WISE Up: Shining a light on invisible workloads

MAY 13, 2024

Read on for advice for how to get your efforts recognized.

Brining the office lattes

Photo: sturti

Dear WISE Community,


Perhaps we're going a little too far with that opening image, playing as it does into what we truly hope are old stereotypes, but we are trying to disrupt and make a point. Because while the image might seem outdated, the fact is many women are still carrying the burden of multiple roles, along with so much else.


Author and professor Janelle Wells, our featured interviewee this week, argues that even grabbing lattes for the team contributes to the extra burden we — particularly women and even more particularly women of color — frequently carry. All too often, it's not enough to simply be excellent at our jobs. We also need to worry about whether what we're wearing is appropriate, whether we're smiling enough to make people comfortable (or too much to be taken seriously), and how to make it to our car safely after dark. Wells says the only way out of this reality is through it. That is, we need to pay attention to the toll it all takes, and make sure everyone else is paying attention to it, too.


Deciding to run this interview now is a nod to Mother's Day, not only because Wells, an associate professor and a WISE Tampa board member, is also a mother of three, but also because her research explores just how much that last job can contribute to the "invisible work" so many of us do. That said, whether we are caregivers —to children or our parents — or have any of the myriad responsibilities that we inevitably juggle for their communities and loved ones alongside our careers, I know we can all benefit from her advice for how to see our way through.



Kathleen Francis

Chair and President

One-Question Quiz: Canine Edition

It's Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show season, so we note that Best in Show was won by the same pooch — Warren Remedy — for the first three years of the award (1907-09). Although she is the only WKC champ to three-peat, the remarkable lady is one of 47 from her breed group to win BIS. What is that super group? Scroll down for the answer.

The WISE Interview: Dr. Janelle Wells

Janelle Wells

is not afraid of hard work: She's an associate professor at the University of South Florida, in the Vinik Sport & Entertainment Management Program; co-founder of the consultancy WellsQuest, and a board member of WISE's Tampa chapter. But she wants her peers to know that it's not necessarily the responsibilities of those roles but rather all the other kinds of things we have to do and worry about that can make our day-to-day unmanageable and unfulfilling. In her upcoming book, , she explores the wide range of thankless energies people — and especially women — in the workforce are forced to expend every day.


On shining a light on invisible work:

"I define 'invisible work' as all work, physical or mental, that's done for someone else without acknowledgement of the time, effort, and contribution of the work. My book's title includes the parenthetical because if that work is invisible to one party it remains very visible to the other — through the burden of the load or the stress it causes — whether you're ordering a birthday cake for an office party or worrying about how you are being perceived."


On why invisible work is mostly women's work …

"I do two exercises in my MBA sport classes. In the first one I ask, 'What do you think about as you get dressed for work?' The women say things like, 'Is this too short?' 'Is this too tight?' 'Are people going to comment on my heels?' They're not even at the office and their job is already demanding energy.


"Then I ask, 'It's midnight, and you're preparing to walk to your car in the arena parking lot: What are you thinking about?' Most men say, 'Nothing,' or maybe, 'Should I grab a beer or go home?' The women say, 'Okay, how can I be safe? I need to stay off my phone. I gotta be alert. I need to have my keys ready in my hands. I need to stay under the lights.'"


… and the work of women of color most of all:

"For the past 15 years, I've been curiously researching what facilitates and hinders women's career advancement in sport. In 2016, one of my grad students, a young Black woman, entered my office in tears. She was dealing with microaggressions — people touching her hair, questions about her intelligence. I felt it was my responsibility to bring visibility to it, not only in the organization where it was happening but to a larger audience as well. Black women are still doing an inordinate amount of invisible work. Most specifically, they have to stay mindful of their manner, so as not to be seen as aggressive or angry, of people saying, 'I just don't like her tone.' There's daily invisible labor in just having to think about how to deliver information to their male colleagues."


On seeking solutions:

"Women are leaving the workforce in droves, especially those in corporate roles. And while they represent about 40% of the global working population, they fill just over 30% of managerial positions. At the highest level of leadership, female representation drops to 5%.


"My advice for women: Take control of your own career. Devise options for how it could work — just because your solutions don't presently exist, don't mean they can't. Sport claims to be a progressive industry, so let's show that more on the business side. Through , I mentored a woman who was thinking about leaving the industry because she'd never seen a mother in the role she held as a manager in premium spaces. I encouraged her to be the one to realize it. Two kids later she is still in professional sports. We developed a plan for her to provide options to her supervisor, including a rotational calendar so she didn't have to work every game and event.


"Now, yes, I recognize that was all invisible work. But, look, we know who has been running these organizations, and that the systems and its policies were designed not by women or for women. In 2015, I worked with a men's professional team that didn't have a parental leave policy, and we helped create one. I had to do the same thing in 2022. Organizations need to update their archaic policies — they should conduct stay interviews instead of just exit interviews — and help women create their individual career paths."


On fighting the "motherhood tax":

"Researchers reveal women lose 4% of their income with every child they have; men gain 6%. There are many reasons: motherhood is a devalued social status and fatherhood is a valued one; employers have long discriminated against mothers in hiring, promotion, and compensation decisions; and women are seeing as having 'chosen' to specialize in the home. Two organizations doing important policy and community-oriented work on this: and .


"When I was applying for a position in academia, I intentionally put a picture of my three children in my job talk because I had found myself often being asked in roundabout ways about my productivity since I was clearly of childbearing age. When I saw one interviewer look down at my CV then back up at me I knew I had the job, because he no longer had a question about whether I could be productive. What can we as WISE members do to reduce the stigma surrounding working mothers? Review policies on parental and family leave, including pay and promotion guidelines; promote shared parental leave and flexible work arrangements; advertise successes to normalize atypical working patterns and reentry from parental leave; and create mentoring circles for maternity coaching and support."


On being fully seen …

"We recommend people do an audit to learn how what they're actually doing compares to their official job description. Once you have that info you can have a conversation with your supervisor to discuss the impact of that work, so it can begin to be properly valued. To be sure, that doesn't necessarily have to come in the form of compensation; recognition is a way of valuing, too. And, again, I understand how frustrating it is that we need to do more work to make the work we do visible."


… and helping others to be as well:

"We need both sponsors and mentors. Sponsors leverage their seat at the table, even putting their reputation on the line to be an ally. They offer action. Mentorship is about advice. I push the idea of a constellation of mentors — different people for different situations. For example, if you are thinking about having kids and your mentor is a single executive, you might get a different kind of support from a mother who climbed the ladder. We need to learn from those with a shared lived experience."

Let's Go! Women on the Move

Jessica Casano-Antonellis: Senior Vice President, Communications; Disney, Fox Corp., and Warner Bros. Discovery new sports streaming service (Previously Senior Vice President and Head of Communications, SiriusXM)


Lauri Eberhart: Chief Executive Officer, Friends of Laguna Seca


Ariel Feigenbaum: Vice President, Client Services, Playbook for Health


Kristina Filipovic: General Manager, Milwaukee Panther Sports Properties (Previously Senior Director of Ticket Sales and Service, Milwaukee Bucks)


Genifer Gray: Chief Operating Officer, Diamond Baseball Holdings (Previously Chief Operating Officer, Top Golf)


Maddi Mobley: Senior Manager North America Sports Marketing, Lululemon (Previously Director of Sports Partnerships, Therabody)


Candace Parker: President, Adidas Women's Basketball (Previously two-time WNBA MVP)


Diane Penny: Senior Vice President, Marquee Sports Network.


Tanesha Wade: Executive Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Chief Impact Officer, Chicago Bears (Previously Senior Vice President, Diversity Equity and Inclusion)


Laura Williamson: Editor-in-Chief for U.K. and Europe, The Athletic (Previously Deputy Editor and Head of U.S. Soccer)


Inspired to make your own move? , with new daily listings from leagues, teams, agencies, online sports betting companies and other exciting employers.


Want to be featured? Send us your exciting job news: newsletter@wiseworks.org.

Worth the Click

Unfortunately, not surprising! (McKinsey & Company)

Unfortunately, not surprising, part 2! (WSJ free link)

Surely will be surprising to some:(WSJ free link)

Bad surprises ahead: (Psychology Today)

Surprise! (NY Mag)

Not all that surprising: (The Atlantic)

Don't be surprised if you tear up: (Women's Health)

Some were sure surprising! (SB Nation)

Grow Your Career

WISE/R WEST is coming to the site of the hottest ticket in sports: Phoenix, in advance of WNBA All-Star! Join us on Thursday, July 18, for a career-shaping day of new trends, best practices, personal and professional development, and networking—all from women who know exactly what you're going through.

One-Question Quiz Answer

Terrier. For the second year in a row, the WKC Dog Show is being held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City. Best in Show will be crowned on Tuesday, May 14.

We'd Love to Hear From You! Ideas for WISE Up? New job? Just want to say hello? Email us.