How Time and Talent Affect Women and Men Differently

Much has been written recently about the different ways that women and men spend their time--particularly at home. The 2014 American Time Use Survey showed that women spend almost an hour more a day doing household chores than men. Whether it's laundry, food prep, or interior cleaning, women spend more than twice as much time doing it as men.

In case you were thinking that things must be different now, a year later, in this regard, 2015 data has revealed more of the same. A new study from Eudemonia showed that 83 percent of women versus 65 percent of men report spending some time doing household activities such as housework, cooking, and household management. The study also pointed out that while men work 30 minutes longer at the office than women, women spend twice that amount of time dealing with home-related issues.

While you may not be surprised to hear that women still do more housework, the Eudemonia study also found that there's even more to the time imbalance when you look at how each gender spends their time in the office. The study noted that leadership attributes McKinsey has found occur more commonly among women--such as people development, collaboration, inspiring others, and setting expectations--take more time than men's primary attributes, such as decision-making/control and directive action.

The report explains: "While an individual decision or directive action can be made in seconds, it can take weeks if not months in a large or virtual company today to get alignment on a new idea. Multiply that time by a considerable factor to inspire people to pay attention to it and then adapt to that change." The report goes on to note the irony that women's inherent interest in helping others develop may "be coming at the expense of their own advancement."

While we can't change gender-related attributes and would not necessarily want to, we can as individuals and organizations become more aware of the time consequences of these gender-based differences. Just as a culture of overwork may be a critical component behind women's stalled advancement, these time-related variables may be holding women back as well. If women are spending less time in the office, more time on household chores, and more time when in the office on activities that by their very nature may keep them from advancing, something must be done to offset these differences to help women leaders develop. The first step is for companies to cultivate a culture of respect for women's time as well as for men's, and to start to realistically facilitate women's advancement, while recognizing the deeply ingrained challenges that women in particular face.

Could something as simple as better understanding how we use our time help enable equal participation and pay for women? The answer is yes. Helping women as well as men prioritize and organize their time around the right types of activities to advance their careers is key to facilitating women's success in business. Since, as the report points out, "women already have more absolute, if self-imposed, demands on their time...both inside and outside of the workplace," organizations also need to start taking a more time-sensitive approach to developing women for business leadership positions.

Integrated Leadership can play a significant role in these efforts. This type of collaborative leadership model is all about replacing outdated mindsets with a more inclusive approach that combines the strengths of both genders. Today' successful organizations need to value and optimize the broader spectrum of leadership styles that may look different than they did previously. Organizations are getting flatter, more matrixed, and more global. As a consequence, the traditional "command and control" leadership style is no longer as viable as a more collaborative leadership style that prioritizes being a good listener and knowing how to engage others.

Smart organizations don't just require women to lean in, but to go "all in." That's why I encourage organizations and leadership teams to focus more on the results created by their women leaders and less on the style they use to get those results. Your female leaders might not act like your male leaders, but this does not mean they are ineffective. Part of this involves understanding how women use their time differently than men, both inside and outside the office. Leveraging gender differences such as these can become a key driver for creating a more inclusive culture that leads to greater innovation, higher engagement, and ultimately better bottom-line performance.