The Ridiculously Sexist Reason Women Don't Use All Their Vacation Days

May 23rd 2017

Samantha Cowan

While millennials are often portrayed as self-centered, lazy technology-addicted fiends lacking work ethic, a new survey on vacation habits indicates otherwise.


A survey released Tuesday found that more than half of millennials don’t use their vacation time — the figure is even more startling for women.

A mere 44 percent of millennial women reported using all of their vacation days, Project: Time Off reports, while 51 percent of millennial men used all of their vacation days.

The organization, which promotes taking time off and work-life balance, polled 7,331 Americans ages 18 and older who work more at least 35 hours per week and receive paid time off from their employer in January and February of this year.

“I didn’t expect to see such a divide between millennial men and women,” Katie Denis, Project: Time Off’s senior director and author of the report, told ATTN:.

Denis noted that one of differences driving the disparity between young women and men is that millennial women feel more guilt in taking time off than their male colleagues.

“It’s not just ‘no one else can do the job,’ but ‘I feel guilty knowing all my coworkers have to do that work for me,’” Denis explained.

Julie Kashen, Policy Director at Make It Work, explained women are often collaborative workers and may feel a stronger innate sense of responsibility to their work, but that workplace inequality plays its part in women’s sense that they can’t take time off.

“It’s a reaction to years of discrimination,” Kashen said, pointing to the gender pay gap in which women make an average of 78 cents to every dollar a man earns. A 2016 McKinsey report found that workplace inequality was widespread: women are underrepresented at all levels of employment; women are less likely to receive a promotion; women face more pushback when asking for a raise; and women are more likely than men to have spent five years or more in the same position.

Kashen pointed out that women of child-bearing age are also penalized as moms or even potential moms, with employers fearing a worker with children will be less available.

“[A woman] might feel pressure to demonstrate that she’s not going anywhere, she’s giving all the face time that our outdated culture seems to demand,” Kashen said.

Nearly half of millennial women reported that appearing as a “work martyr” to their boss was a good thing but the study found it doesn't lead to success.

Thirty-two percent of millennial women said they didn’t take time off because they feared they would be considered replaceable, compared to 26 percent of millennial men. More millennial women also wanted to appear wholly dedicated to their jobs more than their male coworkers.

This way of thinking results in what Project: Time Off refers to as work martyrs, employees who fear that taking time off will make their boss think they’re not dedicated to their jobs.

“People who forfeit vacation time, they’re less likely to get raises or bonuses, they’re less likely to be promoted,” Denis said. “All they do get is more stress.”

Woman working

Taking a vacation benefits both employee and employer by reducing stress, improving mental health, and increasing productivity.

Project: Time Off suggests that employers actively encourage vacations — and plan some trips themselves. Of those surveyed, 70 percent who forfeited vacation days said that their company sends negative or mixed-messages about taking time off, even if they have policies that support it.

“I think leading by example makes all the difference,” Denis said. “It’s great to say all the right things and be encouraging, but if your non-verbal communication doesn’t match your verbal communication, your employees are going to sense that disconnect.”