Guest post: Cooking the stats

Originally a comment by iknklast on Men work harder.

Number of hours worked does not necessarily correlate with how hard one works. And another thing – those numbers are very close together – it seems very likely that the variation around the mean is such that it may not be significant. Although I realize this is anecdotal evidence, I have never been in a job where the men worked more hours than the women. And my ex (as well as my current husband before he retired) put in substantially fewer hours per day/week/month than I did.

As for women taking off more time, that might be, but again, my own experience suggests that there may be more to this story. I suspect it is noticed more when women take off any significant amount of time. At one job, I was chastised for “abuse of leave”. I took off an hour early three times during my seven month tenure because I had surgery right before I began working there, and had to have physical therapy; occasionally I could not get an appointment either before or after work hours. On those days I had to leave early, I came in early. When my boss was counting up my absences, she counted each of those hours as an entire day. Meanwhile, my male colleague, who had a heart problem, was frequently absent for doctor appointments, and would be absent sometimes for a half day, which got counted by the boss as a couple of hours. Our boss magnified every absence for the females employees, and minimized every absence for the males. If this sort of thing is common (and it has happened at most of my jobs, though not usually as blatant), it could be skewing the results of the survey. In fact, my boss at my current job required me to sign out a half day absence if I left 15 minutes early; it wasn’t until I spoke with one of the males, who told me that our contract did not require us to sign for absence unless we were gone more than 2 hours (and the men knew this; the women did not). And you couldn’t sign out for 15 minutes of leave; it was half a day. So my absences, which are almost non-existent, were magnified to look like I was taking off an entire day a semester instead of leaving 15 minutes early twice (and working through my lunch, so the work got done).

And yes, women are doing more of the childcare. When I was going to the hospital in labor, my husband was informed he should come in as soon as I gave birth; since that ended up being 8 hours later, he actually did get to take the full day. When we made an agreement that we would alternate taking care of our son when he was sick with the chicken pox, he was told by his boss that he could not take off for that – it was his wife’s job. I had to take off.

And when I got home, like most women, I had another shift to work. I picked the son up at the day care. I stopped at the grocery store. I cooked dinner. I washed the dishes. I put the dishes away. I did the laundry, dusted, and swept. Meanwhile, my husband and son sat in front of the TV together. (And I was working 2 hours a day more at work than he was, too). Then he complained to everyone he knew that he was tired of doing half the housework! His only real chores consisted of making the bed in the morning (because he was still in it when I left for work) and dropping off the son at daycare (because it wasn’t open yet when I left for work).

Again, I realize this is all anecdotal, but I also realize that many of these facts may be skewed by perceptions. I get suspicious whenever I see a study that flies in the face of everything I have known, and what I have known is women working just as long as men, and usually longer, and doing as much work in an hour as many of the men did in two. So I have to look at the data and ask the hard questions – how did they compile it? Who compiled it? What is the reality behind the single numbers given – variations on the mean, range, etc – and what assumptions were built in.

Sorry for the tirade. I’m currently spending my entire summer vacation working long hours, and this sort of BS irks me.

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