Are you going on vacation this summer? Chances are you have some extra days off at your disposal, especially if you’re a woman.
According to a study released Tuesday (May 25) by the U.S. Travel Association’s Project Time Off, most Americans didn’t use all of their vacation days in 2016, though employees are gradually getting better at taking advantage of their time off. In 2013 and 2014, the average number of vacation days taken by employees was 16, while in 2016 that number was up to 16.8.
Still, 54 percent of U.S. employees didn’t use all of their vacation days last year — and men made better use of their paid time off than women did. Forty-eight percent of men took all of their vacation days in 2016, while 44 percent of women did the same.
Fortune’s Claire Zillman, who analyzed the report, notes that this is particularly surprising because more women than men (58 percent and 49 percent, respectively) say that paid time off is “extremely” important to them. Moreover, even though millennials are often stigmatized as being lazy or feeling entitled, young women certainly aren’t conforming to those stereotypes: while 51 percent of male millennials did use all of their time off in 2016, a mere 44 percent of their female counterparts did.
Zillman explains that “a fear of ‘returning to a mountain of work’ is the top factor keeping Americans chained to their desks, and it comes at a cost. Employees who forfeit vacation time are less likely to have been promoted within the last year and to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years compared to workers who took all of their PTO.”
Why might women be less likely to use their days off? The report offers some insight:
"High stress, guilt, and workload concerns may be keeping women from using their time off. Women report experiencing more stress than men at home (48% to 40%) and at work (74% to 67%). They are also more likely to say that guilt (25% to 20%) and the mountain of work they would return to (46% to 40%) hold them back from taking time off. Women also worry more than men about vacation making them seem less committed to their job (28% to 25%)."
At Fairygodboss, we’ve found that there’s a good business case for unlimited vacation. In addition to helping companies attract and retain top talent, it boosts employee morale and productivity, and it strengthens trust between employers and employees.
So, we certainly hope that employers will take note and will make more of an effort to encourage employees to take advantage of their paid time off and to mitigate any sense of shame that workers might feel about using vacation days.
Summer is fast approaching, so if you’re overdue for a break from work, take it! Not only do you deserve it, but it also may boost your chances of getting that raise or promotion you’ve been hoping for.
Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.