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Do you always serve tea at meetings?

Career Tips By Tania Ngima

Most women have found themselves in this scenario. You go in for a meeting with colleagues, who, incidentally are all men. As the meeting progresses, you realise there seems to be some unspoken consensus that the woman in the room is responsible for such tasks as taking notes, making copies and organising for refreshments.

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There’s nothing wrong with taking up these tasks if it is not interfering with your execution of other duties. But if it takes time away from your schedule that you would rather be spending on your specific responsibilities, then you have an obligation to handle it before it becomes the norm. In fact, the best time to bring it up is the first time it happens.

Nip it

The assumption for women taking up certain roles sometimes happen purely by accident. You could offer to take notes the first time, or to serve team members with refreshments. It is important to strike a balance between being pleasant or friendly and setting a risky

If it happens that, intentionally or not, team members expect you to attend to certain tasks just because of your gender, ask that it kindly be a team effort by rotating said tasks. Even better, ensure that at the first meeting, say at the start of a project, you assign responsibilities such as note taking on a rotational basis unless you have a dedicated resource to handle this.

Don't encourage helplessness

Sometimes people take advantage of others because they know human nature is predisposed to come to the rescue of someone in distress. If someone asks you to do something because they claim to be so bad at it and you are so good at it, take time to teach them how to do it. Make it clear, though, that you are training them so they can do it by themselves the next time.

Make the distinction

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In certain circumstances, it is unavoidable to carry out administrative and non-admin tasks. For example, if you’re currently short-staffed or just do not have the resources to dedicate to additional manpower, then as long as everyone is pulling their weight, the scales aren’t necessarily tipped against you.

The issue arises when all team members assume that because of your gender, you are predisposed to certain tasks.

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