Startling Data: Are Men 32% more productive than Women?

Since we’re a gang of egotistical guys hanging around all day, we’ve always assumed we’re the crème de la crème here at RescueTime.  Turns out, we were right.  Our team is regularly in the 90th percentile or higher for weekly productivity.  We figure it’s because we’re productivity guys, it’s what we do.  To get some answers with a little more data, and little less ego, I’ve started digging through the hundreds of millions of man hours in our database.  From what I can tell, the 23rd chromosome has a pretty amazing impact on the way people use computers.  Full disclosure: I happen to be a man.

1) Women spend more time socializing and shopping

The 4,000 women sampled managed to rack up an astounding 87,585 hours on social networking sites, which accounts for about 6.4% of their time.  Their male counterparts, on the other hand, spend 39% less time drinking from the fire hydrant of virtual friendship.  It’s not that men are less interested in being social either.  In fact, in our population, more men use social networks than women (72% of men vs 69% of women).  When it comes to shopping online, women spend 63% more of their time picking out their goodies than men do.  Men have their distractions, too.  They spend about 15% more of their time reading the news than women.

2) Men multi task more than women
I was surprised to find that men switch their active focus about 18% more often than women.  On average men switch windows 53 times per hour, compared to women who clocked in at 45 per hour.

These switches can be anything from one email to the next, or to something completely… OMG, hold on a sec, Tony just posted new pics of his recent getaway… Oh, sorry, back to work.

3) Men work more diligently than women

The average guy spends pretty close to 50% of his computer time doing things he considers distracting.  No wonder our information economy is being eaten piecemeal by developing countries where people still have a work ethic.  Wait, what?  You thought I said men work harder, but they spend half their time distracted?  That’s right, women only manage to be productive with about 43% of their time.

4) Women spend fewer hours on their computers

Evidently, there’s a reason they are called “man” hours.  On average, male information workers spend 14% more time per day working on their computers than women do.

5) Do men simply care more about productivity?
RescueTime only has data from people who’ve decided they’d like to use our tools to get more out of life.  Everyone who uses our software has at least made it to step #1: “Admit you have a problem”.  If this is any indication, nearly 5 times more men than women install our tools to get more productive.
All this adds up to huge differences in the amount of knowledge work men get done compared to women. Our data shows women only work 76% of the time that men do.  Interestingly, the National Committee on Pay Equity found that women earn 77% of what their male counter parts do.

About the data:
RescueTime provides a tool to allow individuals and businesses to track their time and attention to see where their days go (and to help them get more productive!).  We have hundreds of millions of man hours of second-by-second attention data from hundreds of thousands of users around the world, tracking both inside and outside the browser.  The data for this report was compiled from 8,000 randomly selected men and women.

About our software:
If you want to see how productive you are vs the rest of our users, you should
check out our tools
. Better yet, get your entire team signed up and put the rest of those slackers to shame. It’s not really that hard. Our data shows that your coworkers are probably taking it even easier than you are, since you at least made it over here to our blog.


32 Comments on “Startling Data: Are Men 32% more productive than Women?”

  1. The data do not speak to productivity, but rather time spent. Interesting observations, but nothing conclusive towards “productivity”.

    See also: 80/20 rule.

    • Tony Wright says:

      That’s true… At best, we can say that time logged in productive apps/sites is strongly correlative with productivity. But you could spin your mouse in circles for 2 hours in Excel and be less productive than I was working hard for 20 minutes.

      Edit: note that our users individually edit/control the “productivity score” of every app/site. So this is their self-assessment of what’s productive (with a likely strong bias to our default scores– people only rescore things that look out of whack).

    • There was a study a few years back about how CEOs evaluate how productive they were and how much time they spent going through their daily routines. They had their secretaries evaluate them as well.

      Study’s conclusion: CEOs are terrible at measuring their time and associated productivity.

      RescueTime certainly helps people who need help with this—don’t get me wrong. I saw huge deliverable improvements with a developer I was working with once he used RescueTime.

      My only contention here, really, is that measuring men v women productivity as a function of time spent isn’t necessarily meaningful. I think it reinforces what we know about gender time-use tendencies, but not necessarily throughput.

      It turns out, taking extended breaks and eschewing multitasking improves creativity, which often leads to more meaningful productivity.

      I’d be interested in seeing more about this data. It’s certainly interesting.

  2. Georg says:

    A very interesting article. I bet you will get more questions in the future. However, you should be a bit more careful with your conclusions. Escpecially, if you highlight the major problem of your data in the last paragraph yourself…
    Central question: Is it representative?
    You might randomly choose the 8000 data sets, but you say yourself that those who download the programm might be those who “admit that they have the problem”. First of all, maybe you have just the most desperate women as they activly researched for a solution. Secondly, you say you have five times more men in the database. As geekiness is rather male (no data for that) there could be some which belong not to the group you define yourself. Furthermore, as men install it more often they might also be more open to install it for themselves and convince others such as their girlfriends (tried myself and therefore guilty). With differing motivation: “I want to become better in terms of productivity” and “there is a funny cross in the taskbar” their might be a general imbalance.
    This does not make any of your observations obsolete, but it is a bit too weak to make general statements. Anyhow, what do girls do when there are off the computer? Do they not work? This is a very stong assumption as you do not know in which job they are employed. Not all are coders…some are secretaries or sit at the reception who either need to do real paper work or talk to people as part of their job.

    • Tony Wright says:

      Hi Georg – We’re definitely not leaping to any conclusions, but we do think it’s interesting data! I can think of quite a few alternate explanations for this data, including (most obviously) that women simply are statistically more likely to have jobs that require more multitasking, more AFK time, and more social networking time. It’s also possible, because users can override the “productivity scores” of various apps and sites, that women are likelier to score the same app/site as a less productive activity (indicating a self image problem). We figured rather than jump to firm conclusions, we’d toss out the data and see what questions people had around it. We did, for what it’s worth, make sure to look at an equal population of men and women to deal with the fact that we have more male users. It’s data from 4,000 men and 4,000 women.

    • Seb says:

      From the way the opening paragraph of the post is worded, I read this as “you” (the blog or Tony Wright or Rescue Time or the “egotistical” men) leaping to conclusions about women vs. men.

      Even if the manner in which it was written is just “palling around”, it privileges your masculinity as productive.

      I also happen to be a man, but I would not use such charged language when posting this data, even if you don’t claim to be interpreting it.

    • Tony Wright says:

      We purposefully were fairly light with the language but tried to reserve judgement. We’re just pointing out data. We can think of quite a few alternate/additional explanations for what we’re seeing. I don’t think light/playful language should inherently be a bad thing.

      For what it’s worth, we were surprised at the data. I think we were all expecting that men, in aggregate, performed less well when stacked up to an equal number of women. We all guessed that women would multi-task more and use email more. This wasn’t the case in our data.

      More broadly speaking, I don’t think the issue SHOULD be charged. Men and women are different. Women, on average (according to everything I’ve read) are more intelligent. Have faster reflexes. Is it okay for me to say that? One of my favorite essays/speeches on gender is here: http://denisdutton.com/baumeister.htm (called “Is there anything good about men?”). Here’s an excerpt:

      Trading Off
      When you think about it, the idea that one gender is all-around better than the other is not very plausible. Why would nature make one gender better than the other? Evolution selects for good, favorable traits, and if there’s one good way to be, after a few generations everyone will be that way.

      But evolution will preserve differences when there is a tradeoff: when one trait is good for one thing, while the opposite is good for something else.

      Let’s return to the three main theories we’ve had about gender: Men are better, no difference, and women are better. What’s missing from that list? Different but equal. Let me propose that as a rival theory that deserves to be considered. I think it’s actually the most plausible one. Natural selection will preserve innate differences between men and women as long as the different traits are beneficial in different circumstances or for different tasks.

      Tradeoff example: African-Americans suffer from sickle cell anemia more than white people. This appears to be due to a genetic vulnerability. That gene, however, promotes resistance to malaria. Black people evolved in regions where malaria was a major killer, so it was worth having this gene despite the increased risk of sickle cell anemia. White people evolved in colder regions, where there was less malaria, and so the tradeoff was resolved differently, more avoiding the gene that prevented malaria while risking sickle cell anemia.

      The tradeoff approach yields a radical theory of gender equality. Men and women may be different, but each advantage may be linked to a disadvantage.

      Hence whenever you hear a report that one gender is better at something, stop and consider why this is likely true — and what the opposite trait might be good for.

      I don’t think we have NEARLY enough data for me to endorse the conclusion that women are less capable of handling knowledge work in an efficient fashion. But is it possible? Sure.

  3. Andrew Hull says:

    Oh wow! Yall are ballsy! The difference in productivity score for the same activities between men and women would be an extremely interesting question as well.

  4. Montana Low says:

    Great question! RescueTime uses a scale from -2 (very distracting) to +2 (very productive). I’ve listed the default scores, along with the average scores of people who changed it from the default (and the number of changers in parenthesis). If you are looking for something specific let me know, but I’ll throw out a few I thought might be interesting.

    facebook.com: -2 (very distracting)
    men: 0.1411 (411)
    women: -0.5455 (88)

    google.com: 0 (neutral)
    men: 0.3850 (226)
    women: 0.3636 (88)

    Outlook: 0 (neutral)
    men: 0.9799 (299)
    women: 1.000 (48)

    Excel: 2 (very productive)
    men: 1.2619 (252)
    women: 0.960 (150)

    Word: 2 (very productive)
    men: 1.3043 (23)
    women: 0.8333 (6)

    It appears that women are just as likely as men to change the score of an activity, but on the whole, they aren’t nearly as generous with their scores as men are. All in all though, the percentage of the people who alter the default score of an activity is fairly low.

    • chibaraki says:

      Because it’s not as if that has any effect on your data or anything…

      Like, say, completely invalidating it.

      It’s entirely possible that your result is entirely due to women rating their activities completely differently. I also notice that in every category you’ve listed up there you have far more men than women listed, so it doesn’t look like your sample was balanced.

      Scientifically your “data” seems pretty rubbish, frankly…

  5. I love you guys. That is all.

  6. Paul Bohm says:

    so how does the average look with the default scoring for both men and women (no custom modifiers)?

  7. Kevin says:

    Lies damn lies and statistics.
    1) Does it surprise anyone that they have 5x as many men as women as users? I wonder if you broke down by occupation what percentage of their users are software developers and engineers compared to others?
    2) It’s not a random sample.
    3) “All this adds up to huge differences in the amount of knowledge work men get done compared to women. Our data shows women only work 76% of the time that men do. Interestingly, the National Committee on Pay Equity found that women earn 77% of what their male counter parts do.” is one of the dumbest comments I have ever seen in my life.
    THEIR TOOL DOESN’T CATCH ALL WORK. I stopped using it because it is utterly useless if you step away from the computer and are productive in that time. They are saying “Our data shows women only work 76% of the time that men do. [in front of computers]” Dropping out the in front of computers part is huge. Is the President of the United States a knowledge worker? Because he doesn’t have a computer on his desk and therefore would be 0% as productive as someone doing data entry according to this methodology.
    For that matter, me sitting in front of my computer all day with Eclipse open (no matter how much I actually commit) is more productive than my dad, a CEO, who spends a lot of his time with a pad of paper out talking to people. Hmmmmmm.
    I understand that this tool has its place, but to say something so outrageously false really casts the company as a whole in a bad light. Blogging this was poor judgement. At best it is just some dumb people who don’t understand data, at worst it is offensive.

    • Tony Wright says:

      You cross posted from HN, so I’ll cross post my reply to be consistent.

      I think you should re-read the post. The phrase “on his/her/their computers” is repeated 4 times in the (fairly short) post. I think it’s pretty clear that this doesn’t apply when comparing a pad/paper CEO and an engineer. And we very purposefully didn’t draw any conclusions (though we did admittedly ask leading questions to fuel the conversation!).

      We say a few times in the comments that this could well be a reflection of the types of jobs that the 4000 women have compared to the 4000 men– they may have more social jobs or more “afk” jobs. It’d be an interesting followup to grab 1000 female engineers and 1000 man engineers to see if the differences hold up. I don’t know if it will, but what if it did? Would it be so horrible if women were less suited for multitasking and knowledge work? Because they sure as heck are better at a lot of other things. They’re, on average, smarter than men. They have better reflexes. Check out “Is there anything good about men” – great essay: http://denisdutton.com/baumeister.htm

      If they WERE less suited for it, it would be interesting to see how much culture and education influenced their suitability. i.e. Does the difference fade away if you correct for educational differences, etc.

      At the end of the day, it’s just an interesting chunk of from a single web service that has a very strong bias towards geeky users.

  8. Internet using woman says:

    A startling new study has shown that using data taken from a biased small population can create results tailored to the prejudices of the examiner!

    • Tony Wright says:

      I think it’s interesting to talk about our prejudices at RescueTime– this CERTAINLY didn’t confirm them. We expected women to communicate a lot more via email and IM (they didn’t). We expected women to multitask more (they didn’t). We expected that men would spend more time on their computers but women would spend their time more efficiently (the former was true, the latter was not). We’ve said it other places, but we’ll say it here as well– this data is interesting, but our users certainly are not representative of a broader population… necessarily. There’s some deeper analysis that we’d love to do to correct for the possibility that women rate the same tasks differently and the possibility (probability?) that women might not have the same times of computer-facing jobs that our men do. If we were publishing a paper around this, we’d need to do a lot more analysis, to be sure.

  9. Jesse Alban says:

    You keep quoting an anti-fem (read: pro-sexism, feminism isn’t about women-first, it’s about abolishing sexism, which this article is rife with) essay. How about you spend a couple of hours learning about sexism, male privilege and how offensive you are online and then come back and fix this?

    • ease up says:

      Ease up cowboy! I am sure if the preferred metrics that woman were holier and more productive then men came out it would have been touted all the way through the halls of CNN and every news station on the East coast. The metrics don’t matter anyway – right or wrong or just limited to a small sample that came out the way it did. If they were somehow right, then your spouting out nonsense about male privilege has a good background. If the results had come out diametrically reversed, you would have picked one nugget perhaps where females were .00001 behind and spouted out nonsense how this is an area for concern and we need more laws to rectify.

    • Bob says:

      Methinks the lady doth protest too much!

  10. you fail psychology forever says:

    Re: #2:

    “Switching your active focus” IS NOT MULTITASKING. Multitasking is being able to do two things of equal importance equally well simultaneously, it’s a very rare trait, and the people who think they are good at it usually can’t do it at all.

    And that’s only a small part of your big pile of fail.

    • Tony Wright says:

      Actually, we’re pretty sure that there’s no such thing as multitasking. http://lifehacker.com/5041144/debunking-the-myth-of-multitasking

    • you fail psychology forever says:

      Um, you used it in the article.

      The evidence is pretty clear that task-switching reduces productivity. Not sure why you’d want to brag about that and count it as a “win” for the male side. Although considering you’re trying to glean any kind of scientific data from a study where people self-selected (so, NOT random) and assign their own productivity scores (you think maybe people aren’t always the best judge of their own productivity?), I should stop trying to find logic in this post.

  11. Wow says:

    #1 – Ah, shopping and social networking. It’s a good thing you also included statistics on, say, sports sites and porn, because otherwise I might have suspected that you… wait.

    #2 – So, other commenters, how much do you want to bet that if the statistics ran the other way, this would merely be considered a sign of being easily distracted? Because that’s what it is. Not “multitasking.” GAH.

    #4 – Um. Lemme get this straight. According to your… interpretations… of this data, more time spent on the computer = being more productive? So if I was to spend a half an hour performing a task on the computer, and another person spent an hour doing the same thing, that person would be considered more productive than me? Haha, wow.

    “Full disclosure: I happen to be a man.”

    NO WAY! I never would have guessed.

    • Tony Wright says:

      You’re mistaken in assuming that we called out social networking and shopping because they were “female” slanted activities (you could make an argument for shopping, but would you REALLY have guessed that women spent a ton more time social networking than men? We didn’t). The category that includes both sports AND porn was “entertainment”. Women logged logged 8% MORE time in this category than men (9.8% of their total time).

      Regarding #4 (what happened to #3?), our take is that productive time logged on the computer is CORRELATIVE with productivity. It’s possible that men spin their mice in circles in Excel for hours at a time while women use their Excel time diligently. And, like all statistics– individuals are individuals. Statistically, it would be insane to bet on Usain Bolt in the Olympic hundred yard dash given his height– unless you knew who he was. Given that women are statistically smarter than men on average, it’s quite possible that they are more effective with their productive computer time. Still interesting that when you take a population of people who overtly care about productivity and find that collectively they are using less than 50% of their computer time on productive tasks, no?

    • Wow says:

      What happened with #3, along with #5 and also your response to #4 for that matter, is that I rolled my eyes so hard I was temporarily rendered incapable of using my keyboard to respond to it. Leaving aside the issues of sampling sizes/significance and the like, am I correct in understanding that all your data comes from people rating their own behaviors? Yeah. It’s pretty telling that on learning that the women in your sampling are more likely to rate themselves as less productive, you leap to the conclusion that men are better. I mean hey, it’s not like women are consistently far more self-critical than men as a result of socialization or whatever, right? Right! Ugh. Also lulsy is your contention that more men installing your software = men care more about productivity. Again, I ask the other commenters: How much do you want to bet that if the genders were flipped, this would be considered a sign of women needing more help with productivity and thus being less productive? Because seriously dude… WTF. At pretty much every stage, you’re rejecting all possible conclusions that aren’t “men are productive” even when it clearly makes zero sense to do so. And then going on to use your “statistics” to make jokes about how the massive wage gap between men and women *isn’t big enough*? Um…

      tl;dr – Whoever wrote this blog post fails pretty hard at statistics and data analysis, and in all probability life as well. Keep grinding that axe!

  12. oky says:

    Woah, you guys just opened a huge can of worms. Don’t you know criticizing women is illegal?

    • James Norris says:

      I was just about to say that…

      I wish people would take the time to intelligently criticize. I don’t know what to make of these results, so I’m opting to keep my mouth shut and listen instead.

  13. Just mentioning that your entrance into data porn has me excited to see your future posts, plus reminded me to reignite my on-again off-again love affair with RescueTime. :)

  14. Laurel says:

    I realize that the good old “men vs women” cliche makes a nice headline. But it might be more useful for potential customers to try something that doesn’t inevitably offend either 80% or 20% of your customer base (hint: the snarky language doesn’t help people take your data seriously. there may not be any women working at Rescuetime, and you may have trouble hiring any after this post, but I know some of you guys are married, try asking your wives if your words make you sound like misogynists. hint again: it’s not your data that people are offended at, it’s how you’re presenting it. Check out OKCupid’s OKTrends for a way to present data on potentially sensitive topics [not only gender, but age, race, etc] in a more neutral way).

    Have you ever compared premium and free users? If your premium product is worth it, premium users should be way more productive. (since it looks like premium makes it easier to track more things as productive, ie. offline time, you’d of course have to exclude that for a fair comparison).

    • Tony Wright says:

      Hey Laurel! We were purposefully provocative and light in tone. My wife worked at Planned Parenthood for years and currently makes more money than I do– she’s definitely what I’d call an “enlightened feminist”. She read the post and said, “you guys are probably going to piss some people off here, but I don’t have a problem with it. It’s just data.” We were pretty careful to not draw any conclusions, but admittedly made it FEEL like we might be drawing conclusions by asking some leading questions (headline) and dropping some stats next to other stats (the pay data). And, yeah, we joked around a little. But say we did the SAME post and swapped out “coders” for “men” and “designers” for “women”. Everything else stays the same word-for-word. Would people be similarly offended? Should they be?

      I’m sure OkCupid had a small minority of middle aged single women who were upset about their “Cougar” post. 37s certainly offended a lot of the startup world with their “bends over” post ( http://37signals.com/svn/posts/1927-the-next-generation-bends-over ) …

      But (to be fully transparent) these data exercises are really very purposeful attention/traffic plays. The results were pretty dramatic– signups (both paid and free) and traffic went dramatically up. Cancellations didn’t budge (they were actually a little lower than average). There’ll be more to come and some of them most certainly will raise some hackles. We’re confident that smart folks will see these posts as interesting bits of data that are worth a conversation and nothing more.

  15. merck says:

    Is this where the royally-pissed-right-the-heck-off women go to lodge their complaints about this “study”? If so, log me in. It’s the lack of basic stats 101 and uber-alienation that us chicks are railing against, methinks.

    I do appreciate the OkCupid-esque effort…and please do keep it up because it’s one thing to have stats but they need to be actionable.

    Metadata conversations like this can also enhance working with the RescueTime app since it can seem like I’m going about my day in a bit of a vacuum (although I do like those percentile badges).

    Since that’s what I think you were sincerely trying to do here, I will excuse – just this once – what I’ll assume is an unwitting attempt to knock the women’s rights movement for pay equity back by about 60 years.

    Now, if you don’t mind, I need to get back to social networking…