The trap of service tasks that take time and energy but are not considered to be significant in promotion decisions was addressed in a recent article in Nature [https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-03677-6]. The authors describe themselves as the “No Club” because they have both experienced and researched the ineffectual advice to women academics of “just say no” to service tasks that don’t advance careers. They state: “The underlying reason is simple and sad: we all expect women to take on this work, which is why we ask them more often and judge them harshly when they say no.“
Although members of the No Club often get better at saying no to unrewarded work such as serving on university committees, this does not stem the flow of requests. Further, an unintended consequence of saying no is that another woman is often asked. Therefore, the authors discuss the need for university leaders to develop other solutions that don’t always place women (and other underrepresented groups) in the position of declining requests and being perceived negatively for doing so.
Leaders can help by transparently tracking “asks” and assignments, such as through a shared Google Sheet or another dashboard, and by developing task-sharing strategies so that one demographic group is not burdened more than another. Succeeding in doing this may minimize the need for a “No Club”!
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