Who’s taking notes in your meeting? Here's how tasks get unfairly distributed at work.

For marginalized employees, doing “glamour work” as opposed to office housework is the key to succeeding in the workplace.

“Seen, Heard, and Paid: The New Work Rules for the Marginalized” by Alan Henry.

"Dissecting who gets what work, why, and how both employees and managers can assign work more fairly is essential to making sure everyone has the opportunity to bring their fullest selves to their jobs."

Image: Rodale; Protocol

The following is an excerpt from “Seen, Heard, and Paid: The New Work Rules for the Marginalized” by Alan Henry. The book is available June 7.

RULE 5: Office Housework Will Never Get You Ahead (Getting the glamour work)

Think about your previous jobs. Have you ever had someone who everyone in your organization looked up to as the “office mom”? Was it you? Maybe that person scheduled the meetings, organized the calendars, ordered lunch for those meetings, took notes or minutes, and sent out agendas before and after those gatherings. Maybe they kept the supply closet stocked, kept pain medication on hand in case a coworker needed it, or knew the best place to get the good coffee. Maybe it was this individual’s job to know and do all these things, and the person was an administrative assistant for your team. But maybe — and, sometimes, more likely — they were a team member who just picked up those additional responsibilities on top of the work they were already doing.

Now think about those previous jobs again. Odds are, you never had an “office dad,” whose job it was to do all those same things, unless he really was an administrative assistant. Before we go too much further, think about that for a moment. Why is it so often the women on your team who are responsible for making sure guests have access to the Wi-Fi, for taking notes during the team meeting, or for coming in early to bring bagels and coffee? This story may be familiar to some of you, and it has happened to more people than I can count, especially women of color and other women in the workplace.

Ruchika Tulshyan, CEO of Candour, has written extensively about the dichotomy between office housework and glamour work. She explained why you’ve probably never seen an office dad. It is, she told me, “very much due to prevailing gender expectations of women being helpful and nurturing. It’s harmful and unnecessary; we need managers to keep an eye out for office housework and ensure it’s being assigned fairly, not along gender and racial lines.” That kind of housework — the note taking, mass emailing, snack getting, calendar managing, and so forth — is all work that keeps the team running smoothly, so someone needs to do it. And it’s still seen as women’s work.

Joan C. Williams and Marina Multhaup, writing in the Harvard Business Review about research from the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California, are credited for coming up with the term “office housework” to refer to the kind of admin work that “keeps things moving forward, like taking notes or finding a time everyone can meet” and “work that’s important but undervalued, like initiating new processes or keeping track of contracts.” And, of course, office housework is work that needs to be done but doesn’t make the company money. And because it is seldom directly tied to company goals or performance indicators, it’s “far less likely to result in a promotion than chairing an innovation or digital transformation committee,” say Williams and Multhaup.

Contrast office housework with work that earns people promotions, is noticed by management, and makes the company money. Williams and Multhaup call that kind of work “glamour work” and describe it in Harvard Business Review as work that “gives you the opportunity to stretch your skills with a new challenge and can lead to your next promotion. It’s the project for a major client, the opportunity to build out a new team, or the chance to represent the company at an industry conference.” In other words, glamour work is work you want to spend your time doing. It’s the stuff you want to do, as opposed to the stuff you have to do, and it’s the work that truly deserves your time.

I contacted Williams to talk about the concept of office housework versus glamour work, and she explained that it was actually her daughter’s idea. “My daughter and I coined the term office housework in 2014,” she said. “Little did I know that seven years later, male reporters would be calling me and knowing all about it. I was going like, ‘Well, that’s successful dissemination.’”

Glamour work contributes to reaching superstar status

So in short, office housework may be the things that have to get done, but that work is often in the background, away from the eyes of decision makers. And while it may keep the organization or team working smoothly toward the group’s collective goals, office housework is highly unlikely to be the kind of thing brought up at your next performance review. Nor will it earn you accolades from your colleagues (at least, not until you leave the job, and everyone says that they don’t know how they’ll get by without you).

Glamour work, on the other hand, gets you promoted and earns you fame either on your team or across the company and even potential appreciation across your whole industry as a subject-matter expert. It turns individual contributors into valued “superstar” workers with more job security than others, because managers will actively notice the superstars’ absence and will have to fill the hole they leave behind if they exit the company or are poached by a competitor.

Williams and Multhaup’s research also indicates that women and workers of color are often assigned the office housework. Unfortunately, scheduling appointments, drafting memos, and taking care of the collective needs of the team always seem to fall to the women team members, including women of color and younger women. Meanwhile, white and male coworkers are often given (or assume for themselves) the glamour work, regardless of whether their qualifications or desires are appropriate. So dissecting who gets what work, why, and how both employees and managers can assign work more fairly is essential to making sure everyone has the opportunity to bring their fullest selves to their jobs.

Adapted from SEEN, HEARD, AND PAID copyright © 2022 by Alan Henry. Used by permission of Rodale Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep ReadingShow less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep ReadingShow less
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep ReadingShow less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.


Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories