With Women’s History month concluding, it’s important to note that many global changes have affected women specifically over the past several years. The ongoing pandemic, economic challenges, and the current crisis in the Ukraine have influenced everyone, and some would argue that women have borne the brunt. Signs indicate that mental health challenges and burnout will continue to affect women. Woman have added responsibilities at home and work, often doing more for their companies, but not getting recognized for it.
What can we focus on to collectively support women?
Creating flexible work policies and allowing autonomy over the way work gets done will help to reduce burnout and slow the rate of women leaving the workforce. According to a study done from Lean In and McKinsey, women are more burned out than a year ago, and significantly more so than men.
Gender parity in leadership positions hasn’t been achieved yet. Individual organizations need to reexamine causes behind the numbers. Is it due to individual choice? Are candidates less assertive than they could be? Are there institutional or systemic barriers, like discrimination? Creating an inclusive environment will help support women.
Mental health support needs to be a priority. The pandemic increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s important to destigmatize it and make it okay and easy for people to ask for help. Well-being and mental health go hand in hand with productivity and performance. Companies that are providing support in these areas will create change for the better.
Now is a good time to offer mentorship programs. Mentoring promotes women’s success and economic self-sufficiency. Mentors are not only a source of support, but provide inspiration when times are tough. They have walked the path before. Think about becoming a mentor to someone in your organization. Good allies and co-conspirators make space for everyone to be their full, authentic selves.
Childcare continues to be a major concern for those with young children. Not only is it expensive, but childcare workers are quitting in droves and providers are closing their doors. Parents must find childcare somewhere else, which isn’t always easy. Because of this, in some instances women are having to leave the workforce. This crisis needs to be addressed.
Moving into 2022, women need to be supported in many ways to stay engaged in the workforce or to reenter it. Organizations gain strength from the female perspective. Not just diversity of color or gender, but diversity of thought, diversity of belief, socioeconomic diversity, religious diversity all help with problem solving and benefit the organization, which benefits the world.
Some women are rising to the moment as stronger leaders and taking on the extra work that is required in these times. Women are doing more to support their teams and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Yet this critical work is going unrecognized and unrewarded by most companies.
If this work isn’t prioritized, companies jeopardize losing the very leaders they need right now to help navigate the pandemic and build inclusive workplaces. Women have changed their world. Their world is the family, workplace, and people they interact with daily. These insights can change the world. Women are creating a future that is more just, more equitable, and more flexible, but they must be recognized and rewarded for this crucial work.
Written by Cathy Heyne, GMS-T, President