5 Shockingly Outdated Problems Modern Women Face At Work

Working women have come a long way from the days when fetching the boss a scotch and getting a smack on the ass was considered team building. Sure, there's still the odd awful incident, like the case of a woman who was fired from her job for being too attractive, but in general, women can consider themselves equal to their male colleagues in every way. Except for all the ways they still aren't.

Now, there tends to be a knee-jerk reaction to lists like this from many readers, often because dudes can read these as personal accusations. ("I've never sabotaged a woman in my life! Stop yelling at me!") But we're not accusing anybody here. Most of the headwinds women face when trying to advance in the workplace exist due to cultural inertia. This is how we've always done it, and fundamental habits are hard as shit to change (for evidence, read the comments on any similar article).

But regardless of who is or isn't at fault, the data says ...

#5. Women Get Stuck With "Office Housework" Which They Can't Refuse Without Damaging Their Careers

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Everyone in your department's gathered for a meeting, when someone points out that there's no coffee. A meeting without coffee is like a wedding without an open bar, but the secretary's on the phone with a client and the unpaid intern is out in the woods somewhere looking for leprechaun gold for the amusement of the rest of the office. So the task inevitably falls to whichever woman happens to be closest to the coffeemaker, regardless of whether they're the newbie or the highest-ranking person in the room.

It's called office housework, and it also includes meeting preparation and notes, party planning, convincing people that the party won't be a tedious waste of time, etc. Basically, it's all the crap that no one wants to do but is absolutely essential for keeping an office humming along smoothly. The problem is that women get stuck with it disproportionately, even when their pay grade should put them far beyond menial duties. Yeah, that murder trial tomorrow is important and you should prepare for it tonight, but Steve's birthday cupcakes aren't going to bake themselves!

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"Please try to save one; my client's going to need some cheering up when he gets the death penalty."

It's a subject no one wants to put any thought or effort into, so women get stuck with it by default because we still see housework as a woman's chore ... even if said woman could be making a few hundred bucks spending an hour with a client instead of explaining to her underlings that eight cheese dips and 12 deserts don't constitute an appropriate potluck.

These are utterly thankless responsibilities that stick women in a no-win situation. Sure, Steve will have nice things to say about your cupcakes, but unless he's on the compensation committee, that not's going to do any tangible good. Women don't get brownie points for doing office housework, but they will get called out if the quality of their real work slips because they've lost a few hours to putting up the office Christmas decorations. But if they turn down these extra responsibilities, they're viewed as selfish by their colleagues, while men can say no and suffer zero consequences.

David Woolley/DigitalVision/Getty Image
"You want me to make cupcakes? Like, with my penis? Don't be absurd!"

As with much of this list, there's no conspiracy or even malicious intent here -- men simply figure that if women didn't enjoy these extra tasks, then they'd just say no. So unless they want to bluntly spell out the problem to their co-workers, women essentially have to resort to trickery, like making themselves scarce when an assignment comes up or volunteering for a new task and then introducing a rotation system as part of their approach. Alternatively, they could start gently poisoning the cupcakes.

#4. Women Lose Their Workplace Ambition Much More Rapidly Than Men (Because They Are Constantly Discouraged)

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Seeing as how there's a good chance that you're reading this at work, you're well aware that a person's passion for a job tends to fade with time. Whether it's people getting promoted ahead of you, no one appreciating your contributions in last year's laser tag challenge, or simple burnout, a worker's ambitions tend to slowly wither as the months and years go by. And assuming you've been paying attention, you can probably guess how this varies by gender.

Women with under two years of work experience start out slightly more ambitious than men, but that hopefulness is quickly drained out of them, as if by a sad vampire. After two years, the average women's aspirations and confidence plummet by 60 percent and 50 percent, respectively. Men, meanwhile, only experience a 10 percent drop, possibly because they see all their female colleagues losing interest in getting promoted and figure that it improves their odds. Senior managers of both genders fare better, but when it comes to upward mobility, men are almost twice as confident.

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"Soon, I'll be assistant head mail room boy. Suck on that, Susan."

Why the disparity? It's not due to women getting married and having kids. It seems to come down to workplace culture. Most companies are run by white men, who tend to celebrate the hard work and achievements of their bros. New workers of both genders say that they fit the model of success for their employer and that their supervisors are supportive of their career goals, but after a few years, women report their feelings of support as having dropped significantly, while men lose almost nothing. Some women are told they're not cut out for high-level work, or that they "don't really want it," because there aren't already enough examples of women being told what they really want. Two-thirds of male managers don't even like giving career counselling to younger women because they figure it's a waste of time.

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"Your work, training, and actual requests say 'promotion,' but your slightly slumped shoulders are bumming me the fuck out. Sorry."

It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Companies are run by men, who equate the stereotypical manly traits that got them their jobs with what it takes to be successful. So they focus on promoting men who share those traits, which discourages women, which makes them less ambitious and more likely to lose their loyalty to a company, which reinforces the belief that only men are cut out for the job. Then there's the still-prevailing attitude that women need to make career sacrifices for their families, whereas men do not. This often ends up being the case -- because of the aforementioned wall that women hit in their careers that their husbands don't experience, they wind up getting put in the housekeeping role by default. Again, cause and effect are backwards.

To reiterate, there's no cabal of males meeting in backrooms trying to find ways to keep women out of the corner office (or if there is, they're not the bulk of the problem). It's just easy for men to say, "Well, I'm good at my job, so my replacement should be someone exactly like me." And that unbroken chain of men putting their careers before their families becomes proof that only men who put their careers before their families are fit for leadership positions. Women look at that chain and can't help but lose confidence and ambition, whereas the men in the chain have their beliefs confirmed, and the cycle continues until we either get serious about addressing it or all get replaced by robots.

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"ManagerBot 47 Alpha only promoted Worker Bot 1837 Gamma because
they were manufactured on the same assembly line. This is such bullshit."

#3. Women Are Judged Negatively When Taking Credit For Their Work

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Asking workers in group projects who contributed the most will start more controversy than if you ask everyone to share their thoughts on abortion. People are great at overestimating their contributions, as anyone who went to college and stayed up all night doing an entire project while their "friends" got drunk and then bragged about the "A" knows. So when it comes to figuring out which employees are the most valuable, things are messy from the get-go because of our own biases. We can turn to neutral bystanders to monitor projects and resist the allure of vending machine bribes, but women face extra obstacles when it comes to promoting their hard work and taking credit for a job well done (or at least less lazily done than everyone else).

When a dude and a lady work together on a project that requires stereotypically masculine qualities -- like leadership, decision-making, or farting -- observers of both genders tend to give the woman less credit. To add insult to insult, observers also rate women as less competent than their male partners. Past successes help offset this bias (that is, women are assumed incompetent until proven otherwise, while a man with a blank slate is given the benefit of the doubt), but don't even think about bragging about those past successes if you're female.

Ingram Publishing/Ingram Publishing/Getty Images
"I got to work on time and had a healthy lunch!"
"Your car and salad were both made by men. Nice try, Sheila."

Immodest women (which in this context refers to women who are open about their contributions; not women who roller skate into the office wearing nipple pasties and Daisy Dukes) are penalized in the workplace. This is doubly crippling when you consider how self-promotion is an important way to move up. After all, five minutes after you leave your busy manager's office, he's going to forget that you hit that tight deadline or took that bullet for him unless you constantly remind him of it. But women who are modest about their contributions get paid more than women who self-advocate, even though the opposite is true for men. Women who act as their own hype man are seen as more competent, but they're also rated less favorably in "hireability" and "social attraction," because ultimately we don't want to work around people who make us uncomfortable. And in this world, ambitious men are seen as badasses, while ambitious women are frigid shrews.

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You might have picked up on that recently.

No one wins here. Women have to stay quiet about work they're proud of and hope that someone important takes notice, and everyone has to put up with the loud braggart of the office getting rewarded for stuff he didn't truly accomplish. But while women take less credit when they work with men, that gap disappears when it's only women collaborating. So we guess no good work goes unrecognized at all those major corporations dominated by women.

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