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Women’s fear of appearing incompetent mean they’re less likely to ask for deadline extensions—and it’s burning them out

November 1, 2021, 12:43 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Letitia James is running for New York governor, Birchbox gets acquired, and women are less likely than men to ask for deadline extensions—and that’s a bad thing. Have a great Monday.

– On deadline. I’m writing this newsletter later than usual on Sunday night, but I wouldn’t ask for an extension even if I could. Is that because the Broadsheet needs to hit your inboxes bright and early Monday morning? Or is it because of—what else—gender?

According to research published in the WSJ, women are less likely than men to ask for deadline extensions at work. The trend cuts across job titles and years of experience: women at all levels report feeling less comfortable asking for more time to complete a project than men.

Ashley Whillans, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and Grant Donnelly, an assistant professor of marketing and logistics at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, wrote about their findings. They conclude that women “are more concerned than men about appearing incompetent” and about “burdening other people with their requests.” Those fears create a cycle of guilt and further discourage women from asking for more time, the academics say.

This is a discrepancy that has some real consequences in the workplace. Feeling uncomfortable asking for more time adds to the burnout that has only intensified over the past year and a half as women took on more responsibilities at work and at home—and leave the workforce as a result.

Whillans and Donnelly offer some solutions. Like many strategies to close gender and racial gaps in the workplace, it comes down to clear communication and formalized policies. Managers should make clear which deadlines are adjustable and which aren’t; create an explicit policy on project extensions; and communicate that asking to change a deadline isn’t a sign of incompetence.

Emma Hinchliffe

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

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