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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Palmer

Fair Play in Action 




Fair Play in Action.  Last year, I was certified as a Fair Play Method facilitator.  Fair Play, designed for a more equitable division of labor in the home, is a way for anyone living under the same roof (partner, roommates, children) or sharing certain chores (co-parents living separately, caregivers) to communicate on what needs to get done, by whom, to what standard, and overall eliminate the mental load from falling on one member of the family (typically women and mothers).  


On a recent visit to my parents, I saw them sit down and do their monthly planning, and realized I had been seeing a version of this method in action since I was a child.  After 62 years of marriage, they had adopted a system that works for them.  Bringing their individual (paper) calendars to the table, they share appointments (everything from doctors to massages to hair dressers and their housekeeper schedule) so they are clear on obligations.  They time box to assure there is no overlap or calendar fails, and they account for travel time and assure meals are not overlooked.  They discuss finances, create shopping lists and document social engagements.  


For the first 50 years of marriage, my mom cooked and my dad cleaned.  Now with a change in their health, my father is the primary daily chef and does the laundry; my mom folds and puts away (and still irons his cloth handkerchiefs).  My mom cooks (or plans for catering) for larger social gatherings and holidays.  They shop together.  


Part of this distribution of labor is an acceptance that how the other person accomplishes the task is not wrong it if is not their way.  There is no disagreement on what is for dinner if you don’t speak up and make a request.  There is no push back on how or when the laundry is done if the task is owned completely by the other party.  And there is an equitable (not equal) distribution of labor that works for them, for now.


While the Fair Play Method was developed for the home and covers domestic chores, it does have an application at the office.  By default, many women in the workplace own the stereotypical ‘chores’ of the office.  These tasks may include organizing social events, cleaning up after a meeting, buying and circulating a birthday card or gift collection, organizing flowers or gifts for co-workers’ life milestones.  Is this nature or nurture?  Have women in the workplace been conditioned to proactively handle these non-work-related tasks?  Is there an expectation that those types of non-work office duties fall to female staff?

While you may think that women don’t have to volunteer or could ask co-workers to help out, that is the point.  The mental load still falls squarely on those team members to identify the need and ask others to join in.  That in and of itself is a burden.


What are some of the other tasks that female employees tend to adopt that do not advance their careers or reflect in their professional development, advancement or compensation.  

  • Taking notes at meetings and sending follow ups to the group. Unless that is your role, acting as secretary or project manager for a group, it may not serve you well.  

  • Running BRGs/ERGs (business or employee resource groups).  These affinity groups serve a nice cultural purpose but are often owned as ‘extra’ work that does not impact your career advancement.  And if it isn’t part of your role, then it is typically facilitated on top of an already full job description.

  • Cultural programming including Lunch & Learns.  Oftentimes these trainings are extracurricular if there isn’t a Learning and Development team or individual who is hired to facilitate all of the logistics for continuous development.  When it is less organized, the scheduling and logistics (if not the programming itself) may fall to female staff.

If you are one of the doers, this is the perfect opportunity to employ ‘what if’:  what if I partner with (insert team member) to lead, organize, or facilitate.  What if (insert team member name) leads as part of their goals and development plan and we evaluate their success as a performance indicator.  What if I take on this responsibility as one of my key milestones in getting me to the next level.


If you are one who finds themselves raising their hand (impulsively or begrudgingly), it may be in your best interest to get more comfortable sitting in the silence and seeing who else raises their hand.  It can be very uncomfortable to pause and wait, but it may serve you better than being the persistent volunteer.


If you typically clean the conference room, you can either ask facilities to leave a clean-up checklist prominently displayed in the room, or speak up before everyone starts to depart and remind that chairs should be pushed in, trash removed and cups taken to the kitchen.  And the next time, do what is expected of you (lead by example) and depart so others can handle what is left behind.  


Women are 3% of the CSuite, fall behind in wage and opportunity parity, and are expected to manage their work, plus the invisible labor.  What can we do to be better allies to assure that the non-compensated work is more equitably distributed with opportunities for growth and advancement more equitably shared as well.


Afterall, it’s only Fair Play.

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