The female 9-5 mentality or of cheerleaders and football players


I recently had this kind of conversation with several men from different directions and thought I would like to get an input from you as well.

It is about women in the workplace not wanting to invest time “after work hours” for their job as well as complaining to their significant others if they do.

I am in the lucky position to now do what my passion is. Which also means that it is possible to work with a client and send her or him a link / text in the middle in the night because it fits the project we are working on. I am not “still” working, but it is part of my life. (There is the discussion about separation of life and work and balance but let’s leave that for another time).

I also had this when I still was employed. If I would see something interesting, I would forward it to somebody even if it was work related and I was ‘off duty’. I always enjoyed reading books on business rather than novels, and never had this strict ‘oh my god it is 5 o clock, I have to leave the building!”. But it seems as if my kind of behaviour is odd – especially for a woman. It made me reflect on some of the conversations I had over the years and let me give you the following, (from my experience) very typical examples.

As I said, I like to hand out texts and links I come across. I never had a guy not say thank you and leave it at that, but women would complained to me, one even saying “when am I supposed to look at that – in my free time?!”; very loud for everybody to hear. Guess how often I gave her something again.

My brother took home for christmas a very thick book about his profession – not what he is doing now but what he could use tomorrow. I said that I am very proud of him that he actually does this, but a female friend of mine only had the reaction of “but it is christmas! he should be talking to you and the family!”. He did and we had splendid conversations, but still there was some time slots where he just had time and read his book. But my friends position was, he should not even had brought it there. She would never do so.

When meeting with guys after work, there is no problem switching back and forth between work stuff and other stuff whereas women tend to enforce “this is work free time! Don’t talk business! Let’s do that tomorrow!” and get grumpy when you still slip back to work stuff as if this is offending – but this kind of time is the best time to do networking. So what do men do when they are between themselves? Network. What do they do when women are around? They don’t because the women complain. Which loss is it? The womens.

If training is offended but it runs in the evening, the weekend, the women are more likely to complain about the unfair “use of their free time” and “but i have to do shopping / home work” whereas men just say “cool idea! when shall I be there?” and find another way to do shopping and homework. My former employee had a version where he would pay for the teachers and rooms and you with your free time, a good deal I thought. Most women where about “but it is my free time, I am not paid for this! Why should I go there?”. To learn something, stupid? These are just a few examples where women pass on opportunities but later complain about being left out.

Take conferences as well. Yes of course it is annoying to travel a lot around, but the people I meet at conferences, the conversations and contacts I get out of it are worth it every time. There is never a discussion with a men about his – but always with women. (My favourite: But you could do something useful during that time, like working on your social life in Lübeck. Yeah right, as if there is much people to connect with here in my area of expertise.)

Also, even if this is not the how they want to spend their time, I am amazed how often they don’t recognize the pattern. After all, men are not that complicated.

I remember vividly a female colleague complaining bitterly about her boss because he told her to show some more engagement in the work place and stay longer in the afternoon. She was referred to another colleague as good example. “But doesn’t the boss see that I come at 7 in the morning and then leave at 16:30 in the afternoon already doing overtime! I should not be told to look at the other guy who comes at 8:55 and leaves at 18:30! I am the same time there!”. Yes, true, but the boss comes at nine and usually leaves at 18:15.

And all he sees is that she leaves in the early afternoon where as the other guy is there when he comes and is still there when he leaves.

But what it boils down to is my feeling that a lot of women want to play the game in the work place by their own rules and even though they have all the right to do so – most men play by other rules. And they recognize when somebody else is “in the team” or “in another team”.

What do you do when you have a new task / job? Do you give it to somebody who works like yourself and ticks like yourself or to somebody who ‘refuses’ to invest time in the job like you do?

It strikes me that a lot of women refuse a lot of possibilities. If all you do is your job or if you are paid to do that, how are you supposed to enhance your knowledge / network / experience? Yes, it would be nicer if we would be paid and easier and everything, but if a boss asks you to go on a work trip and the answer is “but I would miss my yoga class!” I assume you will not be asked again.

And if the men around you show that they work on their skills in the free time, you can refuse to do so – but when push comes to shove, you will not be picked, but the other guy who invested time. And showed that he played in “the same league”. Talking to girls I see the tendency to pat each other on the back and say “of course you should not invest your free time! Right for you to do so!” whereas men tend to smirk and go their way – as women push themselves out of the race. And wonder why they do not get as far.

As I said, those are my experiences and they might be flawed, but I have had them over and over again. In a way, this is a game with rules. And as I like to say: If you want to play football, you have to train and work to play football. And not care about your cheerleader moves – because then all you will be is a cheerleader. But never a player on the field.

Thoughs? Comments?

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5 Responses to “The female 9-5 mentality or of cheerleaders and football players”

  1. I’m not sure about the relevance of the girl/boy thing in my own experiences – I am lucky enough to be surrounded by women with as much passion about their work as I have for mine and we can slip in and out of workspeak when we need to. It comes down to passion at the end of the day. I am passionate about certain things in my personal life but, for me, my ‘work’ is something about which I am more passionate than, say, who’s going to win Big Brother, where the best bars are in Glasgow or how many drinks I’ll have downed by the end of the weekend. This, btw, is what some of my colleagues bring into the workplace.

    It’s not for me to say that that’s inappopriate in the same way no-one has the right to say that it’s inappropriate for me to get passionate about my 9-5 outside those hours.

    I just feel sorry for those who don’t have this kind of enjoyment and passion out of their work that they don’t want to talk about it with the people they know.

  2. Hi Nicole,

    Like Ewan, I’m not sure this is a gender issue either. In my current job I’m strict at enforcing the number of hours a week, because it’s just a job, not a passion. I learned the hard way, years ago, that putting extra hours in and risking your health is simply not worth it. I’ve even tried studying after hours, but found that my job left me too tired to concentrate, so I’m considering full-time study now.

    Like most people on the planet, I don’t have the luxury of doing what I want to do. I read people like Kathy Sierra, who say things like “follow your passion” and “get a job that you love”, but passion doesn’t pay the bills, especially if you have no supporting source of income. Sure, I’d like to study again, do something more in line with my interests, but can I afford to take years off work to do it? It’s a big risk, one that might not pay off.

  3. “passion doesn’t pay the bills”

    Depends what the passion is. Maybe I’m lucky, but I find the more I pursue my passions the more success I encounter (the more there is to pay the bills etc etc).

  4. Scott says:

    I thought the idea of putting a brick wall between your work and your private life was more of a German thing than a male/female thing. My wife is a decision maker in a 24/7 industry. Her first work experience was in the States, and we’ve always felt that her American dedication to her job (even though she is German) has been an advantage to her.

    On the other hand for the past (how old is my son now?) seven years, because of my wife’s position and her dedication not to mention her salary), I’ve been the one to work set hours and to put family obligations ahead of work. It’s a conscious compromise. There’s no way I can lead projects or assume responsibility when I have to leave the office at 4 pm. I can contribute my skills and experience to the company, but I’m never going to move ahead, regardless of my gender.

    (The question of whether women have a fair choice between career and familiy is a different issue.)

  5. Rosie Sherry says:

    I’m convinced that it comes down to passion too. I’ve experienced both males and females lack of enthusiasm for work.

    I’m in the position where I love my work, I run a business, I put in alot of hours, however there are somethings that I will not sacrifice because I want to be able to tuck my boys into bed at night. It doesn’t stop me switching back onto work in the evenings though!

    However, on the serious note, it means that I don’t get out as much, don’t get to meet as many new people and limit myself to work opportunities. I find that if something is not local to me it just gets quite difficult to manage and attend. It’s not because I’m not interested, it just causes much more stress than pleasure!

    However, since I am keen to get involved in the community, I decided to start my own local “Brighton Girl Geek Dinners”: