for leaving half-filled gross cups all over the house and you have no idea what they are talking about. Your brain has edited those cups out.

        This is not to excuse men who put all the labor on women. How we are socialized as kids effects our adult brain patterns. This actually means that men have to consciously try to discover their blind spots and correct them when it comes to female-coded tasks.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Yep, and their moms (and society) often socialize them to notice these things and take care of them.

            Funny thing though, my husband is not perfect (because nobody is) but there are a lot of things he does take care of without me needing to think about it, and I notice it more when he’s gone for a long weekend – and then I appreciate him a bit more.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              In my house, as soon as I got old enough (12/14), my mom handed off managing my schedule to me, but continued to do my brothers’ until they were 18. I don’t think I consciously thought, “Oh men can’t schedule, it is women’s work”, but it never surprised me if a man always had women scheduling and arranging stuff on their behalf. It is insidious and took me a while to learn that I am not my brother’s (schedule) keeper

              1. Smithy*

                Reflecting on growing up – I also think that very often certain perceived “privileges” for girls would get tied to chores/responsibilities that wouldn’t always happen that way for boys.

                Like many teenage girls who become more interested in clothes/buying their own – my mom would tie that to me doing my own laundry. Because those were clothes that I wanted, so I needed to learn how to take care of them. But sports that my brother did as a teenager – that came with their own specialty clothes – that was just my mom doing laundry because sports were different.

                1. Dust Bunny*

                  This was how my mom’s family was. All of the kids were excellent athletes but the boys’ sports exempted them from chores and working in the family business, but the girls’ did not.

            2. Riot Grrrl*

              I have found that this also has unexpected consequences for employees with client facing rolls in my organization. I find that my female project managers often do a lot of customer work they should not be doing and that costs our company time/money. For example, cleaning up customer files that should already have been delivered clean or doing little extras that they did once and now feel obliged to do forever.

              It’s not a perfect 1-to-1 correspondence; I have to watch this with male employees too. But I’ve noticed a general imbalance in how often it seems to happen with men vs. women.

              1. 9to5*

                I’m curious with the customer work if there would be a difference in customer response if the push back was coming from a woman than a man. Sometimes pushing back takes more effort and could hurt business relationships unfortunately.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  100% it makes a difference. I’ve been working for a series of women in a department made up of mostly women. Our new manager is a guy. His common refrain this year has been “that’s not our role”– and Hey Presto tasks have been taken back by the appropriate other departments, even though my previous managers had been saying the same for 10 or 15 years.

          2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            Children who are historically told, “girls mature faster than boys.”
            Children who are told, “you are too old to act like that,” so they stopped.
            Unlike the children who were told, “You can’t behave the way girls do. So we will give you different rules.”

            1. Ellis Bell*

              Uggghhh I hate the “girls mature faster than boys” thing. As a bonus, also sets girls up to give creepy older dudes a hearing.

          3. Klara*

            Yes, and they do not take those glasses and put them in the sink unless you tell them to and have consequence, any more than boys do.

          4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            But women are guilty of this too, IMO, although not in the same arenas (and perhaps not to the same extent).

            It’s just so, SO easy to not notice work that you haven’t been trained to do. It can really feel like streets clean themselves, mail delivers itself, electricity just magically *works*, trash cans just empty and meetings are magically scheduled. Not only that, but we don’t see the work of immigrants adjusting their accents for us, or multi-cultural people code-switching to fit in, or introverts forcing an happy greeting. We don’t see the work of people extending us grace for an ignorant comment or a short tone. And when we don’t see that work, we often don’t process that it’s happening.

            We’re all guilty of this to some extent in some areas and it’s good to be aware of because it helps us to catch those biases — and to be graceful if someone calls us out on one. It’s just human, IMO.

            1. Sloanicota*

              This reminds me of the ways we just don’t see our stormwater going down the drain to enter our rivers, what happens to our wastewater after we flush it, or our fuel after we release it, the nutrients that grow our food after the plants and animals are done with it, or the habitats that used to exist before we built on them.

              1. seps*

                I work in ag and water research in one of the most artificially altered landscapes in the world. I think about these things all the time. (I’m just being annoying. I get what you’re saying.)

            2. English Rose*

              Yeah, these are all really good points.
              I do think there’s a greater degree of socialisation around many things for women, but all this other stuff is good to be aware of as well. (Speaking as an introvert forcing happy greetings all the time!)

            3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

              I’m not sure I see your point. Are you building a “both sides” argument?

              Because all of your examples apply equally to all genders, so on average, men are still showing a larger blindspot to work other people do for them.

              1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings**

                No? And yes, I guess, depending on what you mean? Hence my opening remark about “not in the same arenas and perhaps not to the same extent”?

                This comment was really in support of Former Gifted Kid. I was responding to the commentor seemed critical by pointing out that “women start as children too”. I read this as an implication that as women schedule meetings/pick up dirty glasses, Former Gifted Kid’s hypothesis unconcious trained was wrong. I disagree. I think while women are keenly aware of the work they were socially “trained” to complete, we can be guilty of not seeing work in other areas.

                To be clear: I’m not arguing that women/men have it equally bad. On a macro level I think men are the more priviledged group and more supported by the system. But I was thinking more about what happens on an individual level and, yes, I think we are all guilty of this sometimes. I really think this is where interactional thinking is valuable.

                1. Twix*

                  I think there is a lot of truth to this. As a man, there is definitely an expectation that yard work, home repairs, auto repairs, fixing electronics, plunging toilets, killing pests, and dealing with dead animals, among other things, are my responsibility. Very generally speaking, it seems that women are assumed to be responsible for anything involving soft skills and day-to-day functioning of the household and men are assumed to be responsible for anything involving technical skills or especially distasteful. To be clear, I realize plenty of women do these things for themselves. They’re just what people assume are my jobs in a relationship/household/family, are taken for granted when I do them, and often don’t get done otherwise.

                  There is also an ENORMOUS amount of social pressure for men to be capable of single-handedly protecting and providing for their families, which is the male analogue to the expectation that a women be capable of single-handedly running a family. This has persisted despite two incomes becoming the norm for nuclear families, which causes a lot of cognitive dissonance for a lot of men.

                  I am also not trying to make a “both sides to the same extent” argument; I think changing social/cultural/economic factors have made a lot of “traditionally male” labor unisex and the same has not happened to nearly the same extent in reverse. But I definitely do think it’s an interesting and worthwhile discussion.

                2. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  replying to Twix (nexting maxed out)
                  ” As a man, there is definitely an expectation that yard work, home repairs, auto repairs, fixing electronics, plunging toilets, killing pests, and dealing with dead animals, among other things, are my responsibility.”

                  My husband and I have a fairly traditional division of labor and these are the jobs that he does. Early in our marriage, I did all the traditional female jobs, plus handled the finances (balancing the checkbook, etc).

                  After a while, I noticed that everything that was mine to handle happened on a daily or multiple-times-a-day basis (cooking meals, doing dishes, etc) and all of his tasks happened on a weekly, bi-weekly, or maybe 2 – 3 time per week. I was kind of irritated that my responsibilities were so unrelenting while his gave him plenty of breathing room, so I gave him the finances — just thinking that maybe he needed something to worry about on a more day-to-day basis, and that I needed some relief from the daily-ness of it all

                3. Twix*

                  Replying to Mallory Janis Ian:

                  Absolutely. The thing about traditional division of labor is that it was based on the man working 14-hour days tending crops or mining coal or whatever and the woman being at home, so it made sense for her to be responsible for day-to-day upkeep and for him to be responsible for fewer things that could be done in short bursts when he had free time. In a world of 8-hour workdays and office jobs that’s a far less reasonable split before we even start talking about women having jobs and incomes of their own.

                4. Despachito*

                  Replying to Twix:

                  Yes, I think this is a very valid comment – men are ALSO undergoing strong pressure, just in different fields.

                  This means we are in the same boat, and it should be obvious to women and men as well. If nothing is taken for granted as a task for one gender, both men and women can benefit from this.

                  (I perceive what you are describing very acutely, and while I have maintained during my whole life that I do NOT consider household chores my responsibility, I have also maintained that I do NOT consider the responsibility of my male partner to be the main breadwinner. Nor do I consider his sole responsibility to do “male” activities such as drilling, or dirty things such as unclogging the toilet).

                  I think this is the only fair solution – I do not want people to assume anything based on my gender, I do not assume anything based on THEIR gender.

            4. Unum Hoc Scio*

              I have to consciously stop myself from thanking my husband for doing basic chores like bringing the bin of clean laundry upstairs (after 35 years of marriage, I commented about a Captain Awkward post about how men don’t see the stuff at the bottom of the stairs to be brought up and FINALLY he started noticing).

              A couple of months ago he brought cleaning supplies up to our bathroom to clean the area up but has done nothing about it. Nor have I. Passive aggressive? Yes! Still waiting? Yes. Meanwhile, the other bathroom, vacuuming, mopping, dusting, dishes, counters, laundry, all mine.

              1. Despachito*

                I do the opposite – I do thank my husband for doing basic chores, but I require to be thanked for them as well.

                I think that this makes them more visible, and at the same time acknowledges the fact that “you did it, so I do not have to”.

                I am a fan of recognizing even small things, because in the long run and if added up, they are not small at all.

                1. IT Librarian*

                  I agree about thanking each other making the tasks more visible. I do this in my relationship as well. It makes both of us feel good that our work (no matter how small) is noticed and appreciated.

                2. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

                  Sometimes if I do a big clean of the kitchen or something, I’ll call my fiance (they/them, but they’ll be the first to admit that they were socialized in traditionally masculine ways) in to look and say “I need you to make impressed noises!”

                3. Middle Aged Lady*

                  So true! Before a party I made a lost of all the things I do to make it happen, and he had NO IDEA. I handed off RSVPS and cleaning to him. We have not had a party in a looong time, now that he sees how hard it is.

          5. Green great dragon*

            So my kids, if I tell them to go pick up a glass, they will. If I tell them to go tidy a room, they will try, but there’re massive blind spots where they just don’t notice things. I actually go look, and then tell them to go tidy better rather than saying ‘and now pick up x and y’, because I want them to see these things.

            But it does seem a skill that has to be taught, and I can imagine different genders being taught differently, even by parents who genuinely think they’re making both sons and daughters help out.

            1. Despachito*

              And you must also consider that we internalize those things differently, and even if we are taught them it does not mean we do.

              (I have been very resistant to whatever tidying education I received, I am aware of it and am OK with it).

          6. Artemesia*

            One of my early memories was learning to iron by ironing my father’s hankerchiefs. Girls are taught their place. This was very powerful when I was a kid, but in many traditional family, it is still the norm.

            1. Sylvan*

              Oh. Yes. My parents didn’t set out to raise me in a sexist way, and yet I’ve had a lot of experiences like this.

              I really want to emphasize that they didn’t do it on purpose. I think they just repeated what their parents did.

          7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yes indeed. But women do the same. At an office I worked at, there was a full-time cleaning lady. She would collect up all the mugs and put the dishwasher on. At one point the accountant said they were using a lot of dishwasher tabs. Turns out the dishwasher was running several times a day. People were using an average of three cups a day, just drinking their coffee and leaving the mug wherever. Most of the workers there were women, enjoying the luxury of having someone else deal with the mess.

        1. Sandi*

          Thanks for writing out what I was thinking.

          I struggled with this in my relationship because he thought that he did half the work, and he did some cleaning so it was hard to tell. Yet he made the biggest messes that I could imagine, and expected me to clean half. Now that we are living separately I spend much less time cleaning and am much happier about it.

          1. ferrina*

            Yes! My ex was pretty extreme- he and I would agree on chores, and he would only do the things assigned to him. When the ad hoc chores came up (decluttering, meal planning and grocery shopping, etc), he wouldn’t touch it because it wasn’t “his”. To the point where on the rare instance he went grocery shopping, he would put away the cold stuff then literally leave the dry goods in the bag in the middle of the kitchen.

            1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

              Oh god, I feel annoyed just reading this comment. You must have been so patient!

        2. Malarkey01*

          This is so perfectly well explained, and also gets to the heart of why he’s hard for otherwise conscientious partners/fathers to miss these small micro patterns.
          My husband is fantastic about sharing the burden and absolutely committed to be equal partners/parents, it is hard for him to sometimes notice what needs to be done.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            This. I have a male roommate who is a trained cook, but he will literally not notice dirt or mess in other areas, or even the kitchen if he’s not the primary one responsible for it. If it’s not explicitly made his responsibility, that he agrees to, he just doesn’t see it. He does his own laundry, yet for some reason his clothes all develop the same gray patina like they are never washed, yet I have watched him take his stuff into the laundry area, and I know he starts the machine. It’s mind boggling.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          This exactly.

          So I’m an assistant in a research library. A big part of my job is helping people find sources for research. The experienced ones are fine. The inexperienced ones clearly have no idea how much grinding work goes into it. I get calls all the time from people who are obviously thinking that I can just pull up a database somewhere and tell them the demographics of [Our City] in 1915 and how many hospitals were there to serve them. Ha ha ha no–that is the kind of source that research produces. But I can help you find the materials that would help you figure that out on your own. It’s completely different from middle school where you read a few books and turned in a paper on Monday.

          1. Sloanicota*

            To be fair I partly blame TV for this as well as, erm, the systematic devaluation of your labor). I watch a *lot* of police procedurals where the main detective asks the MOST specific question – “how many types of tires were produced in Delaware in 1985?” – and the computer geek types a few things into their database and immediately produces an answer haha. There’s even a page for this on TV tropes! I’ll put it in my next comment since I expect it will sent to spam.

          2. metadata minion*

            Yep. And you run into this weird confirmation bias thing where in some subject areas, for some things, there really *is* a magic database and I can call up the answer in 30 seconds. And then the next time the person comes along with what seems like the same sort of question, I have to go “wow, that’s an excellent question that will probably be someone’s dissertation someday”.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Yeah, it does happen occasionally, but within my discipline I usually know who did the work behind it, and it’s always either someone’s dissertation, based on a government project, or a massive discipline-wide volunteer effort.

        4. SarahKay*

          So true. My grandma had a fairly tough upbringing, expected to do all the chores for her younger brothers, so wanted to give my mum a much better childhood. This translated to not expecting mum to do any chores, not even tidying her own bedroom and picking up after herself.
          Mum tells us of the day when, having gone away to college, she got back to her room that night to find the pair of tights (pantyhose) she’d left on the floor that morning… still on the floor! She said it was an absolute revelation to her, that those tights were going to lie there until she, herself, picked them up.

          1. Sloanicota*

            I admit, as a woman, I have this same blindness (which does not at all devalue the point that in our society at large men are not socialized to see this type of labor and women generally are – but instead shows I think that it is socialized, not instinctive). My mother was a very hands-on housewife and did everything for me, her youngest daughter. As an adult I’m constantly wondering where this mess came from and why things just don’t run smoothly like they did when I was growing up. And I live alone …

          2. Artemesia*

            I had a martyr mother and now in my late 70s still have these little moments where I realize that no one is going to pick that up in MY home except me. I will say I have had a very happy life not being a slave to housekeeping and have had a 50 year so far marriage in which the work including much of the emotional labor is shared.

        5. Quinalla*

          Yes, this is a great explanation of how privilege works. Privilege trains and allows the privileged person to not see this stuff. It seems utterly ridiculous when you are on the other side “How do they not see!!!” but they really don’t. And it is not an excuse, but it is an explanation and a starting point for getting people to see.

          For things like this, I try to split these type of tasks up at least somewhat so my husband is doing some and I am doing some as I hope that will help our kids to understand that no scheduling/drop off/pickup/housework etc. is not a gender-coded task, everyone can do it. This was something my own parents tried to do (they weren’t perfect, I’m not either) and it really helped me to internalize that even if society kept saying I should do X, Y & Z as a woman, it wasn’t true. It also makes it easier if one of us is having a really busy week, the other can pick up the slack because they already know how to do the things or can get up to speed quickly instead of acting helpless.

          And yeah OP, be ok with dropping the ball on things that don’t involve you and be ok with explicitly asking/telling the other person to set up the meeting, especially when they are not senior to you and asking you for a favor. And don’t volunteer every time when no one else is speaking up to set up the meeting or order the lunch or whatever other “office housework” task it is. Do it sometimes, but be very careful about not doing it even most of the time. Now don’t keep a tally record and make sure it is 100% even, but try to make sure you are doing about your “fair” share, even if your instincts are screaming that it won’t get done.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            ” be ok with dropping the ball on things that don’t involve you ”

            I’ve learned that dropping the ball on things that don’t involve me — isn’t really *me* dropping the ball; it’s just me not catching the ball when the person who owns it, drops it. If someone is always there to catch the ball when they drop it, they don’t learn, but if they drop it and experience the consequences, they might pay more attention the next time . . . maybe . . . no guarantees

        6. Texan In Exile*

          I want to know what world people grow up in where they put a glass down and walk away and someone else takes care of it. My mom did not play those games – not with my sister and me (female), not with my brother, not even with my dad.

          1. Michelle*

            For me, that world was Texas. I grew up with a single, working mom, who thought it was easier to just do things herself than to try and get her three lazy kids to help. When I moved out on my own, I didn’t know how to do anything. I flooded the kitchen — twice — because I couldn’t remember what kind of soap to put in the dishwasher. I ruined a LOT of my husband’s nice clothes in the laundry. I blew up a microwave because I didn’t know you can’t cook eggs in the shell in them, and set a toaster oven on fire because I didn’t know it needed to be cleaned out.

            But I also think you’re missing the point. It’s not about literally leaving a glass on the table, it’s about the enormous amount of behind-the-scenes work that men are socialized never to think about. My husband will notice if he comes home and the house is a wreck, but he would never notice if one of our kids hadn’t been to the dentist in six years unless it became a problem. Because he doesn’t think about making sure that gets done.

            1. Texan In Exile*

              You’re right! I’m very good at zooming in on the small details at the expense of the big picture sometimes. :)

          2. Ellis Bell*

            Teaching children to do stuff takes time; it’s almost always easier to just do it yourself than hover over them waiting to correct to their mistakes. Ironically, the correcting of children is a task that falls mostly to women (to be fair, my dad would have told us to pick up after ourselves, and I have ADHD and still struggle with it, so not always!) My sister is threatening to allocate to her kids coloured beakers so she knows who’s left their glass out, and can make them clean up after themselves without having to have eyes everywhere. She’s very aware that if her sons develop lazy habits, it will be seen as mum’s fault, not dad’s.

          3. SoloKid*

            My world?

            I don’t connect “cup left out = someone needs to immediately take care of it.” Maybe it’s different in large households with children or multiple roommates where cups are scarce.

            I (woman) legitimately do not care about cups being left out. In fact I get very annoyed when my MIL visits and picks up my water glass that I leave next to the couch thinking that she’s “helping”.

        7. Clobberin' Time*

          In fact, I bet if you asked most of these men, they would say they do half of the chores because they aren’t processing all the work their partner is doing.

          And so presumably as soon as those men are shown that in fact their partners are doing all that work, they immediately overcome that blind spot and start paying attention.


          1. PersephoneUnderground*

            The good ones make a serious effort to retrain themselves, but it’s not going to happen overnight. (Yes, I know you were being mostly facetious but it’s actually a really important question about how to change this.)

            The bad ones… well, per a lot of posts above, they often become exes because they were actually fine taking advantage.

            My advice from experience if anyone wants it:
            Working together to assign pieces of organizing responsibilities explicitly to each part of the couple can help, such as “you’re in charge of adding joint events to our calendar” or “you deal with school logistics, I’ll deal with family event logistics”. I think Carolyn Hax recommended doing this jointly over a nice dinner or drink or something to make it a nice time together and keep it about dividing things up as a team, because dividing chores isn’t exactly a fun time. This is just a start- it’s also just about the man in a relationship caring enough to make sure he picks up his share of “misc” stuff, and the woman being ok saying “Hey, this came up and I see it, but can you do it? I don’t have bandwidth/am trying not to do everything like we talked about, but someone has to.” if there’s something she sees that he doesn’t, then trusting enough to just not worry about that thing at all once it’s off her plate. That last part of mentally letting go takes practice too.

        8. Majnoona*

          No one will see this. But this reminds me, when my son was two or so I complained one day about the laundry and he said “put it down the laundry chute, comes back clean!”

          1. Certaintroublemaker*

            There is a comedy video that encompasses both the laundry and the glass example! Go to YouTube and search for “magic coffee table.” Perfect illustration of this conversation.

        9. Squishy*

          My husband is an only child to a mom/dad with this tendency. His mom cleans obsessively and quickly after anything is put out of place. He is, miraculously, completely aware of this “edited out” phenomenon and the only thing that has worked for us over (many!!!) years is a set of rules about who does which tasks on what day, and a “24-hour rule” whereby I am forbidden from asking him to follow up on cleaning tasks until 24 hours have passed, so that he has the opportunity to remember and get it done.

          It was frustrating for a time, but we’ve gotten to a good place and I’m grateful and proud of him. And he is sure to make me feel appreciated.

      3. jojo*

        Men are socialized too. Mommy did it all when they were kids. Then their wife did it. And there is a woman to do it it in the office.
        I am working on getting my son over this. He is 21. Mom handled athletics, church, scouts, medical appointments, got the prescription. He knew were it was but never it except as a tag along on my work. So I put the phone on speaker now and make him talk to them.

      4. Boof*

        I suspect it’s way subconscious- not used to doing it so don’t do it / don’t realize it takes some effort. See “magic coffee table” skit

    2. Former Young Lady*

      I’m glad this is the first comment. I hope other men will read it and take a little time for self-reflection, as you have!

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Mr. Gumption realized he did this too a few years ago. Then he noticed others at his job doing it too. There is one woman in their group and she was always getting stuck with the organizational duties and paperwork, so he started volunteering before it got assigned to her, sometimes saying, “Me and $MaleColleague can do that!”. At first his male colleagues were surprised to be mentioned, but didn’t push back because of course they can do it/help. Over time the pattern has been eroding. This is sort of the original meaning of “woke” as I understand it. You wake up to the inequality around you and can no longer unsee it.

      1. c buggy*

        This is a really great example of something men can do to help change these patterns, especially the part about volunteering other men to do these things with him. Just volunteering himself will help ease the burden, but other men who are oblivious to the issue aren’t that likely to notice and change. This helps force them to – a kind of reconditioning.

        1. The OTHER other*

          I was one of several managers, all guys (which is a whole ‘nother issue…), and was the one stuck with a lot of admin duties just because I (foolishly?) volunteered a few times, and then it became a habit and snowballed. I raised a stink and we worked out a plan whereby we rotated the “admin manager” weekly so everyone took turns.

          My point isn’t to undermine the sexism discussion with “it happens to guys, too”, but that IMO the best solution is to have a process, so the work is divided fairly, rather than relying on guys to simply volunteer. Dividing the tasks evenly among the staff, or rotating the responsibility, or some combination thereof, is likely to produce the best long-term solution IMO.

          1. ShanShan*

            I mean, there are a ton of potential solutions, but each addresses only a small, particular area of life.

            You have to understand that women don’t just deal with this at work. We deal with it at work, and then deal with it again with our spouses and kids, and then deal with it again with our friend groups, and then deal with it again when our siblings have to work out who’s going to drive Dad to his doctor’s appointment. It’s neverending and all-consuming.

            So, yes, workplace solutions are a good start, but they’re also a Band-Aid. The only way we’re ever going to really fix this is to change the way we raise children.

            1. Lizzo*

              An observation, based in a multitude of anecdotes:

              Late Gen X-early Gen Y girls were told they could do anything and everything, and have it all–very different from how our own mothers were raised. Meanwhile, NOTHING changed about how boys were being raised.

              Now these same girls are women, are parents of their own children, and are dealing with 1) raising their own boys and girls differently, 2) retraining their husbands, and 3) dealing with heaps of sexist baloney in the workplace and other public spaces. It’s infuriating and exhausting.

              I think the fact that we women haven’t burned everything down yet shows incredible restraint.

              1. SoloKid*

                Being told “we could do anything” meant I could be ok with mess. I’d rather leave dishes in the sink and a ring in the toilet than feel like I need to burn the world down. Seems less stressful to me.

                (I also didn’t buy into the have it all mindset…I saw the times changing as meaning I could enjoy free time, not children. There is still stigma as people thinking that way as “childish”.)

                Now, in the workplace is a much different story. It is true that we aren’t seeing the same effort from men. Grunt work in an office still needs to get done (and can be different than what an individual household decides needs to get done). Even the larger trend of “yay, better maternity leave…wait, why aren’t men taking paternity time too?” is showing how equity isn’t yet equitable. I am a late gen x girl and was told “women can do anything” but the part that is missing is “if men change too”.

        2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Oh yeah. His situation i a very command and control management structure so boss would automatically assign the boring admin work to the one woman. Mr G, being exactly as far as he’s planning to go on the career ladder, would volunteer before assignments were made thus making the boss assign her to another task. Totally torched capital because he’d force the boss to change plans on the spot and think in ways he’d never had to think of the woman doing anything but paperwork. Now we have the problem that the woman and the Brown and youngest men are the main people getting tasked with admin and the senior white guys aren’t, but it is progress of sorts

    4. allornone*

      my ex immediate boss (I’ve switched departments laterally) used to do this too. For all intents and purposes, he’s a good man and a great boss, but it fell to me to set up any meeting he initiated. I found it strange and mildly annoying but let it go as a quirk. I am curious, though- now that his small department consists only of him and two other men, I wonder who is setting up the meetings now.

      Anyway, good on you for being able to recognize one of your own blind spots. The best we can do is always try to be better.

    5. Petty Betty*

      It’s A Thing, especially when you’ve been raised in a household where women did all the task management, and you are still living in an environment where that’s largely true (and I’m betting it is, unless you’re single or not in a cisgender relationship).

      Even now, my adult male children get treated as if I’m the one organizing everything. People will message me, come talk to me, or call me for medical, financial, or even work-related issues – for my 20-something kids! Whether we live together or not. Like, no, no thank you. They are grown adults. You go talk to them. If they need my assistance, they’ll ask.

    6. Jasmine Clark*

      Thanks so much for being willing to admit your mistake and improve the way you interact with women! More men should be like you.

    7. YB*

      Hi, folks – sorry, I didn’t expect this to get 134 replies. There’s honestly been no ill intent on my part, no conscious thought that setting up meetings is somehow beneath me or is women’s work – just kind of a blinkered default to, “Well, Annette and I are meeting tomorrow on Zoom, so I guess Annette will be setting up the Zoom link.” It never occurred to me that, yes, that is labour, and yes, I should be doing my share of it. Just kind of an assumption that it would magically happen somehow (not even realizing consciously that “somehow” = “a woman doing it”). This is how a lot of casual sexism happens, I think – from men simply not thinking about things. That’s how privilege works – sometimes it’s a jerk thinking, “Hey, I’m going to be a jerk today,” but other times it’s just not thinking things through (because you know Annette is there to do it for you). I’m not proud of myself on this one, and I’ve already started to learn how to do things like set up Zoom calls (before this post yesterday, I didn’t even know how). Again, 100%, I’ve been in the wrong on this one, and I’m thankful to the OP and Alison and the commenters for opening up my eyes a bit.

  2. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

    THIS. Let these presumably grown men do their own housekeeping or suffer the consequences of their inactivity. You’re not their mother.

    1. Smithy*

      I’m also in a nonprofit and encounter one too many issues of sexism along these lines – and I’ll take this one step further. If these men do let these things drop to the point where work suffers that impacts your work, the next step is not “well I could step in and try to re-manage the scheduling” – but it’s calling out that they’re bad at their job.

      If they ask for a meeting with you to support completing a task, and that meeting is either never scheduled or ultimately scheduled so late in the process there isn’t enough time for proper action – then it’s highlighting why this is part of them not being good at their job.

      For example – xyz task typically takes 3 weeks, they ultimately don’t get around to scheduling the meeting until there is 1.5 weeks left. The issue isn’t that they didn’t schedule the meeting, it’s mentioning a concern about their time management.

    2. Elena*

      Being completely honest, I (female) would be a little annoyed if I asked a college to introduce me to someone and then they tried to hold my hand through setting up a meeting! The rest of the examples are kinda presumptuous and obnoxious of your make coworkers but this one i think you just have to stop interfering

    3. My Useless 2 Cents*

      Here’s some literal sexist housekeeping. At my work we have Dept. A (mostly women) and Dept. B (mostly men). For years Dept. A was on a rotating schedule for cleaning the breakroom which consisted of wiping down counters/tables, light dishes (mostly people did their own but it was common to find a stray spoon or cup in the sink) and rinsing out the coffee pots. All in all it took around 10 min or so at the end of the day.

      Then someone complained because Dept. B staff used the breakroom more than Dept. A, left greater messes, and and there were twice as many people working in Dept. B vrs. Dept. A. So all employees were put on the rotating schedule. The shop had a total hissy fit-a-thon and there were more than a few comments of “women’s work”. Remember we are talking 10 min of work once every 6 weeks or so. After about a year of constant complaints and the shop “forgetting” their days to clean the rotating schedule was thrown out. Now two managers (both women) take turns every day.

      1. Underpaid Non Profit Drone*

        Wow. If I were those two managers, I’d lock the break room and throw away the key. If you can’t take care of your space, your space gets taken away from you.

      2. Becky*

        A (female) co-worker and I got sick of the state of the refrigerators in the break room and cleaned them. There was more than one person who expressed relief that something was finally being done. We were both vocal that this was a one-time thing and we were NOT going to do this again and next time it needed doing someone else had better do it. One male co-worker took that to heart and put a reminder in his calendar and did it himself 6 months later. After that the company put in an official policy for cleaning the fridges and it became the responsibility of the custodial staff (along with the obligatory “Anything still in the fridge on Friday evening will be thrown out” sign on all of them).

    4. Lexi Lynn*

      After my ex and I moved in together, one day he demanded to know where his clean clothes were. I suggested checking his closet or an unpacked box. He was flabbergasted that I hadn’t washed and ironed his clothes. I did never get him to empty the lint trap, but he never made such a silly error again.

    5. Esmeralda*

      My mom would not have helped anyone over the age of 8 arrange their get togethers.

      One of her mom-isms, that I found useful in child-rearing, was “I am not your servant.” Which is exactly what Alison is saying too.

  3. WellRed*

    I read “set up meetings” as getting the physical space ready, which would possibly be even more sexist.

    1. ZSD*

      Yes, that’s what I was expecting at first also. This isn’t as bad, but it’s perhaps more insidious because of its subtlety.

      1. anne of mean gables*

        Honestly, as someone dying a slow death by frustration in my current position because I spend SO MUCH TIME scheduling meetings (due to a combo of the actual nature of the job, my willingness to step into administrative vacuums, and maybe some gender dynamics like the one in the letter) – I would rather set up 1000 conference rooms than schedule 10 group zoom meetings.

        1. Meep*

          I have had to force myself to stop doing it. Even my more feminist male coworkers will ask me about a meeting and I will have to tell them a few times to schedule it based on the availability of everyone they want to be included a few times before it sticks. I have also had to start adding it to my calendar and not including them if they don’t get the hint after a few times (usually they forget the meeting happening!) The fun part is when I get asked if the meeting is scheduled. “IDK, did you do it?”

          1. anne of mean gables*

            Yeah I’m working on learning when to gracefully delegate, when it’s possible. It just truly is, unfortunately, the nature of my job. I strongly believe that a PhD and being leadership doesn’t exempt one from doing more administrative tasks like scheduling, but I spend hours (literal hours) some weeks on meeting scheduling. Maybe I should be writing to Alison…

      2. ariel*

        And one of those things that’s “not that bad” the one man coworker thinks, but REALLY adds up because of all the men coworkers.

  4. High Score!*

    I’m an engineer and for the first 20 years of my career I didn’t see any other females in any technical positions. If I was told to make coffee, I’d mess it up so bad that I never got asked again. No one tried to make me serve it more than once bc I’m such a klutz.
    It’s ok to act just like the men. Early on, I learned to NEVER do anything I didn’t see a man do first.
    Just let them drop their balls. It’s fine

    1. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

      It’s that “weaponized incompetence” thing reversed and used to fight the patriarchy!

      1. High Score!*

        You’ve no idea how much I enjoyed the irony of the reverse weaponized incompetence whilst sloshing coffee on as many men as possible and feigning a “distraught female” look.
        While now there is satisfaction in seeing men happily fetching their own coffee, but there was fun to be had even in the old days.

      1. Captain Swan*

        Sometimes it is. I once had a senior manager that wanted a certain kind of coffee carafe for our office just like another office in a different location had. He asked a couple of the engineers and an accountant to look into the process to get some of these carafes. The engineers and accountant all female, two didn’t drink coffee and one was pregnant (and also rarely drank coffee). He didn’t ask the 20 or so male engineers who did drink coffee to do it. My two coworkers and I all begged off taking on this task on the grounds that we don’t drink coffee and had never really looked at the carafes in the other office.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      I agree with this in part — I don’t like and don’t drink coffee and have no idea how to make it, so I’d screw it up too — but in general I’m more in favor of strategic assertiveness versus strategic incompetence, especially as a woman in the workplace. Incompetence in the workplace comes with risks for women that it does not for men.

      LW can just say, “Sure! My calendar is up to date, so pick a time that works and send me a Zoom link,” and then stop talking. She doesn’t have to “accidentally” schedule the meeting for 10 AM Canberra time, include five wrong people, and smile innocently. LW can let go of the idea that the “someone” who has to make these things happen always has to be her (especially for events where she isn’t even the main driver) without making herself look less capable.

      1. ferrina*

        My trick is to stop talking.
        Coworker: “Hey, would you be willing to meet with me?”
        Me: “Yep, my calendar is up to date.”
        Then do not follow up. They either will or won’t do it, and that’s on them. If they can’t even schedule a meeting, their project was doomed to failure anyways.

        1. 2 Cents*

          Yep, this is what I do, and I wasn’t even doing it consciously to ward off any sexist implications (which definitely happen). I say “find a time” if the person is equal or lower to me in the hierarchy AND has requested my time. If I’m asking for theirs, I take it upon myself to schedule the call. If it’s a draw, I’ll offer if I like the person (male or female LOL).

          I think we can all agree that call scheduling is a PITA and I sit in wonder of people do who it as a main job function and don’t go insane.

          1. Elena*

            i think i have the same habit– it just doesn’t occur to me that i should be following up on these things! (… of course, i do have pretty bad adhd which may be why…) I will schedule if it’s my meeting and ask or assume they will if it’s their meeting. honestly I had assumed that was the standard so i didn’t bother doing work i thought was “theirs”

            and yea, I’ve noticed that women are much more likely than men to chase me for an invite if i inadvertently drop the ball, even if it’s my meeting that i requested and then forgot about!

            it seems to work fine between myself and male coworkers though, or between two males! eventually one of us will notice and make the schedule, so maybe OP should try that ‍♀️ I’ve never had a slightly delayed meeting cause serious problems

        2. Joanna*

          Interesting to see I’m not the only one who says, “My schedule is up to date.” I normally add, “feel free to add the meeting at any time I’m open.” It has worked really well, and no one has pushed back on it yet.

        3. Kel*

          The words ‘my calendar is up to date’ are my fortress and you will pry them from my cold dead hands.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Same, same. I have a colleague right now who has been wanting to meet with me about a contract (I write contracts for my company) for the last two months, and I said “sure, my calendar is up to date; put a meeting on somewhere that works for you.” That was two months ago, and last week I got “hey, are we going to meet about this?” “Sure — my calendar is up to date. Put a meeting on any open time.” And still nothing.

            We are both women, and the calendar thing is normal and expected at our company.

        4. Just Here for the Free Lunch*

          I came here to suggest the same thing. “My calendar is up to date” is my absolute go-to.

      2. High Score!*

        I watch men, and they use a combination of both assertiveness and incompetence. While I too am much in favor of strategic assertiveness, strategic incompetence does have it’s place. Such as when assertiveness is not going to get you out of the “female job” then I switch to making sure everyone knows that I’m no better at getting coffee/cleaning/taking notes than Billy Bob is. But I try to be as good or better at my actual job.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah, there’s a huge difference between being incompetent at not-my-job and incompetent at something that is a good work skill. Definitely think you had a great handle on it!

      3. MigraineMonth*

        This morning one of my coworkers mentioned that the next step to resolve an issue was probably a meeting. I said, “Great, so you’ll set that up?” and he agreed.

        If he forgets to do so, that’s not my problem. I shunted it into short-term memory and no longer remember what the meeting was supposed to be about.

      4. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        Literally just said in a meeting: “My calendar is up-to-date.” More people should adopt that phrase. lol

        I am a woman, the person I was speaking with is a woman, and the person who will likely schedule the meeting is a woman. It’s just a bazillion times easier than chatting about what time we have open, even if I like generally like chatting with the person.

    3. Meep*

      I am a female engineer too. I have taken out the trash because I have had to (sensitive to smells, small company, and men who will let it pile 3x the height of the actual bin), but the one thing I have put my foot down on is cutting the cake for any event. They usually figure it out just fine even if it is a bit lop-sided.

      1. infopubs*

        I licked the knife between slices of cake, completely subconsciously. Was never asked to serve the cake again.

        1. Squidlet*

          Laughing out loud =D

          Reminds me of the time one of my kids came home from school (it was someone’s birthday and they’d* brought ice cream and cones to school) and told me that their teacher had licked the spoon after each cone. None of the kids wanted to eat their ice cream.

          * almost certainly the mother of the birthday child had organised this

      2. Sandi*

        I wonder if there would be value in having a Thursday Ask the Readers about weird things people have been expected to do based on gender- disability- minority-bias. Might end up being a problematic discussion in some ways, because while I have experienced some amusing examples there are also some nasty ones. The idea of no one cutting cake until you pick up a knife is funny!

        I have weaponized incompetence for note taking during meetings. I’m not good at it for a group, and I won’t make an effort to improve that skill for the benefit of others. If someone really wants a list of the few things that I found interesting then that is their choice but I never get asked twice.

        1. Dandelient*

          When I was in university and involved in student government, women were usually the ones chosen to be secretaries of each organization. Like @Sandi, I wasn’t great at it and I really didn’t want to do it. But sometimes I would guilt myself into doing it because no one else was offering to fill the vacancy. So I started volunteering to chair instead to subvert that dominant paradigm. Very useful skill set, didn’t have to take the minutes, and I’ve been doing it for decades now in a variety of organizations :)

        2. Curmudgeon in California*


          My handwriting is abysmal and illegible. My note taking skills are not much better. If I get asked to take notes in a meeting, often because I’m AFAB, I just show the people a sample of my handwriting. If they still insist I try. I seldom get asked twice.

        3. Really Just a Cat*

          I’m dealing with one right now. Some men suggested setting up a social event, and asked me if I wanted to join. I said sure, and in fact, they could use my team’s space for the event. I made it clear to just let me know the date, and if I couldn’t be there, I’d leave the space open for them to use. They half-heartedly worked to schedule an event, but have since let it taper off entirely. I am proud of myself for not sending a single reminder or trying to coordinate schedules.

      3. High Score!*

        I’d wear a mask to work before I took out trash. When it comes to trash can Jenga, I can play with the best of them.

        1. Meep*

          I mean I certainly let them have their way in their own office, which ended up in a small pile that put a dump to shame, but it was honestly just easier. The frustrating thing was I was expected to do it because it was a waste of the others’ time (re: men) in my office. As told to me by another woman in the industry. After it was pointed out to one of my male coworkers, he started taking out the trash regularly.

      4. MigraineMonth*

        I have never noticed a gender bias in cake-cutting! It’s hilarious to think about a cluster of men standing around a cake, hungry but unable to pick up the knife and cut a piece for themselves.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I was thinking it was more about the ceremonial cake-cutting. I’ve noticed that men are plenty capable of helping themselves to a slice of cake, but they’ll stand around looking for a woman if it’s the ceremonial cutting and serving.

          1. philmar*

            Yeah this is funny to me because in my work cake-cutting is very ceremonial, and there is usually one or two people who make the initial cut depending on the occasion. And whoever cuts the cake in pieces to serve is either one of the people who made it or whoever is the lowest rank.

      5. Calamity Janine*

        you know, the cake-cutting results there just open up all sorts of jokes about the quality of engineers around you. somebody should be bringing out the calipers if the slices are obviously not within tolerances, clearly!

        “if i’m the only one who knows how to eyeball something accurately in measurement, that does explain quite a lot of the work at this firm,” says Meep, whilst looking as innocent as possible,

    4. Elle Kay*

      I’m in tech, and have been for several decades. I started very young, and looked even younger, so even by age 30, I was constantly being assumed to be an 18 year old. I was the only woman in the room until my current job (as of 2020) added women to the team. In my early years I was frequently asked to make coffee, which I don’t drink, and didn’t know how to make. I would always say “Sorry, I don’t know how” and most people would let it go at that, but I had one person who insisted that my career was going to stagnate if I didn’t learn to “help” properly. I’m glad to report that I still don’t really know how to make coffee. (The technical aspect, yes, but insofar as making a flavorful or appropriately blended coffee, no.)

      1. Rainy*

        My husband makes my coffee. I require a cup (or more) in the mornings but despite being a very accomplished home cook and okay mixologist, if I have more to do with coffee than “add water, press button”, it will be undrinkable. My darling husband, who doesn’t even drink coffee, makes it for me. :)

      2. PersephoneUnderground*

        As a tea drinker for most of my life I usually put the water in the basket and made a huge mess if I tried to make coffee anywhere. Oops. The reservoir doesn’t look like somewhere you should put water to me, it looks like machine guts. I learned around age 26 when we got a nice coffee maker as a wedding gift, and I discovered the joy of waking up to already brewed coffee, and found I liked the taste of smooth varieties.

        I do prefer just not doing the thing over pretend incompetence, but sometimes women have real incompetence too, heh.

      3. Ellis Bell*

        I come from the world of the tea round, where you only offer to make people a drink of your own volition, and it’s super impolite to not return the favour if you partake. My mind is completely exploding at the idea that you could be “asked to make coffee”. How is that even phrased politely? “Could you please make us all a drink, please?” sounds so, so rude even with two pleases bookending it! I am also laughing so hard at the idea that they need “help” getting a hot drink, the poor dears!

    5. Ruby*

      I am also a female engineer, and I legit do not know how to make drip coffee. Every work coffee pot I’ve ever seen is absolutely disgusting so I bring my (Keurig) coffee from home.

  5. itsame*

    I recently decided to pull back somewhat on being the friend in my friend group who organizes things. It’s less tied to sexism as we’re a majority female and non-binary group, more because I am just personally inclined to get anxious if things aren’t scheduled right away. Still, I realized it was stressing me out to always be the planner, so for a recent event I specifically asked the person who’d proposed the idea “could you get the reservation made?” instead of doing it myself, and then magically the event got scheduled without me having to do the legwork for it!

    All this to say, I think proactively asking someone to schedule things is a great idea if you’re prone to taking “do it myself” as the path of least resistance.

    (Also I’m interested in how you know the men in question are sending Calendly or similar links more frequently to women than me. It’s not something I’ve seen myself, but you mentioning it also made me realize I never see how my colleagues schedule meetings unless that meeting is with me.)

    1. SelinaKyle*

      I’m a PM one of the male senior PMs where I work never assigns any actions to himself. If nobody volunteers to take an action he just stays silent until someone volunteers. I’m trying to follow suit but still end up doing too much myself that isn’t anything to do with me.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        “Senior PM, is this something you’re able to take on?”

        That’s how I’m phrasing my requests to offload something when my plate is too full, and I think it can work in this (highly related) context too.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          “Great idea! So you’re going to [schedule that meeting][take notes][call the customer]?”

  6. Caramel and Cheddar*

    This happens to me all the time. I basically refuse to schedule these meetings anymore, and I have to say at least 50% of the time this means they don’t get scheduled at all, which I’m fine with. I usually end up doing a combo of Alison’s first two suggestions to fend this off.

    Make these guys do their own admin work. It’s ridiculous and unacceptable that they don’t.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Me too. Because then inevitably the last email in the chain is me telling them to set the meeting up and that meeting not happening, so it’s clear who dropped the ball.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I’m in a bunch of hobbies (mostly women, so in these instances it’s not a sexism thing) where people apparently have Facebook but can’t work Google to look up basic information on [hobby topic] on their own. I’ve gotten a lot better about suggesting search terms rather than doing the work for them.

      If they don’t want it badly enough to spend their own time on it, I sure don’t want it badly enough for them to spend mine.

        1. Brrrrr*

          Ok, this is the first time I’ve seen that and it’s making me smile so wide! If someone sent me that link I’d honestly think it was funny+great (and yes I’d understand the underlying wit). Waiting for the chance to use it with someone else who might appreciate the humour in it.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Having flashbacks to grad school here. When I was the senior student, there were two junior students. I definitely benefitted from more senior students, so I’m happy to pay it forward. But I also had my own work to do, which was hard with constant interruptions. So I instituted a rule – I would only answer questions they couldn’t figure out themselves in 3 minutes from a quick search or reference book.

        And it worked great (because the junior students are good people). The number of interruptions dropped massively right away and they learned how to approach solving their own problems. Everybody won. Heck, when they asked for help, they would start by telling me about the steps they had taken already.

        1. Mandy*

          My highschool physics teacher would spend as long as it took to help you solve any problem with the caveat that the beginning had to be you explaining at least one thing you had tried to solve it and where you had gotten stuck.

        2. Cascadia*

          I give my middle and high school students a question limit on our overnight trips, of 3 questions per day. When one of them comes up to me to ask me “what time is it” or “where is the water?” Or some other easily answerable question I respond with “are you using one of your three questions?” Out of fear or whatever, they always say no, and inevitably are able to ascertain their answers all on their own within 1 minute through using basic observation skills. After a few days I’ll see a marked difference in students helping each other or figuring it out themselves instead of relying on others to answer their every whim.

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          This is the way. The only way you learn how to research and teach yourself is by doing it. When people ask me “how do I do X”, I tell them to google it. If they say “I don’t know what to search on” I walk them through figuring out good search terms. Once they learn it that skill is usable for your entire career. But man, some people will do almost anything to not have to look things up themselves!

        4. philmar*

          Lol, I did this at my last couple of jobs. I have pretty good recall, so I don’t mind answering questions I know off the top of my head, but sometimes guys would come to me and I’d say, “I don’t know the answer, so I’m going to google it. And if it turns out you can find the answer in 30 seconds of googling, I’m going to be REALLY mad you didn’t do that yourself.” then they would run away and google. :)

      2. Flash Packet*

        I’m in a support group for people whose pets have x-condition. One person asked if a certain treat was safe to feed her pet. I had happened to look up one flavor of that treat a month-ish ago and told her that “Flavor 1 is safe. I haven’t looked up Flavor 2 and Flavor 3, but based on their key ingredients and similarity to Flavor 1, I’m fine feeding them to my pet.”

        And she wrote back immediately and said, “Could you look up the other two for me? I have such a headache!”

        And I wrote back, “No.”

    2. Jack Bruce*

      Yes, most of the time when I’ve responded to a request with “sure, shoot me an email with the details” or “throw it on my calendar it’s up to date” it doesn’t happen and I never hear of it again. This used to always happen seeing someone else in person, they’d throw an idea at me and I was supposed to follow it up, despite not being interested in it. It feels so good to let it drop and have it disappear.

    3. Lizzianna*

      Yup, I figure if the meeting is important, they’ll schedule it. If it’s not important enough for them to take the time schedule, it’s not important enough for me to attend.

    4. Anon for this*

      If I’m organising something I’ll organise it, and if I’m not I won’t. I like to say “sure, send me a meeting invite”, that mostly works.

      In my current, very senior job, I am often one of very few women, and the only one at my grade without a PA. Recently a higher ranked person insisted they control a piece of work that affects my department. They hired an outside consultant to work with us. The first few meetings were a shitshow because we’d agree a time but no one would send a meeting link and it wouldn’t appear in any calendars. My position was that the higher person had insisted he control it and so either the consultant or his staff should be organising the meeting, and that I, and my team, are meeting participants rather than organisers.

      It was hard for me and my team to let this happen, but we waited and waited. I even got a request sent to me and another man to set up the meeting the night before. The request came in the evening and I made sure I did not see it, until someone else set up the meeting. About 4 meetings in the consultant got an admin to do it. It really was only sending out a zoom link, but the heavy handedness of my colleague meant that I wanted it to be very clear I was at the meetings because of my expertise, and not to provide administrative services.

      If I had been left in charge of the process I’d probably have set up all the meetings myself, but at this point I was strongly feeling “play stupid games, win stupid prizes!” My base level is to want to organise and sort things out, but this is often abused by colleagues (mostly men). Where I have colleagues who behave in a reciprocal manner (men and women) I find I can relax and share the organising.

      1. Green Beans*

        ha. this is like my “cleaning at work” rule of thumb – if I walk into a common area and there are more women than men cleaning, I do not help because my gender is already adequately represented. if men and women are equal, then I might. if there are more men, I will pitch in to get things done faster.

        the only exception is at my current workplace, there are two men who always help clean up and always go above and beyond when they do. if they’re helping (& I have time), I’ll almost always pitch in.

  7. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

    LW, if you have good relationships with any of these colleagues you can raise the issue to those people directly and individually, explaining the pattern and letting them know you won’t be performing that function.

    1. Poppyseeds*

      Why though? The best way to change someone else’s behavior is to change your own. These folks do not need an explanation that you are no longer going to perform a task that was not yours to perform in the first place.

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        I agree. I don’t think it requires this much interaction. This seems to be in the category of just do what you want to do and everyone else will adjust around you.

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I agree that LW shouldn’t have to do this, but it can work if you know the guy not to be a total jerk. My female colleague spelled it out for a male colleague recently and he was totally aghast once he realised what he’d been doing.

    2. Kel*

      Enh, I’m not really here for her having to do the extra emotional labour to help them get past their own sexism.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        Especially since the response might be either, “oh, but you’re just so GOOD at it,” or some form of denial followed by continuation of the behavior.

    3. Bridget*

      Why? They don’t need an explanation. They are adults, if they don’t do something and it just doesn’t get done, it’s not a mystery.

    4. MigraineMonth*

      I wouldn’t bring it up with every colleague (that seems like too much work), but I have brought it up with my manager before because he seemed really receptive to that kind of feedback.

      So instead of responding to “Those notes you took at the team meeting were so helpful!” with an offer to keep doing it, I pointed out that I didn’t want to be the presumed note-taker, but he could set up a rotating responsibility for everyone on our team.

      1. pie*

        OMG this just triggered a memory I had been repressing. I served on a committee for the advancement of women and gender equity [the irony!!] and wound up as the de facto note taker for meetings because I was one of the youngest members and one of few staff (university- most were faculty, we were almost entirely female). In a fit of rage (well, controlled rage) I pointed out to the chair that I was being treated inequitably, in reference to the weight of consideration on programmatic suggestions I had made. They completely misconstrued this as “No one thanks pie for taking the notes,” apologized (sincerely), and proceeded to continue to ignore my input in meetings while ceremoniously thanking me for taking notes each month.

        I did not rage quit that committee, and now I am asking myself why.

        1. Thunder*

          I’ve heard this is an issue. A friend (female) of mine working in a similar type of women’s organization said that there were just dreadful issues of class, where the profs would ignore/degrade the work of blue collar women.

    5. Elle*

      I’ve had really good luck with this. Tons of times I’ll mention something in passing to a colleague that clearly he has not thought about before. Then, days or weeks or months later, I’ll notice him saying “hey guys, let’s not leave this on [female employee]’s plate” or “hey, it’s pretty uncool to [whatever sexist thing]. My org has a very good culture though, so I can see this not being worth bothering with in some offices.

      1. ShysterB*

        Within the past six months, I’ve been in a Teams breakout room as the only woman where I had recently read a post here (or maybe it was a comment thread) about not being the one to take notes. The Powers That Be handled assignments to the breakout rooms had also told each subgroup to have someone take notes so the group could report back on the discussion when we were all brought back into the main meeting.

        The breakout started with “who will take notes?” None of the four men volunteered and it was clear they were expecting ME to do it. One finally said, “ShysterB, could you…” and I broke in with, “No, I’ll let one of you men do it.” There was an awkward silence, and we proceeded without anyone actually volunteering.

        I now want to take this post, and email it to every woman-presenting member of my firm.

  8. Kevin*

    Time to engage in quiet quitting, or work to rule, or whatever you want to call it: if it’s not part of your core tasks, don’t do it.

  9. Coffee Owlccountant*

    I haven’t even read the letter yet, I just saw the headline on Twitter and stomped over here to just yowl in frustration that we all STILL have to deal with this nonsense in the year of our dogs 2022.

    1. yelena*

      Because we keep doing it. I hear this complaint all the time and the answer is always the same. It’s on us women to stop doing it. This has literally never been a problem for me because I’ve never made it a problem. Asking someone to send a calendar invite is the simplest thing ever, it can be done in an email of less than 6 words, yet people including the LW always come up with excuses as to why it’s just “easier” to do it themselves. Just. Stop.

      1. Sunny*

        Thank you, yes. There is no need to fix everything and do everything for everyone we interact with. The world will continue turning and they’ll figure themselves out.

        Most importantly, it’ll leave you with the energy for the emotional labour that actually matters to you, or actually can’t get done by others.

      2. PollyQ*

        My experience has been more like yours, but not everyone’s is. Read Wendy Darling’s top-level comment down page for an example of why it’s not always that easy.

      3. Calamity Janine*

        honestly, though, why’s it always our problem to fix misogyny? why can’t the dudes be more aware of what work needs to get done and how to do it?

        sure, we can not play into the role so easily. but it’s not like this is something we all decided to do to ourselves in a complete vacuum, and that all of these tasks are only discussed at the great worldwide women meetings wherein we all connect to the hivemind once the full moon is at its highest peak. if dudes are going to be complete dumbasses, then sure, we shouldn’t rush to enable them.

        but the dudes should also take some responsibility for their willful dumbassery, too.

          1. Calamity Janine*

            they have eyeballs and they have brains. they can absolutely learn to see it.

            it’s just that a great many men simply do not want to, because they are so used to women fixing the world for them.

            i am skeptical that women shouldering the burden of fixing their world for them, in terms of singlehandedly defeating misogyny, is going to change this pattern worth a damn. it’s… just more enabling ignorance and learned helplessness at best, and maliciousness at worst.

            at some point men will have to put in some effort instead of blaming it all on women.

              1. Calamity Janine*

                true. but that’s different from declaring we are the only ones that can fix this and men will always be useless (…because we’re treating them as useless).

                dudes are not exempt from having brains. it’s not a fight that is all our fault as women and can thus be solved by us putting in extra effort.

                honestly apply this to any other axis of bigotry and the logic becomes clearly rank. “now if black people want rights, they just need to solve racism all on their own!” “if you’re queer, just fix queerphobia, only you have that power!” sheesh, if any of my friends had told me those things, i would be downright offended at being so mollycoddled like an empty-headed idiot. turns out being white and cishet means i still have a brain.

                this is an attitude that i think was pretty thoroughly rebutted by MLK Jr in that alabama jail cell, if you look at it in the lens of race. note that he did not go “my fellow black people, the problem with whites denying us personhood is that we didn’t explain politely and do enough of the work to make society no longer racist, because it’s entirely on us and the poor little whites can’t be bothered to think a single second about racism as they do racism.”

                the attitude that men should get off the hook for helping to fight against misogyny is… just… more… misogyny.

                how are we supposed to do misogyny so good that it goes away, exactly.

                1. Sunny*

                  Of course it’s not on women to solve misogyny alone. But the comment here was focused on this particular situation, suggesting to fret less about the scheduling (and the emotional labour around it), and just stop doing it, step away, leave it be. It’s not the sole solution to bigger issues, but it’s certainly one tactic, and worth applying for certain problems.

                  And, to look at your bigger example – I think the less time women spend on all these little details, like scheduling or buying gifts for our in-laws, or making handmade Valentine’s with treats for our kids’ classes, then the more time we’ll have for far more substantial problems of misogyny, racism, etc. – fighting hunger, pay inequality, domestic violence, body rights, etc.

                2. Calamity Janine*

                  true. but it grates to see it framed as “women need to learn to speak up” as if that is the lopsided panacea, and if we’re not doing that, then as victims of misogyny we are the ones solely responsible for keeping it around.

                  women can learn to speak up. but they didn’t get into these habits in a vacuum. nor are they received as such.

                  the dudes can learn to treat women like people, instead of sticking with the expectation that the dudes must be cajoled, managed, and manipulated into not doing misogyny by the effort of women.

                  after all, the original comment is at the broader issues of “i can’t believe we’re still dealing with this”, meaning, yknow, a bit of a wider scope of how misogyny affects women. and the reply came with “it’s on us to stop doing it”. misogyny isn’t just women doing the “stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself” thing to ourselves. to frame it as a thing women are perpetuating and inventing entirely on their own? …that is just more misogyny. and it sure does rankle.

                  hell, there’s even plenty of replies from people acknowledging that “if you just stop doing it, then there will be no misogyny, because it’s on women to fix it entirely” does not work in some spaces. because… misogyny is not just self-injury. it’s a large system wherein women stepping outside of their assigned roles are punished harshly.

                  if it was something women only did to themselves, they wouldn’t have had those problems. they would have simply stopped making the coffee, and the office would have been okay with that. but when their workplaces seek to punish them for it? that’s misogyny that they can’t fix through sheer self-effort.

                  and the fact that not every workplace is like that – hell, the very first comment on this post – is proof that it IS something that dudes can learn. they’ve just also got to put in work. they are not immutable obstacles that women have to compensate for.

    2. Seconds*

      I’ve been watching the Mary Tyler Moore Show lately. She complained about having to make coffee because she was a woman, back in the early 70s. (And she complained about certain other things like that, too, but mostly she just did whatever it was.)

      It is discouraging to me to see that even though people recognized that it was an issue back then, we still have the issue today.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        the Joan Jett version of the MTM theme song came up on my music shuffle the other day, and I really listened to the lyrics and got kind of annoyed, because they lied – “it’s time you started living; it’s time you let someone else do some giving” yeah sure, she got away from doing ALL the things for her dopey ex, but there she was, doing all the emotional labor, and thinking for her boss, her male co-workers, her friend group. Same old same old

    3. Calamity Janine*

      the yowling in combination with year of our dogs gave me the mental image of someone furiously yelling at this headline in the manner of a husky throwing a very loud tantrum.

      honestly, that about sums up my feelings, too

  10. High Score!*

    I finally work at a place that values diversity. Sometimes the women and male allies meet to discuss topics like this. Allison’s suggestions are on par with the solutions we discuss and it raises awareness for the men. Yes, they are capable of scheduling their own meetings. As they are competent adults, they do it without even thinking about delegating the task.

  11. Lana Kane*

    My go-to’s in these situations, where it’s not on me at all to schedule anything:
    “Ok, so we agree that a meeting is necessary – who can take on sending the Outlook invites and setting up Zoom?” -or, if there are men and women on the call, I might ask one of the men specifically because otherwise a woman will jump in. I balance that out with seniority, etc.

    Or, when I notice no one has stepped up and I know they are expecting me to do it, say “I have a hard stop and need to drop off this call, I’ll look for the email invite”.

    Sometimes I’ll volunteer, but I don’t resent those times because it’s not always on me. I volunteer when it makes sense for me to do it.

    1. pie*

      I was in a meeting last week where the only other female in the room asked this very question. I volunteered (because it made sense), but the question was SO appreciated.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I volunteered to be a divisional lead in a large charity campaign my organization does. Shockingly (not), most of the volunteers were women. I decided to try to balance this out by primarily asking men in my division for help/support for the pieces I was leading.

  12. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

    I use Alison’s ‘don’t gift up’ rule and apply it, in reverse, to meetings.

    I will schedule meetings above my level if I’m asked by someone senior to have a meeting — their time is probably more tightly packed than mine.

    I will schedule a meeting *I ask for* at my level because I asked for it; if you asked for it, you need to schedule it.

    If someone below me in the org chart asks for a meeting, I say, ‘Please feel free to look at my calendar and pick a time; then send me a calendar invite.’ (We all use Outlook, so we can all see each other’s availability.)

    I will only step in and schedule a meeting for a group of people if the meeting needs to happen per my boss (the CEO) and I know the person who *should* be scheduling it isn’t because he doesn’t want to be held accountable for something.

    It took me a lot of time and deep breathing to be able to let go a lot of my internalized “I am female and good at this and therefore I must do this.” The first two things are true; the third is not.

    Also, even if you’re essentially saying the same thing to different people all the time, eventually, it might dawn on them that they should be taking the initiative.

    1. Doctors Whom*

      Are you me?

      That is literally exactly how I explain this stuff to junior staff and people I mentor. In order, almost verbatim.

    2. Generic Name*

      This is EXACTLY how I handle scheduling internal meetings at my company. Things are a bit different when it’s external meetings with clients. Then I do the admin work (as do all PMs, male or female) to get meetings scheduled and set up.

    3. Oh, That Meg*

      I use a similar rule about taking meeting notes. If I am the lowest ranking person in the room, I’ll do it.

      If we’re all equals, I’ll do it as a favor or for myself – unless I called the meeting, but won’t offer.

      If I’m having a meeting with my team, we have a rotating note taker.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Or not so critical to them that they see the need to make it happen. If others really wanted it, they’d do it.

    2. Antilles*

      Agreed. The intro call in particular jumped out to me.

      You asked for Jimmy’s contact info, I sent an email to Jimmy saying “hey, Bob (CC’d) is looking for a good teapot designer and I think it would be a great fit” and that’s that. If you guys can’t be bothered to follow up and schedule something, then clearly it’s not that important.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Yup! That’s what I do when I’m connecting others – make the intro, then leave it to them. If I’m the one who asked for the intro, I’ll quickly move to just talk to the other person and let my contact know I’ve got it from here. I figure it’s a kindness to reinforce to them that I’m not expecting anything more than they’ve already done.

      2. Riot Grrrl*

        In fact, it occurred to me that there were probably a few cases where the two parties did not actually want to meet. I can imagine them both getting a meeting request via LW and thinking, “Great, I was just being polite. Now I actually got meet this clown…”

  13. oranges*

    So much of office communication is a game of Not It. Just be the first to request someone else do it. (“A meeting needs to be scheduled?” Not it! “Jake, can you set that up, please?”)

    Some people are sexist a-holes who assume admin tasks are women’s work, but a lot of people are just waiting for someone else to do it so they aren’t duplicating efforts. Just make sure your calendar is up to date and assign someone to set things up.

    1. pie*

      The Not It game makes me skin crawl. I was also the person in class who would finally answer the question that everyone knew the answer to but no one would raise their hand for, just so we could move on. It not that I thought I was smart, or that I wanted people to know I knew the answer. I just can’t sit there when everyone knows the answer but no one wants to play the game. It’s not even gender norms that keep me scheduling meetings for other people. It’s Moving. Things. Along.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        I do this, too, to move things along. But I can also move things along by asking someone to calendar the meeting.

      2. Critical Rolls*

        Oh, that takes me back. I had a high school teacher ask a question of “anyone but CR” once. Well then, madam, call on someone instead of letting the silence stretch into eternity! Or figure out how to engage the class!

        I agree with Crone, though, delegation does the job nicely, and avoids the bystander syndrome where everyone is happy to assume “someone else” will do the thing.

      3. TheMonkey*

        > I was also the person in class who would finally answer the question that everyone knew the answer to but no one would raise their hand for, just so we could move on.

        I am also this person. Now that I see it from the other side, it makes *my* skin crawl when my fellow instructors don’t pick up on the fact that this is happening and instead make derogatory/encouraging comments (depending on the personality of the colleague) to encourage the students. *EVERYONE* knows the answer and no one is jumping in. Either call on someone or move on.

        1. Esmeralda*

          This is why I have everyone write about the topic/ question. Then we discuss. If the silence stretches I say”I know y’all have something to say because I see words on your paper” (taps the paper of Mr Smartass). “So go ahead, sir, share your words”

      4. MM*

        This is how I always ended up guarding the flag in Capture the Flag at recess in fourth grade. I just didn’t have the patience to wait it out while everyone skulked.

    2. Katie*

      As someone who spent the weekend, the holiday and all this week on stuff related to the not it! game I feel this. It angers me to no end that I am stuck with so much garbage because no one feels it’s their problem.

  14. Sloanicota*

    One thing that I think is tough about this pattern is that, for younger women starting out in office jobs, this type of clerical work is a way to get noticed for being conscientious and organized, two traits that I feel received perhaps an outsized emphasis in my early career at least. It was definitely how I got my start. I have no idea if this happens to men, but I always felt pushed into administrative type roles even if that wasn’t initially what I thought I was hired for. I ended up basically being someone’s “assistant” a lot. It did lead to better things (eventually) but requires you to change skillsets as you move up.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      It’s because they assume that women are naturally more organized and take better notes. :( This doesn’t happen to men.

    2. Smithy*

      I think depending on your career track this same kind of silo-ing for women can happen with tasks such as mastering data management systems or also making presentations “look good”. It’s now that PowerPoint or data entry can’t be part of very serious career tracks – but if that isn’t the primary focus of your current field those end up being sneakier admin tasks that I’ve seen become fairly gendered on some teams.

      I was talking to a peer about job interviews where we’ve been asked to present PowerPoint presentations and she mentioned that her younger sister told her that a recent design she’d made wasn’t very good/modern. I then asked her if she was hired if that was actually part of the job, or if there were other people/teams who’d take over the design of presentations after she gave the content? If so….then certainly don’t just do black text on a white background….but she *shouldn’t* be judged on the design.

        1. Smithy*

          To clarify – administrative work, design work, data entry work – all of that is very very real and valid. And I think by not calling out a specific professional track, my comment does look like I’m diminishing that which isn’t my intention.

          Unfortunately, what I’ve seen happen to women in my field (nonprofit fundraising) which is already gendered and all of the issues that occur with that – is that for young women, they’ll see their expert and serious efforts of entering information into fundraising databases or polishing presentations as part of what makes them ready for relationship manager promotions. What’s frustrating to watch is that database management and fundraising communications are distinct job paths but very often not the tasks these junior (female) colleagues are being asked to do. Whereas a I’ve seen male colleagues who are adequate on those tasks but then spend more time being in meetings, leading on relationship tasks, writing strategy documents – more of the work considered for those promotions.

          This was never to diminish any of this work as being serious or unserious – but rather to voice frustration in seeing young women get siloed into pieces of their work world that aren’t part of the promotion track.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Yeah and I’m not sure this is spelled out for our young career women. They think they’re rocking their jobs because their notes are always on point, the database is crisp and accurate, etc etc. Then sloppy notes Chadwick gets promoted three levels above them and they don’t know what happened.

            1. Work From Homer Simpson*

              Now there’s some advice I could’ve used 10 years ago, and I didn’t even realize it (on a conscious level anyway) until reading this comment.

            2. Smithy*

              Yup, and as other women have called out – sometimes women get dinged when their data entry/notes/coffee making/meeting scheduling isn’t up to snuff while also getting flagged that they’re not doing more senior level work needed for promotions. And what ends up being insidious for young women is you often don’t know until you’re on the end of a reprimand.

              In my work world sloppy databases aren’t great….but for the most part – they’re someone else’s problem. And if you let your data go feral, someone will clean it for you.

              Early on in my career, this was not obvious and I’ve seen this as a trend repeat itself with other junior colleagues who are mostly women. And what I’ve found hard in the mentoring process is how to highlight that while no work is unimportant – this is not an area of our work that will ever be a top area of consideration for promotion. And if it is the area of our job you like the most, then what you actually should be looking to do is switch to these other teams.

              And worse off, this is an area where often one’s direct supervisor likes having a direct report be good at. So it’s work they never have to do. And while your boss will rarely tell you to deprioritize it, they’ll also never promote you for it.

              1. Sloanicota*

                True, as you point out it’s unlikely that Sloppy Notes Chadina would get promoted either – since she’s not meeting the gendered expectations of her boss. Chadina gets fired for sloppy notes.

                1. Smithy*

                  Sloppy Notes Chad doesn’t get fired – Sloppy Notes Chadina gets fired 50% of the time and therefore is looking at a Schrodinger’s Dropped Task.

                  It wasn’t until I was in my field for 10 years that I realized in a new job I could basically entirely forgo all attention to my database needs. And not just because I had a junior colleague to clean up after me, but rather I’d felt confident when I could truly let it go and when I needed to do the bare minimum.

          2. Tracy Flick*

            Yeah, I’ve noticed this too – and I’ve also noticed that there’s more pressure on women to assume responsibility for maintaining the company culture – tech has a big problem with “We’re the best company ever! Everyone loves working here! We’re so fun and friendly! We’re like one big family!” culture-as-brand toxicity.

            Women are expected to maintain that branded positivity/friendliness/camaraderie as an internal resource. That includes a lot of tasks and skills that are non-promotable even when the company pays lip service to valuing them – and it’s a baseline expectation, not an achievement. The men get to go hide in their KPI caves all day.

            1. Smithy*

              KPI caves….love that.

              On another comment, I mentioned that another team in my organization, someone took the time to make a hyper specific version of the game Never Have I Ever to their team. Basically a list of things that might have happened to someone on their team/or they might have done that would be both accurate and amusing. So clearly not “Never have I ever submitted monthly TPS reports” but rather “Never have I ever pulled an all-nighter to complete a TPS report on time and then sent in the blank template”.

              And again, all very specific to their team without being NSFW but still funny and enough questions so the game wouldn’t be over in five minutes. How much time that took for a game that gets pulled out for the occasional goodbye party or remote Zoom activity and from what I’ve heard, is genuinely well liked.

              But again, not part of those KPI’s.

              1. Tracy Flick*

                Exactly! Perfect example! And this is also the kind of thing that the company uses to market itself – both to clients AND to new talent, i.e. the people who generate the service the company provides. When I interviewed, stories like this were front and center. Who was doing all this work? Guess.

              2. Tracy Flick*

                Another thing this reminds me of – how women were expected to create necessary goods – cloth, clothing, linens, quilts, food, beer, preserves, basketry, rugs – but to a degree of refinement that went way past what was necessary. This added work demanded expertise and created value in terms of human comfort, but it was trivialized.

        2. Elbe*

          I know that there’s a lot of assumptions and stigma around admin work (in part because it’s seen as women’s work), but I don’t think that that is what is going on all the time.

          There’s a lot of admin work to be done, even for people who don’t have professional administrators within their org. Admin work is, then, outside of the chosen career path of the people on the team. It’s not that it can’t be a serious career track, it’s that it’s not what is going to advance them in their career.

      1. coffee*

        The sudden realisation about making presentations “look good” being gendered… sigh. You’re bang on about it not being considered for promotions. Ask me how I know.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Part of this is that those admin tasks are absolutely necessary for actually getting things done. So you want to deliver on things and the only way to do that is to get the admin stuff done, but it’s not visible to the people you’re trying to impress and everyone just expects you to do all that thankless work in perpetuity.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yeah, to be fair, when I was starting out this was probably the highest-value skillset I could offer, since it’s not like I had much experience. But it does require a conscious shift if you actually do get promoted.

    4. cncx*

      Yup, I’m dealing with this right now. I shifted away from clerical work but because i’m good at it, there’s a lot of not-wholly-bad-intentioned passing it off to me in my all-male IT team. The biggest challenge for me right now is being seen as someone who has as much of a technical skillset as anybody who also happens to have clerical experience. I have no problem doing stuff I know i am better and more efficient than my coworkers at (taking minutes, helping end users with Word documents…)but it lowkey sucks when, like today, i was left off of a strategy discussion about fleet management when…i know the fleet and they don’t, but i’m not an “engineer”…it’s annyoing. I am thinking of changing fields because of where i live, clerical work is paid more.

  15. Leaning In and Out*

    In addition to all of Allison’s great advice, whenever I make an introductory email, I’ve always included, “I’ll leave it to you two to connect!” or something like that. That way it’s clear to everyone that 1) you can spare my inbox all your replies and 2) I’m done here.

    When people ask to meet, unless I have a preference, I also commonly say something like “…feel free to grab any open time on my calendar” or “…feel free to grab any open time on [Wednesday], my calendar is up to date!”. Again, squarely back in the requesters court and clear so there’s no sexism or just general logistical awkwardness.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yeah, I’ve taken to doing that, too, when people ask me for meetings for my insight/help. In my role, I do a lot of things to coordinate, organize, and generally keep things moving. This includes setting up meetings. I’m not going to set up other people’s meetings, too.

  16. Richard Hershberger*

    “At the same time that you confirm a meeting, in that same email write, “2:00 sounds good. Can you set up a conference line and send me a calendar invite?””

    Better yet, “2:00 sounds good. Send me a calendar invite.” It is on the person who instigated the meeting to set it up. There should be no question about this, so don’t word it as a question.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yep. Statements only. You can be polite without out using softening language (prefacing a statement with “sorry” or “if you don’t mind”) or making things into a question.

    2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I find it abrasive when people do that to me or my reports, so I’m not doing that to someone else.

      1. MF*

        I think you can soften it slightly: “Please send me a calendar invite.” Or: “Send me a calendar invite! Thanks!”

    3. NeutralJanet*

      I mean, it’s not really a question, even if it’s worded as a question. Would you seriously receive that message and respond, “No, I won’t send the invite, you do it,” or would you take that as a direction?

        1. NeutralJanet*

          That sounds like the response of someone who is determined not to send the invite, though, which 1) doesn’t seem to be what LW is dealing with here, and 2) isn’t something that would really be solved by making it a statement instead, since if someone’s trying to make it into a weird power play, they’ll do it.

    4. Fourth and Inches*

      I came down to comment something similar. And if you think it’s too “harsh” (spoiler: it’s not), of my favorite ways of phrasing stuff like this would be “2:00 sounds good. Go ahead and set up the line and send out the invites.” Like, OF COURSE, you’re going to do those things now that I’ve given my availability.

      1. FashionablyEvil*

        I mean, “harsh” is a matter of interpretation—to me, your suggested wording reads as brusque and condescending especially if you’re sending it to a peer. Like, OF COURSE I’m going to send it; you don’t need to treat me like an idiot who doesn’t know that in your reply.

        All this to say, that these sorts of things are pretty subjective and context specific. Maybe it works just fine at your organization! It would not work at mine.

    1. portsmouthliz*

      Yep! A few years ago I consciously stepped back from doing things for people, and adopted the mentality of “if they want to meet with me that badly, they can set up the Outlook invite.” It might take a little getting used to, but feels sooooo good to stop taking work on for others (men).

  17. LawBee*

    Definitely stop unless it’s more convenient for you to schedule this specific meeting at this specific time.

    I’ve used Alison’s language and also “I’ll look for your calendar invite then” which also worked a treat. If the meetings don’t happen – probably they weren’t necessary!

    ::fist pump::

  18. Prof Ma'am*

    Yes! It’s so very *liberating* to just. not. do. it. They might be small tasks individually but it adds up and that’s time you deserve to have back.

  19. Observer*

    for instance by using the same tricks my male colleagues do (being silent or sending an unnecessary “should I send a conference line” email). But I’m loathe to be as presumptuous as they are.

    To Alison’s point about how we are socialized. I would ask you WHY? If it’s acceptable, then it’s acceptable.

    Also, many of the steps you can take are not presumptuous at all. Asking the person who asked for the meeting is not presumptuous in the least bit, nor is sending a calendly invite.

    Also, sometimes it’s worth doing things the long way to make a point. Like you mention that “Or they will ask an unnecessary “Do you want me to set up a conference line?” once the time is already set. If I say yes, I would still need to reply as well as hold the time on my own calendar until they get back with one, so it is often faster just to send the invite myself.

    Maybe it will take longer. But do it anyway. You want to re-establish some norms, and that can take time. But also, maybe DON’T hold time on your calendar. If you map out a tentative time, and then the guy can’t get around to sending a calendar invite with the meeting till days later, well that’s on him.

    When I want a meeting I set it up. But the only guy I will set up meetings for is my boss – not because he’s a guy, but because he’s my boss.

    1. RunShaker*

      yes, definitely. I too used to respond back “send me the calendar invite” & then hold the time but that became a pain & stopped holding the time on my calendar. I don’t want/need the hold to remind me if other person dropped the ball & didn’t schedule. It took stress off of me trying to manage other people’s time when I wasn’t suppose to be.

      1. Rainy*

        I *can’t* hold time like that–there’s a specific process for getting on my calendar that involves going through my schedulers, because if I go back and forth with someone over email for three days, everything I offer will be full by the time they get back to me, because everyone else uses the process.

    2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I think I said “BE presumptuous!” out loud to my computer screen at that point.

    3. ShanShan*

      The reason why is the reason Alison said: because it’s galling to be expected to fall to someone’s low standards instead of asking them to rise to your high ones.

      Playing all of these stupid “not it” games makes someone a worse, less professional, less effective employee. And a lot of people who are good, professional, effective employees would much rather see other people rise to their level than give that up.

      Sometimes we just have no choice, but it’s immensely irritating. It feels like one more way we’re forced to confirm to men want, even in the way we assert ourselves.

  20. Hlao-roo*

    But try it for a month and see how you feel at the end of it, because I suspect you’ll love it.

    And then come back and update us!

  21. Wendy Darling*

    I tried this once. ONCE.

    I then got DEMOLISHED for it in my annual review. By my female manager. No one ever said anything about it, I just got clobbered for “not being a team player” because I let my male coworkers who expected me to do their admin work for them flap in the breeze. I all “meets expectations” ratings even though everyone agreed my actual work was exemplary, which meant I got a smaller raise than I otherwise would have and was not considered for promotion.

    I am still resentful. It sticks in my craw almost as much as the time I got dinged in my review for being too informal in meetings when I was specifically matching the formality level of male peers.

    So I guess my tip is to read your workplace and decide if it’s worth it. :/

    1. High Score!*

      Whoa! That bites! Please update us when you find a better job. I’m hoping for a happy ending for you.
      And, on the way out, schedule a bunch of random meetings with random people filling their calendars and cancel all their legit meetings. You deserve an epic farewell!

    2. Sloanicota*

      I will say, this is generally the flip side of the “just don’t do it and make the men take responsibility” discussion – female presenting people are going to experience more consequences of not doing these things than male presenting people are, due to different cultural stereotypes (which doesn’t mean the advice isn’t still correct! We just need to recognize that not-infrequently there is real blowback when women aren’t sweet and accommodating!). Both women and men are likely to judge a woman who is only male-level accommodating a LOT harsher than him for the same level of indifference.

      1. Jerab*

        As a butch female this is a really offensive comment. Sadly I get just as many of these expectations as all my other female colleagues. To suggest it is only “female presenting” people rather than female people who receive them is really regressive and offensive.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I’m not the one who said it, but I suspect it’s boilerplate language meant to be inclusive (ex. nonbinary people who might be afab or look more femme). That said – your point is well taken. I mean this sincerely: do you have a better phrasing?

        2. Sloanicota*

          Shoot, sorry, I was actually trying to be *more* inclusive because my first comment read as very women vs men and I wanted to loop in more folks of all stripes, thinking of who identifies as nonbinary or whose identity may not align with their presentation etc. But it may have backfired and ended up worse than I started. I apologize. When we’re having deeply gendered conversations like this one I’m never sure the most inclusive way to proceed.

          1. Jerab*

            Thank you for this. As a very butch woman I’m still experiencing the same misogynist expectations as other women while now also getting told by certain progressive types that I can’t possibly be experiencing that kind of thing because I’m not ‘female presenting’ so the wording is particularly triggering. My response that as I’m female I’m always female presenting doesn’t always go down well with those types…

            1. CPegasus*

              Fwiw i definitely thought “female presenting ” meant a person who wanted to be seen by the world as a woman so i will be thinking and researching. I never tied it to butch/femme presentation so much as pronouns

          2. ecnaseener*

            I think what you meant to get at here was “people perceived to be women.” It’s not about how you present yourself, it’s about whether people look at you and put you in a “woman” mental box. Which can happen to masculine-presenting women.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      It’s highly likely your boss would have dinged you anyway so she could give more money and a promotion to a man. Bosses like yours (I had more than one like that) always find a way to try to do that and then they tell you it’s your fault because you were “too abrasive” or “not a team player.”

    4. Quinalla*

      It can happen, but I also try to push back when given feedback on this. Make them spell out to you why what you did is different from what anyone else is doing. It’s too easy when folks use generic review language that also often ends up gendered/racist – women/POC described as aggressive/hostile when men would be described as confident/assertive, or emotional vs. passionate, etc. You won’t always succeed, but it can be worth pushing back on if nothing else for your own sanity, but hopefully to start pushing back on it in general.

      I know I have pushed back when told I was being aggressive (not surprisingly by the same person who asked me to be more confident – 1000x eyerolls). I’d ask for specific examples and counter with examples of my own of how what I did was no different that Chad or Brad down the hall.

      I’ve also coached others on in their own head as they are figuring out what feedback to give, If this person was a white dude, would I really give this feedback with these words? Not something you can coach up in a review meeting, but something to keep in mind. It is one of the ways to help disrupt bias.

      1. Despachito*

        Thank you for your service, because what you are doing IS a great service to beat all the gendered prejudices. Not to hang your head low in shame, because there is nothing to be ashamed for, but PUSH BACK.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        I actually did push back to that same manager the next year when I was similarly dinged for my level of formality in meetings (which was identical to that of my male peers). My manager said she didn’t like it either but her (male) boss had complained so it had to go in my review. She also told me I wasn’t going to get promoted if I didn’t start getting better reviews, and this was just what I needed to do to get better reviews.

        In retrospect I’m kind of happy that job laid me off because I wouldn’t have quit (it was a really good job on paper) and I probably WOULD have just turned off my entire personality at work so I could get promoted and then (quietly where no one could see it and give me a bad annual review over it) died inside.

    5. MigraineMonth*

      My first three managers all told me I have an issue with tone when communicating with colleagues. I changed my email signature line from “MigraineMonth” to “Thanks, MigraineMonth” and haven’t gotten the criticism since.

      *rolls eyes*

    6. Clobberin' Time*

      Don’t worry, if you had picked up their admin work, you would have gotten dinged for ‘focusing on unimportant details’ and ‘not taking on more high-level work’.

      1. cncx*

        that’s me! I get dinged for being “too helpful” or “too nice” but if i didn’t do it…”not a team player..:” it’s exhausting

  22. Sharon*

    IMO, this kind of thing totally falls into the professional skills category of “taking initiative”. I wonder if we start explicitly framing it that way to our male colleagues, they might change their behavior? Or are men not really expected to take initiative in their roles?

    1. Prof Ma'am*

      But like, is setting up a meeting the bar we really want to set for branding someone as “taking initiative”?

      1. KateM*

        Maybe it’s the other way around – not setting up a meeting being branded as “not taking initiative”.

      2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I’m going to be brutal here and point out, if it were, then every young man being introduced to Dewar’s and golf by the old guard would have been taught to set up meetings.
        They were not because it has not been seen as “taking initiative,” it’s been seen as “administrative” meaning worth paying someone else to do.
        Welcome to my TED talk:
        Look at jobs that were once respected careers for men: librarian, secretary, teacher. Now that they are predominantly female populated, they have less respect/power.
        But my point is: I’m now waiting for the pendulum to swing back because of technology.
        What began with, “you can’t type up an email?” Of course I can! is moving into: “Oh, you can’t schedule a meeting?” “You can’t set up a Zoom call?”
        Once these become the baseline (as you write, not the bar) for functioning in the corporate world, it will be the norm for men to do it. It has happened in law as DA offices cut costs by eliminating secretarial staff. “Of course attorneys type up their own briefs. This isn’t Mr. District Attorney.” (a reference no lawyer who began by typing his own briefs will recognize.)

    2. Temperance*

      I frankly think “taking initiative” is just how crappy tasks get branded. I only heard about “taking initiative” at low-level customer service jobs, like cleaning up.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Exactly. If they were glamorous, forward moving or beneficial to one’s resume, they wouldn’t have to be branded.
        “Hey, can you lead the meeting on the glitch affecting project W?”
        “Hey, can you set up a meeting with the team on project W?”

      2. Wendy Darling*

        The only time I heard “taking initiative” was when I wasn’t doing it because I stopped following my incompetent coworker around and fixing everything she’d screwed up.

        It’s kind of one of those terms that only comes up when someone’s telling you off for not doing it. Like applying yourself, that thing I never did in school and am still not 100% sure what is other than “stop bothering me and get better grades”.

  23. RunShaker*

    I’ve been working on things like this for several years. When I was starting out my career, I thought it would help me be more visible with higher ups but it didn’t help me get assigned the serious work projects. So I started small in reference to saying no. I looked at it as a basic yes/no question, nothing else/more, and to not over think it. I still feel slightly guilty sometimes but reading AAM has helped and moved me to higher level in my career in long run.

  24. Falling Diphthong*

    So it is often faster just to send the invite myself.
    Leaving it to me to either let it drop or schedule it myself.

    You need to be willing to stand back and let the natural consequences play out. Sure, in each individual instance it’s more efficient if you just step in and handle it all–but then rather than learn, people just expect you to efficiently do it all, and the cumulative instances will waste your time and patience. Because no inconvenience lands on the people handing this job off to you, they have no motivation to change.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Especially because “sometimes it’s doesn’t happen as quickly / efficiently as it could” and “sometimes the meeting doesn’t get scheduled and we all sort of forget” are REALLY not emergencies.

      The bigger goal of setting expectations about doing admin tasks is more important than either of these.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Exactly. OP, if you need a meeting because Bob or Sue has to share information that you need, but you think the group should have it, too, you don’t need a meeting.
        You need an answer.
        It’s not your responsibility to make sure Bob and Sue share everything with everyone. It is their responsibility.
        Asking for it may jog them to realize, “Oh, it’s time to share this with everyone.” or it may make them think, “Oh, OP needs to know this. Here she goes.” But you don’t have to decide for them.

      1. Bronze Betty*

        That’s where my thoughts headed. When you’re raising kids, it’s much easier for the parents to do the chores themselves because kids start out not knowing how to do them. How do the kids learn? By doing the chores themselves, even badly or slowly. They’ll get better at it in time with more experience. They’ll learn. But it is a sometimes painful process for the parents (well, the kids, too) because, of course, it’s faster/easier/better if the parents do it–they’ve had years to get good at it.

    1. ms. name required*

      Yes, it’s super annoying. But there’s also no need to mother them. I feel like a lot of people start feeling like, if I don’t do it who will?? But it’s okay to give people some time to do stuff before jumping in. I know it’s hard for someone very organized and conscientious, but with the introduction call, for example, was that something that needed to be followed up on right away? Would not scheduling a meeting immediately really be “letting it drop”?

      1. Art3mis*

        I’m a big fan of “letting it burn” when men or management in general refuse to do anything about “the problem” that they can fix if they just tried. Sometimes it’s the only way to get people to see that they need to do something.

    2. Just Me*

      Second this.

      OP needs to stop taking responsibility for people or actions she’s not responsible for. Frankly, it’s most like annoying some coworkers. I’ve had complaints about women in the workplace who “mother” (their word, not mine) coworkers, and they felt they couldn’t say anything or it would be considered rude and they’d be the one in the wrong.

      We (women) need to stop our part of the cycle just as much as men do.

  25. stelmselms*

    There are a few women executives on Tik Tok that I’ve seen give examples of gendered speaking/interactions in the workplace. A male colleague emailed this woman and was straightforward and to the point in his communication. No big deal. She responded back in the exact same manner without any flowery language/requests, no “please” or “could you”, etc. He replied asking her why she was being so curt with him, he thought they were friends, etc. She simply stated she wasn’t mad, etc. she was mirroring his language almost verbatim and his mind.was.blown.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I was thinking that about Richard Hershberger’s sample language: “2:00 sounds good. Send me a calendar invite.” – with no “please,” I think people would find me (a midcareer female) pretty curt. But I bet a lot of men write emails like this and nobody thinks anything of it? I suspect I’d feel a little taken aback if I got this message from a man too.

    2. KN*

      Ugh, this is the kind of thing I overthink all the time. I’m so habituated to adding the flowery language that I (ironically) often spend extra time editing it out to sound more direct / efficient.

      It’s another tightrope to walk, though–I don’t think I come across as having enough authority if I’m too flowery/deferential, but I also don’t think it would be perceived well (even if just at a subconscious level–I doubt anyone would call me out on it!) if I used exactly the same language as male coworkers at my level.

      I’ve actually gotten really deliberate about calibrating this as I’ve gotten more senior. For example, I got a certain promotion, I decided I was going to stop using “Best,” to sign off in emails to my teammates / immediate superiors–I just write my name. But I still use “Best,” with clients. Whereas my male coworkers might just sign off with their name for clients, and not sign off at all in internal emails. It’s like I’m calibrating so I’m one step “softer” than a male coworker might be, but not two steps. Who knows if it’s right, but it sure takes up more mental space than I wish it did!

      1. BellyButton*

        I do that too! I write it, and then when I go back to reread I take out most of the qualifiers and diminishing language. It is hard to do because after 25 years in the workforce I feel like it is ingrained in me, even though I don’t speak that way!

    3. Elle Kay*

      This reminds me greatly of Sarah Cooper’s satire How to be Successful without Hurting Men’s Feelings: Non-threatening Leadership Strategies for Women (easily found if googled)
      in which a woman is “threatening” when she says “This has to be done by Monday” and becomes “non-threatening” when tempering it to “What do you think about getting it done by Monday?” (among several other elements)

      1. Robin*

        Ughhh this drives me mad. 1) the gendered/sexist nature of it (also often racist as well). 2) it feels like it adds layers of guess culture/indirect communication. Because *I* was taught to soften the language even when I want to be direct, I now automatically translate those softer requests into the direct demands in my head because I assume that is what everyone is doing. But also! 3) often the softer phrasing is more collaborative and there is genuine value in fostering collaborative mindsets. So my automatic reinterpretation might be overcompensating and the other person is trying to be collaborative. And this also plays into communications between senior/junior employees.

        There are so many factors it makes my head spin sometimes.

  26. Anonymousy*

    I experienced a version of this my workplace. Overcoming the need to step up and take care of everything can be SO HARD when you’re trained to please and good at getting things done. Allies can also help by saying, “Hey Joe, could you set that up?”

  27. SeluciaMD*

    My default is to just say something like “Great! I’ll be on the lookout for the calendar invite/Zoom link/conference call number.” And then let it go. If we get to meeting day and I’ve got nothing, I reply in that original chain (or send out an email to whoever was part of the group that decided on the meeting) and say “can someone send me the link/invite/number? I don’t seem to have it.”

    99.9999999% that approach works and I don’t have to make it a thing or elevate it or even ask someone to change their behavior. I also sometimes pre-empt the issue when someone is trying to set up a meeting with me to say “Here are a few spots that work for my schedule next week. Once you figure out what works for you just send me the calendar invite.” Or something along those lines. I don’t do this with everyone, of course, but when appropriate it’s very effective and causes little to no drama. It took me awhile to train myself to not default to sending the “Great! I’ll send you a calendar invite!” every time but I’m so glad I did!

    Good luck OP!

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Yep, as a woman who hates meetings, I have no desire to schedule them for others (except when it is actually part of my job). I keep my calendar up to date & viewable by others.

      I occasionally send people links or instructions on how to do these tasks themselves.

  28. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    Not sure if this would work for you, but I’m really good at training folks of all genders not to do that with me. I have a tendency to jump in and want to help with everything and to keep things on track, so I found myself in your position (and with your frustrations). I decided that I was only going to schedule my own meetings, so when folks ask me for a meeting I immediately reply, “Great idea! Why don’t you set that up, I’m open X, Y, and Z.” and then just leave them to it. It was really hard not to jump in to help, but then I remembered we are all fully functional professionals who know how to set up a meeting and they will be fine without my help. If something didn’t happen, I just let it not happen, quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever done. Good luck and please update!

  29. Ainsley Hayes*

    Calendly and similar scheduling links save you so much time – embrace them! Also, I am a big fan of saying “Sure, that works great. Please send me a calendar invitation with a link/the call-in information.” Put the responsibility back on others to schedule.

    1. The OTHER other*

      I agree, though the comment by the LW about how people send Calendly links to women but not men has me thinking. I recall a letter about Calendly a couple months ago, it generated lots of back and forth. Some people love it but some people find it very off-putting as in “why are you asking ME to schedule this?” and I definitely see how this could have a gendered component.

      I find it saves tons of back-and-forth emails proposing different times etc (and availability often changes during the exchange) but I would really like to see a larger discussion on the subject here, maybe Alison can get someone to make a pro and con case and have the discussion in comments, maybe even with a poll?

    1. Generic Name*

      I literally said this today to a colleague who wanted to meet with me. I also gave him the option to just call me, so we’ll see if he sends an invite/calls me. :)

  30. Jerab*

    I definitely took on too much responsibility for setting up meetings etc when I was younger.

    Now my lines are very clear. If I want the meeting I’m happy to set it up. If someone is coming to me they are setting it up. Once the meeting is more than 4 people or has external people our exec assistants generally set things up.

    If I’m doing the minutes it’s because I’ve already decided what I want some of the actions from that meeting to be and want to make sure they’re written the way I want them – my boss has cottoned on to that one!

  31. Anonymousse*

    I don’t know, my husband is a man and he works a lot more and is the breadwinner and I’m not, and he still makes appointments to get the kids haircuts and such. Because we’re a team and we’re both busy and being in a marriage means making life easier for the person you love.

    He’s 52, and he grew up in a traditional Catholic family, so he wasn’t born in a pot of simmering feminists or something.

    He also cooks.

    I’m tired of men who are like, oh yeah “I never realized I also ask women to set up meetings.”

    That somehow just doesn’t seem true.

    Has everyone taken a women’s history course in college? A lot of you guys really need to.

    1. Observer*

      I’m tired of men who are like, oh yeah “I never realized I also ask women to set up meetings.”

      Yes, it’s tiring.

      That somehow just doesn’t seem true.

      It is true very often, though. People can be shocking un-self aware.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Not only un-self-aware, but also very used to the thing just happening. If you’ve never made a habit of setting up the meeting, and the meeting happens anyway (so you have the vague idea that it’s not part of your responsibilities), AND you’re not accustomed to looking for gendered patterns (so it’s never dawned on you that it’s usually a woman doing it herself, not an admin or a planner where it IS part of their job), it’s not that hard to end up here. Oblivious? Yes. Unlikely? No.

        In fairness, there are plenty of things that men around me handle that I’m used to just happening (and I am a single woman). But the conversation here is about admin-type tasks at work, which DO tend to fall to women.

    2. Calamity Janine*

      it really is a symptom of how sire misogyny can be.

      when you don’t think women are really people, it becomes easier and easier to treat them like the landscape. we stop being characters on the stage and start being the stagehands dressed all in black, who everyone is supposed to pretend does not exist. if you don’t think women are people, you don’t give a damn about what woman are doing, or value any of that work. we are simply supposed to blend into the furniture while these things magically happen. the meeting setup fairy. the coffee machine fairy. the cleaning fairy. if it’s magic you don’t have to acknowledge a woman put effort into making it happen!

      i think most people get over this impulse when their parents scold them for leaving dirty socks all over the floor. some people, though, promptly ignore these epiphanies.

      men like that aren’t incapable of learning – they refuse to learn. they refuse to think about women as actual people. they refuse to value the work women do. and honestly, they’re not stupid or ignorant. they’re spoiled.

      your husband actually considers you a human being and that’s why he is able to look at work and help you with it. like you say, this ain’t that hard. not really cutting edge feminism that’s breaking new ground. i distinctly remember one of my fav episodes of Columbo, where he launched into a long rambling anecdote (as is his wont) about how his father would always leap in to do the cooking when his mother was dealing with one of his newborn siblings or in the hospital after birth. it was not presented as him being enlightened beyond his years, or being effete in some way. it was simply that he was, yknow, part of a family, and putting in work to that end.

      it is not a hard concept at all. yet so many dudes look at this bar of minimum standards that is so low ants are having trouble limbo dancing underneath it, and instead of leaping over the bar, they bring out the constriction equipment to dig underneath it.

      framing it as something women are responsible for fixing entirely makes me so exhausted. because, really, i just cannot make a dude think about women like they are real people. i am increasingly tired of the attitude that the poor dears can’t help it – as if no dude is familiar with the concept of action and consequence in linear time, and thinks things happen independent of someone causing them to happen. instead some dudes really rush to tell on themselves as they defend the notion they exist in a magical fantasy land where they don’t have to think about anyone making the coffee and doing the dishes – nobody needs to cause it to happen, it will just mystically appear. (when, really, they know full well someone is doing it… and will go whine at her if she stops! they simply are being brats who refuse to value women at all.)

      it’s really not that hard. but despite being capable of knowing these things… misogyny makes many men simply spoiled rotten.

  32. Michelle Smith*

    I even explicitly state in email introductions: “Feel free to drop me off of the replies!” It’s my gentle way of saying, don’t reply all, I am no longer paying attention to this email chain, and I will not be facilitating any meetings because you’re adults who can figure it out. It has worked with me so far, but I actually haven’t been in a situation where both parties to the introduction were male, so YMMV. You may need to be more direct.

  33. Tuba*

    I love all the comments about how this is an unconscious bias, but want to give an obligatory reminder that it’s often an intentional act, or an act that’s weaponized given women are more likely to be seen as difficult or unlikeable for not doing these things. Colleagues at my level that are male would never be slapped on the wrist for not making the coffee. I’ve literally been told that would have been a great opportunity to be a team player. Knowing that I have something to lose and they do not given I happen to be a woman, the task falls to me and they pretended I should be grateful for it. I don’t drink coffee at work.

    1. The Baconing*

      That’s not wrong. When I was an HR administrator for a tiny company, I once had the owner tell me, one of two female identifying employees, that the dishwasher had clean dishes in it. I told him that was great, but I bring my lunch and wash my own dishes when I’m done to put them back in my lunch bag. I then asked him who was using the the dishes found in the dishwasher and suggested maybe those who use the dishes rotate putting them up. He said he’d ask the other woman if she’d put the dishes up. Go figure.

      1. Kyra*

        Honestly, the time it took to ask you both about the dishwasher, he probably could have had them all put away. Glad you told him you don’t use the dishes and you didn’t get stuck doing the task anyways!

    2. Smithy*

      I’d actually say that the proof of this being an intentional act isn’t around how women get dinged for not being a team player – but rather when certain tasks *do* correlate with individual advancement, then suddenly it’s a task that everyone’s happy to do.

      For instance, in my tiny world work world – taking notes during meetings means you get an invite to the meeting. And very often attending these meetings is connected to all sorts of professional development opportunities. Therefore, no man I’ve ever worked with as a peer has ever poo-pooed his note taking abilities. Data entry however…”woe is me, I don’t even know my password……”

  34. Xaraja*

    Ohhhhhh. At the company where I work the culture is that everyone’s Outlook calendars are available (availability only, not what the appts are, is on by default) and generally kept up to date because our video meeting software is linked with Outlook (it’s not Teams but it has a plug in and everyone is required to use it) and our meeting rooms are scheduled through Outlook. And the culture, at least in my department, is that if you need a meeting you just schedule it, even if you haven’t previously discussed it. That seems to be what other departments do also, for the most part. But I have some stubborn people who contact me for help, ask if we can meet, and then after I tell them my calendar is up to date they ask again when I’m available so I tell them something like “this afternoon is busy but tomorrow morning and Friday are pretty open, just check my calendar” and then they still don’t send an invite. I’ve been very confused.

    Perhaps you’ve already guessed these are men and generally they are already performing incompetence, often around the subject they want a meeting for. I can’t remember ever having this problem with someone who I wasn’t also having the other problem with….

    1. Esmeralda*

      When they ask again: “oh I don’t have it memorized. Just look at it to see what works. Gotta go, [boss name] just chatted me. “

  35. I edit everything*

    I let Mr. Edit borrow my brand new phone for a project because it had a better camera. My price was that he take me out for ice cream at a specific place and manage the scheduling/logistics. That was in March. I’m still waiting for my ice cream.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      For things like this, I have become a broken record saying “…and put a reminder about it in your phone now.”

      1. Fantastic Beast (you won't find me)*

        Put it in your homework planner!
        -Hermione Granger

        If you dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s
        Then you may do whatever you please
        -Homework planner

        Find the first opportunity to drop the planner in the fireplace
        -Ron and Harry

  36. The Baconing*

    I’m an executive assistant, and even I have times when I shouldn’t be the one setting up the meeting despite meeting set up being part of my scope. When it’s not mine to field, I use something similar to what’s been suggested but I think it might be a bit more gentle, maybe? I tell them something to the effect of, “Great! I’ll send you a list of dates and times that will work on [my or my officer’s] end, and I’ll be sure to accept your invite as soon as you send it.”

    Also, I keep a mantra in my back pocket for situations like the LW gave in which there is an intro email chain and a clear need for a follow up meeting, but it’s not really in my scope to set that up. I tell myself, “This isn’t my fence to paint.” I also often ask myself if this is my fence to paint when I’m trying to decide if I need to pick up the ball on something.

  37. Carol the happy elf*

    I visited my friend when she lived in the Middle East, and this is so like that- one day we were in the bazaar and saw one very young shepherd tending about 50 sheep, and another boy running down the street, chasing more than 5 goats off the roof of a car…. I said “that’s getting my daughters to ballet class and my son to soccer, right?” My friend laughed and translated for a few curious women, and they did that shocked, nervous laugh we all do.
    It’s not all nature vs nurture, but without being expected to SEE the mess, and CLEAN the mess, (Nurture) then Not Seeing (Nature) rules. And nature is a lazy, sloppy S.O.B. sitting in its underwear and socks, demanding a beer and the remote. (That was husband 1.0, the failed prototype. Husband 2.0, the improvement, cleans his own lab along with his interns, so they can learn to think about cracks and corners while they clean.)

  38. Luva*

    My hack:
    Colleague: “Are you available to meet with me about X?” or “We should set up a meeting.”
    Me: “Sure! Feel free to schedule a meeting; my calendar is up to date.” (With any extra info about days/times that are best or if I’d prefer to wait until next week)

    You’re still doing a bit of the extra labor of initiating, but it makes it clear that I’m not going to schedule it unless they specifically ask me to.

  39. Pointy Stix*

    This letter makes my blood boil. I’m a female professional in practice with my male spouse. We’ve been at this for over 20 years, but I still get clients that think I’m his assistant, not his equal.

  40. Zap R.*

    Ah, the dreaded “mental load.” Can’t escape it at home, can’t escape it at work.

    Funny how the same guys who think our lady brains are too small for leadership roles also think we’re the only ones capable of arranging everyone’s schedules and planning everyone’s events.

  41. English Rose*

    For those of us who’ve been in the workforce for a good long while there’s also the effect of having had good administrators who organise things. I had that luxury for years. But now many companies are cutting back on administrative staff and executives are expected to be more self-sufficient.
    I reckon there’s something similar to what people have discussed around the ‘magic’ of Mom clearing up so kids reach adulthood without realising clothes don’t iron themselves. When those of us a bit longer in the tooth have their (usually female) Admins taken away, not everyone understands they now have to do a lot of the work that was previously hidden. And as others have said, socialisation and strategic helplessness looks to another female to take on the role.

  42. Edward John Williams*

    I am reminded of 4th grade (1954). Teacher (female): “Now, you boys come up front and I’ll show you what’s inside a flashlight to make it light up! Suzie, please erase the blackboard. Jane, please feed the goldfish…..”

  43. Louise Luau*

    I’ve stuggled with this too, as a woman in a very male-dominated field. I used to see it as a bit insulting but now understand it is part of being a consciencious person, because guess what, I recently had a male supervisor face the same challenges!
    I haven’t gone through all the comments yet, to get some tips, but Alison provided some great advice.
    I can also recommend a book I recently read and recommend, called The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women’s Dead-End Work
    It is fairly recent and helps categorize and prioritize what tasks are “promotable” so it can help figure out strategies.

  44. Despachito*

    I think this is definitely a socialization thing.

    I lost my mother pretty soon and I grew up with my father. I was NEVER expected to cook or clean or do chores, our house was a mess and we basically did not care. This is where I learned that some things are NOT NECESSARY OR IMPORTANT and that you absolutely can survive a messy household with no harm at all.

    Therefore I have never felt the urge of cleaning after other people because I never thought (and was never taught to think) that would somehow be my responsibility. I also never thought that it is my responsibility what my husband is wearing – he is an adult perfectly capable to handle this for himself. (And because he does not expect it from me, I am capable and willing to do things such as sew a pair of pants for him, but as a favour, not as a duty).

    I think part of what was described here is due to women actively jumping in because they have been socialized to think this is on them… but it isn’t, and we absolutely should resist the urge to do so.

  45. BellyButton*

    I work for a global tech company- the majority of employees are engineers and software developers. When we were doing renovations to the main North American headquarters the CEO said “we should get some of the women together to help pick paint colors and artwork.”

    *squinty eyes* I said ” Why did you say women instead of employees? What makes you think any of the women engineers and software developers have any interest or time in this?”

    He was appropriately shamed and didn’t bring it up again.

    I coach women entering the workforce on not feeling obligated to take on the office housekeeping and to be careful about volunteering for these things right off the bat until they see how their team handles it. A good sentence to memorize is “I don’t mind {taking notes/scheduling/ordering lunch} this time, but I would like someone else to take that on for the next meeting or to make sure we rotate so that one person doesn’t always get stuck with it.”

    1. Despachito*


      This should be done EVERY TIME when someone does such a gendered assumption.

      I just cannot wrap my head around why I, as a woman, should be picking something I know nothing about or care about.

  46. Sarita*

    I have started to tell, not ask, male colleagues, to set up meeting. “Hey, find a time on my calendar that works for you next week. Let me know if you’re struggling to find time, and I’ll let you know which times I could change.” In the case of introducing two colleagues, I will usually say, “I will leave it up to you to find a time to meet up.”

  47. Elle*

    I am so glad this is being discussed! This isn’t as pervasive in my workplace as it seems to be at that of the LW- I notice it coming slightly more often from folks (so far, always men) who are newer to my org, early in their careers, or otherwise a little insecure/shy. I send countless messages along the lines of “yep, my calendar is up to date, feel free to send an invite for a time that works for you!” I might be too stubborn because I’ve never really considered just going ahead and scheduling the meeting myself to save time to be an option, haha!

  48. Choggy*

    My boss asked me just today if I wanted to manage the team’s schedules for coverage because one person did not communicate (again) that he would be out so we had to scramble (I ended up covering only as long as I could then left). I am the most senior person on my team, but am still the default for the administrative tasks but I now speak up loudly and clearly that everyone is quite capable of doing the same task. Unless we speak up, or better yet, not say a word and just let the balls drop like others do, nothing will change.

  49. What She Said*

    Scheduling and setting up meetings is actually part of my job but what I don’t do is hound people. You want the meeting great here are some options which do you want? No response, no meeting. How do you want it set up? No response, no tables/chair set up. Do you want snacks, coffee, etc? No response, no snacks, etc. It really is liberating to let things fall.

    On a personal note, after repeatedly telling my hubby I was not his mother and would not make his doctor/dentist/eye appointments I got a petty the next time he asked me to. Scheduled his appointment at 7 am the very next day, told him after the office had closed so he couldn’t reschedule it, and he was not willing to pay the fee for “no show” so he had to go. He never asked me to make another appointment for him.

    OP, I’d be tempted to pull something similar in your case but that’s just me being petty.

  50. Tuba*

    If I do the gendered tasks folks want me to do, I’m more likely to advance on tracks that are lower paying and not my area of interest, even if I’m invited to the meeting and applauded for the work. I’d be designated a rockstar, but not for the skills I want to be seen as a rockstar for. I’d have less time to develop the skills I actually want to develop. Maybe some places do advance everyone equally for the “gruntwork.” I’ve not seen it.

    Or…I can not do the gendered tasks and not be seen as the team player.

    Have I done my fairshare of notetaking for the very reason of getting my foot in the door you mention? Yep. Has it worked out for me? Somewhat. At my last job everyone adored me. They know they could go to me for the notes, the meeting setup, the scheduling jigsaw puzzles. But I was in a research role. Nobody would help me develop in those areas (I don’t mean to come across as whiny here and act as if I’m entitled to help, but the employer bragged NONSTOP about their on the job training so it would have been reasonable). I got promoted three times in three years level success, and it was unprecedented in the 10,000k+ people company. With each promotion I got closer to a track I had no interest in and picked up additional tasks that weighed on me, mostly with the expectation of still doing the main job description at the same time. I underpaid on top of all that, so I left. It’s women who need to make these decisions. I’d be lying if I said being hired to do quant analysis and being applauded for my ability to set up a google calendar didn’t impact my soul in a negative way. The level of condescension can be overwhelming. Leaving that role was a wonderful decision.

  51. Mehitabel*

    Yeah… another male blind spot is straightening up a meeting room after the meeting is over. I used to have my male subordinates sit in a meeting, led/facilitated by me, and then just get up and walk out, leaving me to clear coffee cups and napkins, wipe the table down, and wipe off the whiteboard.

    And then one day I just decided I was done with that. The meeting ended, they got up and made for the door and I said “Hold it just one minute. Starting today, you are going to share the responsibility for leaving the meeting room clean at the end of each of our meetings. I don’t care who does it, I don’t care how you decide to share the task, I just know that I have cleaned up after you lot for the last time.” And I walked out and left them to it.

    1. BellyButton*

      I have literally said “Excuse me, Throw away your garbage from the table. I am not picking up after grown adults.”

      Some of being that direct comes with experience and seniority, but I want to model that for those coming up after us so hopefully, when they have been working as long as I have they aren’t still putting up with this bull.

    2. Ellie*

      Lol, I had a meeting like that this week. One of the men there mentioned that the same mars bar wrapper was still on the table from last week. I laughed, said, ‘wonder who did that’, and ignored him.

      He dropped it of course, but my next go to, if they suggest I do it, is to play the dumb questions game. “Why do I need to clean up?” “I’m really busy with X, why is it my responsibility to clean up after you guys?” “I’m not a team player? Because I don’t tidy the office for the menfolk?” “I want to be known for my engineering skills, not for being a doormat”. But seriously – it almost never gets to that level.

  52. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

    Hm. I don’t really have too much of an issue getting the guys to schedule calls and send invites. Most will. I do run into it more with those higher up, like VP level and up, and for some inexplicable reason, the sales account directors who are notorious for doing as little “in-house” stuff as possible.

    I have been tasked to take notes, sometimes it made sense (I was only there to listen in) but often not. This didn’t stop until a sales assistant was hired.

  53. nnn*

    I’m reminded of two sisters-in-law I know (i.e. their husbands are brothers) who decided that they’re going to stop planning visits on their husbands’ behalf. If the two brothers want to see each other, they can do the work!

    They ended up not visiting in person for YEARS! (And this was all before the pandemic)

    1. Payne's Grey*

      I do this with my husband’s family. I’m not personally invested in how often they get together – I am absolutely not going to care more than he does! So yeah, years can go by. I just assume they’re all OK with that, and that if not they can talk to each other about it.

      1. Despachito*

        I think this is exactly the attitude that is needed.

        The key thing is – why should I be more invested in your affairs than you are?

  54. Karen*

    I will never forget the meeting I attended years ago where, during the break, the senior man who had organized the whole thing was actually cleaning up the coffee cups around the table. I had never seen that before, and have never seen it again. I have lived with men who completely take on cleaning tasks at home without blinking an eye – it’s part of the task of a two-adult household. But only that one time ever in an office.

  55. sometimeswhy*

    There’s a meeting I attend a few times a year between multiple organizations that is about 60/40 women/men. The person in charge of it right now is a guy. He schedules is and then always, always asks for volunteers for note keeping. I told my boss (and one of my reports who also attends to be an example for her) that I will take notes under one of two conditions: (1) all the men have taken notes (2) there is a rota that includes everyone.

    We had two women volunteer early on and no one else since so the meeting leader does it and complains the whole time about how bad he is at it. The rest of us literally just stare at our cameras when it comes up, we don’t even pretend to be preoccupied.

    I also make heavy use of the, “my calendar is current, feel free to schedule [appropriate duration]” to avoid scheduling meetings for people.

  56. Danielle*

    Great advice as always! I do think in the one case, though, it seems like it was supposed to be a call between *all three of them* (in which she would make introductions) which was why she felt like she couldn’t just drop it?

  57. Ruh Roh Raggy*

    I worked in a role where this was exacerbated by an ambiguous job description – everyone was expecting that people with my title would set up meetings, whether or not we even needed to be in the meeting! It was infuriating. I was only somewhat successful in deflecting, but in addition to the “My calendar is up to date ” trick, I also employed, “Oh, you’re the person most familiar with the audience for this meeting- why don’t you set it up?” I have spent more than half an hour trying to find a time slot for an individual meeting.

    shocker: people still don’t understand the purpose of my old role, and I found a better fit with a different title at the same company.

  58. Raida*

    I fixed this issue for myself by saying “you can see my calendar, set up a time that works for you” and a follow-up with “Thursday arvo looks good to me” – but never any action to arrange the meeting myself.

    And anyone who asks me to do it (that isn’t clearly rushed off their feet and in my team) I’d tell them “Oh no worries! I’ll show you how to use Scheduling Assistant, it’ll only take a few minutes! Happy to help! No no no don’t you worry I don’t mind, it’s easy you’ll see.”
    then after that any suggestions that I’d do it could be deflected back at them with “well this is good practise ain’t it! :) ”

    Or a simple, for the one person that needed it, “Hoi I am not your secretary. You want the meeting, you can see my calendar, so set it up and write a few bullet points on the agenda. If you’d like some tips just let me know, but don’t expect me to interrupt my day with tiny tasks like this you can do yourself.” when my manager was sitting *right there next to me* so that guy could see I wasn’t out of line – what’s he gonna do, tell me he thinks my time should be wasted because his is too important? with my manager there? Nup.

  59. Nancy*

    Stop volunteering to do it, even if it’s faster. Send your calendar info to the person that requested the meeting and then leave it alone. Introduce the two people to each other than remove yourself from the email. If someone asks you if they should set up a call, say yes and leave it alone. People keep deferring to you because you keep doing it. If these are not your meetings, then they are not your responsibility.

  60. Tegan Keenan*

    Fellow female senior manager at a nonprofit here.

    Although I agree with the gender politics around admin tasks, I’m not reading anything in the OP’s letter that indicates that’s the primary issue in *this particular situation.* Like any woman, OP HAS experienced this kind of gendered bs throughout her career, and I feel like she’s conflating that bs with this situation without examining her part.

    What I’m reading is that OP has a very low tolerance for scheduling that occurs in a manner or on a timeline that does not align with her preferences. And I suspect that her colleagues have very quickly learned this about her and find it easier to just let her do it. The people who report to her are probably well aware of her preferences and know they need to just schedule all the things without being asked, which is why she doesn’t experience the issue with them.

    Let’s play this out: OP said, “Or they will ask an unnecessary ‘Do you want me to set up a conference line?’ once the time is already set. If I say yes, I would still need to reply as well as hold the time on my own calendar until they get back with one, so it is often faster just to send the invite myself.”

    Why is that question *unnecessary*? The team agrees, yes, Tuesday at 2 works for all of us. Male colleague says, “want me to set up a conference line?” OP *just sends the invite herself* because she feels it will take more time to reply “Yes, Doug, that would be great.” If I were Doug, that would only have to happen to me once before I decided, geez, OP thinks she needs to schedule all the meetings, so I’m just gonna let her.

    Maybe when Doug asked about the conference line, what he actually meant was, “do we think the conference line is the right format for this meeting? Or should we try to do in person? Or via Zoom?” Or maybe Doug is a misogynistic dick who is trying to get out of the task because he believes scheduling meetings is beneath him. But I’m just not seeing data in OP’s letter to support the gendered assumption.

    Similarly, with the introducing colleagues situation, maybe the colleagues decided they were fine getting to know each other via email first and a call wasn’t preferable. Or maybe when the colleague asked for the email introduction, that’s all he wanted and OP assumed he wanted a call. I hate phone calls with people I don’t know well. I’m kind of baffled why OP thinks the parties were expecting her to schedule a call for them.

    There may be a lot more nuance not in the letter that would convince me OP is getting stuck with meeting scheduling because all her male colleagues are jerks. But I’m not seeing it. It looks to me like OP is training people to let her do the scheduling.

  61. Bernadette*

    “Can you set up a conference line by yourself or do you need my help?”

    If the latter, walk them through it like a parent choo-choos food into a baby’s mouth.

  62. LittleMarshmallow*

    I honestly find the easiest trick is to ask them to set up the meetings when it makes sense. When we finish a discussion that requires follow up and it seems like no one is going to schedule it, I often do a meeting sum up and include and assignment to someone to schedule a follow-up. And as Allison says, don’t volunteer when it doesn’t make sense. Especially for meetings you don’t even need to go to (there are exceptions to this – for an early career direct report I will often set up their trainings and meet-ups for them rather than expecting others to reach out to them. That’s about the only one though, I’ve don’t it before when I was very frustrated that two people weren’t doing something but that’s like a once ever 2-3 year occurrence and only for very important things).

  63. Nancy L*

    There’s some really good research about how this kind of dynamic plays out in the workplace, and how managers can cope with it. Check out a new book by the researchers, The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women’s Dead-End Work. The publisher has a website for the book:

  64. no one reads this far*

    Funny LW #2, I quit a job and ended up in manufacturing and the environment there is soooo much better than any past job I’ve had. Management is level-headed, the environment is extremely welcoming, and the only yelling I hear is people shouting over the noise of the machines.

  65. Angstrom*

    Wow. This is a complete nonissue where I work. Everyone shares Outlook calendars, has the Zoom plugin in the toolbar and is expected to schedule their own meetings.
    Occasionally my boss or grandboss asks me to set one up when they’re rushed — and it’s a meeting I’m going to be in — but most of the time they do their own.

    Send them a how-to link? ;-)

  66. CatLady*

    This might get lost in the sea of responses but: “My Calendar is up to date”.

    If I want a meeting, I set it up. If someone else wants a meeting I respond as above. Depending on the context, sometimes I’ll say: “Please feel free to setup some time on my Calendar. It is always up to date”. And then I leave it up to them – I don’t chase them down. It works surprisingly well.

  67. Veryanon*

    If someone is requesting to meet with me (I’m a woman), I always tell them my calendar is up to date and to feel free to find some time. If I’m the one requesting the meeting, I schedule it. This seems to work well for me; it never occurred to me that male colleagues were waiting for me to schedule things, but in retrospect, I can think of a few instances where this has clearly happened. I’ll be more conscious of this going forward.

  68. MurpMaureep*

    One strategy I’ve used to fight assumption about who does “women’s work” in office settings is to simply call it out when it happens.

    It helps when you have some level of authority or seniority, but never miss an opportunity to say things like “what a shock, the only people cleaning up after lunch are women” or “don’t feel obligated to volunteer for party planning, I know that frequently falls to women” or “only Susan, Talia, and Lyta have signed up for the potluck. John, Stephen, and Michael, why don’t you also bring something?”. It makes people sit up and take notice. And it’s fun to see men squirm when this is pointed out directly and often.

    In terms of the specific issue of being expected to take on all the scheduling, as many have said, just don’t do it and act surprised when it’s assumed or implied that you will. At first it might feel weird, but soon it will likely feel great!

    1. CatLady*

      OMG I did this once. I’m usually oblivious and only realize a gender slant after the situation happens but I caught this one. We were in a great all day internal summit with 30 or so people – all male but 3 (I think). It was at the end where we were all getting along well but rather punchy. The leader was starting a brainstorming session and asked me directly to take notes. At the time I was chatting with another female in the room (facing behind me) and I remember so clearly turning to look at the leader (who I liked and got along with) and said something like – “Really? You ask one of the only 3 women in the room to take notes?” Everyone, including him, laughed but you could tell he was taken aback. Then one of the guys volunteered and we moved on.

      Plot twist – that leader ended up being my boss 3 months later due to an org change and we both got a VERY good laugh out of it. No, he didn’t know this would happen when we first met at the summit.

      To be fair, after knowing him a while, it likely wasn’t a gender thing. We got along real well even during the summit and I think he genuinely wanted me (the person, not the female) to take notes. He even apologized to me directly at the end of the day and again, where I told him to not worry about it and I wasn’t really upset.

  69. Lifeandlimb*

    Thanks so much for publishing this! I noticed this a lot coming up in several workplaces, and it actually caused me to change careers to avoid becoming a “high ranking” person doing mainly gendered, admin-assistant-type tasks. It wasn’t what I wanted in general, but it also made me a little uncomfortable as a woman.

    Some things are reinforced when we don’t say anything; let’s share the load more evenly.

  70. Jazz and Manhattans*

    One thing I do when I’m introducing people via email is I complete the intros then state, “I will step aside now and let you set up a time to meet/continue to chat, etc.”. This way I can ignore subsequent emails and even ask to be dropped if they don’t remove me.

  71. Quickbeam*

    Late in the game. I retired last year. Early in my work for this company, people noted that I was the first in the office every day to get some quiet. No fewer than 4 male colleagues suggested that it would be nice if I got the coffee going in the break room. My reply was: “I don’t drink coffee”. No sorry or regrets. Did people think I was a PIA? Probably. Not caring.

  72. A woman*

    I don’t even say “can you please” and “would you mind…”. I go with the “please set up/ check my calendar” because I’m going for the of course he’ll do it (and the politeness is there with the please).

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