Breaking: Sexism is 'financially costly' / by Becca Barton

Lately, there's been a lot of talk about sexism in the workplace, and a lot of discussion around how to correct it. There are many arguments against sexism — it's wrong, women should be treated as equals, etc. These are all reasons, but are they compelling ones? I am here to argue that the most important impact sexism has on your company is a financial one. If you want to run a lean business that spends efficiently and avoids frivolous costs, eliminating sexism is a necessary step. If you have sexism in your workplace, you could be losing money right now.

What if I told you you could be wasting nearly $10k/year per employee? What if I told you that this money is going toward paying employees to do things that provide absolutely no value back to the business, and instead cut into their productivity? Unfortunately, if you have sexism in your workplace, much of your hard-earned money is being diverted toward these very things.

Skeptical? Let's dive into a breakdown of the time and costs of sexism, given a typical female employee:

  • 10min: Gap of time between woman suggesting idea in meeting, and rest of group finally hearing idea and deciding to go with it after male employee restates same idea
  • 5-25min: Rough time female employee spends repeating her question, anywhere from 1 to 100 times, until someone finally listens and answers
  • 15min: Time per day female employee spends trying to convince team that thing she just said is important and should be taken seriously
  • 5min: Per day estimate of female employee having to restart sentence after being interrupted in middle of her point by louder, more testosterone-driven colleague
  • 30min: Time female employee spends per week trying to figure out how to bring up concern without seeming pushy/bitchy/confrontational/aggressive yet still coming across as authoritative enough to be listened to
  • 5min: Time set aside per week for a woman to consider how to tactfully avoid male colleague who is getting too friendly while still keeping things light and professional
  • 10min: Time per week woman spends doing essential task(s) male coworker/boss was supposed to do, but didn't get around to
  • 5min: Accumulative time per day women spends listening as male coworker explains to her thing she already knows
  • 35min: Time per week woman spends listening with feigned interest as male coworker who likes sound of own voice continues talking, taking forever to get to point
  • 30min: Estimated time per month female employee spends crying quietly alone in the bathroom after it hits her that she's going to have to deal with being treated like this through her entire career
  • 60min: Average time per quarter a female employee spends escalating a sexism related issue to management, going through the proper avenues, and otherwise handling sexist offenses

Overall, this is an astounding 60min per day a female spends dealing with sexism. That is 260 lost hours annually. Let's assume a typical salary of $75k/year. We can break this down into an approximate hourly rate of $36.06. Some quick math reveals that annually, you are losing $9,375.6 per female employee. Keep in mind, this is time you are paying your female employee, but they are not doing any work.

And if you think these costs are constrained to female employees only, think again. Men waste nearly 200 hours per year on sexism as well. Here's the breakdown:

  • 15min per day spent ignoring ideas/thoughts/questions of female employees
  • 5min per day explaining thing to female coworker she already knows, because he is really good at explaining it
  • 25min per week spent trying to plan out cool/witty/irresistible comment to direct toward female employee so that she knows he is witty and cool and very smart
  • 10min per day interrupting female employees during meetings, to ensure they have established themselves as the loudest and most authoritative in the room
  • 10min per day being offended by tone of female employee, wondering why she's being so combative and/or whiny
  • 10min per day shirking responsibility that needs to get done, but is annoying or cumbersome, so they'll wait until female employee gets frustrated and just does it for them

This is a staggering 43min per day that you are paying your male employees to be sexist, not to work. This works out to over 186 wasted hours per year. Assuming a salary of $94k/year, which works out to an hourly rate of $45.19, that is $8,420.40 you are simply throwing away each year, per male employee. And because male employees make more money than female employees, it is actually more costly per hour to have men wasting time on sexism.

If you heard this amount of money was being spent but was providing no actual value back to your business, you would look to cut that cost immediately, wouldn't you? Moreover, this is time that your employees want to be spending on work. That's right — in a survey of U.S. employees, nearly 90% of respondents reported that they felt sexism was a poor use of their time and cut into their productivity. Again, nearly 90% of respondents said they were happier and more productive on days when they didn't have to spend time dealing with sexism. Eliminate sexism, and you gain back 1-2 hours of productivity per day, per employee. 

And the news gets worse — the losses don't stop there. If your employees are also spending time being racist, or homophobic, this is even more lost time and lost profits for you. Your money losses could be doubled, or even tripled, the more time your employees are spending disparaging their coworkers. Eliminate all of these from your workplace, and your savings could be up to 4 hours a day, per employee, in gained productivity.

I hope this article has been enlightening to you, and that you'll be able to take what you've learned and save your company money. Because sexism isn't just bad for your Glassdoor reviews— it's bad for business.