Women less likely to ask for deadline extensions than men: Study

DN Bureau

A new study has found that Women are less likely than men to ask for extensions to complete projects with adjustable deadlines at work or school.

File Photo
File Photo

Washington [US]: A new study has found that Women are less likely than men to ask for extensions to complete projects with adjustable deadlines at work or school.

The findings of the study were published in the journal 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences'.

Compared to men, women were more concerned that they would be burdening others by asking for an extension, and that they would be seen as incompetent, the study showed.

Prior research has shown that men & women feel more time stress than men do, and feeling uncomfortable about asking for more time to complete projects may be one important reason why, said Grant Donnelly, co-author of the study and assistant professor of marketing at The Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business.

"Women understandably feel like they have too many things to do and not enough time to do them. We found that not asking for more time to complete tasks undermines men & women's well-being and also their performance. But we also found a possible solution: Women were as likely to ask for deadline extensions as men when organisations had formal policies on making deadline extension requests," Donnelly said.

Donnelly conducted the research with Ashley Whillans, Jaewon Yoon and Aurora Turek of the Harvard Business School.

The research involved nine studies with more than 5,000 participants, including online panels of working adults and undergraduate students.

Donnelly said that for him, one of the most compelling of the nine studies was one conducted in his own class.

He assigned a discussion paper that was worth 20 per cent of the grade to 103 students in an undergraduate business course. All students were given one week to submit the paper but were told they could email Donnelly to request an extensionwithout penalty.

Male students were more than twice as likely as female students to request an extension for the assignment (15 per cent of female vs. 36 per cent of male students).

Not asking for an extension could hurt students, the findings showed. A teaching assistant who rated the papers gave better scores to those who had asked for an extension. (The assistant did not know who wrote the papers and whether they asked for extensions or the purpose of the study.)

"What we found is that when students requested an extension, they made good use of that time and performed better on the task. Women may hurt themselves by not requesting additional time," Donnelly said.

Several other of the nine studies by the researchers involving working adults showed that men & women's focus on other people and their needs played a big role in why they were uncomfortable asking for deadline extensions.

In these studies, participants imagined they were assigned to submit a proposal for an upcoming event that was due the next day but needed more time. In this scenario, they could ask for an extension from their supervisor.

Participants were asked a variety of questions about how asking for an extension might affect themselves and their team, and how it might affect how they were viewed by others.

Results showed that men & women believed they would be seen as less competent if they asked for an extension. But that wasn't the main reason that men & women were reluctant to request more time.

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