Drinking At Work? Men And Women Are Not Considered Equal

Do you pride yourself on being able to keep up with—and in some cases even drink more than—the boys? As the ‘office bar’ gains in popularity, it’s still frowned upon for women to partake in office boozing. Drinking either at or for work has different implications for women than for men.

For decades drinking has played an important role in the professional arena. In many industries, employees are called on to entertain and schmooze clients over after-work drinks or to “bond” with their co-workers over happy-hour beers or at company parties. Many who don’t participate often feel left out of the group or even suffer professionally. And as drinking at, and for, work increases, so does the pressure to partake.

Though it sounds counterintuitive, the office bar as professional motivator might not be so off base: recent research has proven that drinking at work can encourage workers to be more productive. For example in a study titled “Uncorking the Muse: Alcohol Intoxication Facilitates Creative Problem Solving,” published in the March 2012 issue of Consciousness and Cognition, researchers found that participants who were slightly drunk were actually better, faster, and more creative at problem solving than their sober counterparts.

At the same time, drinking either at or for work may have different implications for women than for men. That’s because while drinking with colleagues or clients may foster closeness and help land deals, it can also encourage compromising situations. A 2011 study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, found that drinking alcohol in a largely unfamiliar environment—that is, at your desk chair versus a bar stool—can lead to an inability to control unsuitable behavior. And thanks to a hard-to-shake double standard akin to the old “slut versus stud,” there tends to be a different standard for how much women and men can drink and still be respectable in the morning. Though in many cases, men are still allowed—maybe even expected—to get a little out of control. Yet even during work-related drinks, it can be frowned upon for a woman to do the same.

That doesn’t mean on-the-job drinking is a disaster waiting to happen. Many women, especially those in traditionally male-dominated industries, value the ability to use after-work socializing—even the slightly tipsy kind—to get ahead. But the act does need to be approached carefully and with certain forethought. If the purpose of your drinking is to build relationships with your colleagues or clients, make sure you drink with that end goal in mind.