Women excel in countless areas, across every industry, and at every professional level. We juggle personal life, work life, and everything in between. However, there is one skill we have not yet mastered: using our vacation time. The feeling that you never seem to take any time off is an actual statistic, not just something you mull over when you’re exhausted. On top of that, the observation that men in your office seem to feel more comfortable taking time off is not just “all in your head.” It’s a fact.

As we approach the end of the calendar year, we probably all have some paid time off awaiting us. Before you decide to shirk it off, let’s look at some statistics.

  • Fifty-four percent (54%) of Americans failed to take all of their allotted vacation days in 2016, sacrificing a total of 662 million vacation days.
  • Forty-eight percent (48%) of men took all of their vacation time in 2016 compared to forty-four percent (44%) of women.
  • The gap is even larger when you look at millennials. Fifty-one percent (51%) of millennial men used all their vacation time in 2016. Forty-four percent (44%) of millennial females used all their vacation time in 2016.

If asked, most of us would probably say we’re entirely too busy to take time off and follow that up by explaining the mountains of work we would return to if we actually utilized all of our vacation time. However, if we truly take a moment to examine the reasons we struggle with taking time off, we would probably find a deeper issue: some women feel self-conscious about using their paid leave. According to a study explored by the Washington Post,

“In explaining why they weren’t using all their time, young women were also more likely to say they felt guilty, replaceable or wanted to ‘show complete dedication.’ On every measure, whether it was the fear of returning to too much work or worrying that no one else can do their jobs, more young women were concerned about the effect of vacation than young men.”

Our paid time off is part of our compensation for the job we perform. We would call someone crazy if they left several hundred dollars on the table every pay day, but that’s essentially what we’re doing with our time off.

As we plan to wrap up 2017 and organize for 2018, there is no better time to take stock of your mentality towards this issue. If this is something giving you anxiety or making you feel guilty, perhaps an open and honest conversation with a supervisor should take place. In the same study that provided the discouraging statistics above, it was also discovered that 58% of women classify vacation time as “extremely” important to them. So, we know the issue isn’t that women just hate vacations. There is a disconnect between our desire to use our vacation time and feeling the ability to do so freely.

If we are going to work as tirelessly as we do, let’s be willing to show confidence in our work product by taking the compensation that’s been offered to us. With just a few weeks left in the year, do you have some vacation time coming your way?

For more information on the statistics and studies we’ve mentioned, click here or here.