Women always feel the need to explain themselves.
"So...working at home today?" I hear my male colleague speaking on the phone with a female colleague who is indeed working at home. Had she been a man, she would have responded with a short, "Yes" and would have returned to the subject at hand.
But because she is a woman, she explains why she is working at home. "Yes, yes. I really need to focus, since I have to finish two reports and all the noise in the office really prevents me from doing so. I’m working on projects X and Y. The deadline is the day after tomorrow. So I really have to work hard." She adds the last line, afraid she comes across as a slacker.
Same thing happens if a female colleague leaves early from work. "I’m leaving a bit early, but I started before the break of dawn this morning. I have to pick up the kids, since our regular babysitter is sick."
My male colleagues leave early all the time. "See you tomorrow" is the only statement they give.
Online research into this phenomenon tells us that women are traditionally hard-wired to care for others, while men concentrate on their own wants and needs. And historically, the behaviour of women has been under scrutiny; their sexual acts, maternal tendencies, and even drinking habits have been monitored by society. This means there is a history of women feeling ashamed and guilty.
This is exactly what is happening in the office. When my female colleague leaves early, she is afraid people think she doesn't spend enough time at work. She starts to doubt herself, feels guilty, and explains herself - even though our male colleagues spends less time at work than she does.
While contemplating on this subject, I'm staring out of the window. My male colleagues remarks: "So, daydreaming again?" I look at him, and smile. "Yes", I respond, and turn my face towards the window again.
I don't feel guilty at all.