Burnout is now considered a serious work issue and women are more likely to burnout than men. According to McKinsey’s Women in The Workplace report 42% of women are now feeling burned out. The burnout gap between women and men has almost doubled since last year. Another study that surveyed 1,000 employees in the U.S. and U.K. found that a whopping 68% of women experienced burnout.
The World Health Organization defines burnout as: “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” But there are also many underlying reasons for burnout that result from outdated gender roles to feeling unfulfilled at work.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why women are more likely to burnout
One in three women, and 60 percent of mothers with young children, spend five or more hours a day on housework and caregiving. That’s effectively another job. Women were already doing more housework than men before the pandemic and in many cases it has been amplified.
Gender inequalities in the workplace
Women are often found to be overqualified for their roles. This may lead to less satisfaction at work, lower levels of decision-making authority and a sense that they have fewer career alternatives. Women feel frustrated and it often manifests in beating oneself up. Situations like this may lead into either resignation or burnout.
Perception of fairness
This relates to the previous point. Gender pay gap is still very much alive. According to a study, women are more likely to burnout than men because women are less likely to be promoted. 31% of women would consider turning down extra responsibilities — a step that could involve making career sacrifices to reduce stress. This in turn reduces their ability to get promoted. Women are also more likely than men to work from home in a post-pandemic world. But research suggests that people who work from home are less likely to get promoted than those who have more face-time with their managers.
Women work as hard as men but don’t see the results of their labour. This creates a feeling of unfairness that can explain why women are more likely to burnout.
Hard work is not enough
Women may work as hard as men but they often expect someone else to recognise their efforts. Women tend to wait for the annual review rather than constantly share their achievements. Promoting yourself may be seen as bragging or politics. This leaves many women in jobs where their skills are underutilised. When their efforts are not recognised, frustration builds up and women are more likely to burnout.
Many corporate cultures are still based on masculine value system where asking for help may be considered a sign of weakness. Especially women need their “tribe” and are at risk of burning out if they try to simply push through. Michelle, a DrivenWoman member says: “Working in a male dominated culture, I had learned to go it alone.”
Women are supporting everyone else
Interestingly, women leaders are the ones who are more likely to support everyone else. Women senior leaders do more to help their employees navigate work–life challenges, relative to their male peers. They spend additional time helping manage workloads, and they’re 60 percent more likely to be focusing on emotional support. This is no surprise as women have traditionally put everyone else’s needs before their own, at home and in the workplace, but this can have negative consequences and explains why women are more likely to burnout.
So if women are more likely to burnout than men, what can companies do about it?
Create a culture of fairness
Transparency of career opportunities and promotions, equal pay and equal support for both mothers and fathers to share the workload at home are a good starting point. Fair and equitable policies are a foundation for the wellbeing of both genders.
Reward women for the additional work they do to support others
Most companies are not recognising or incentivising this crucial work women do and are risking losing the very leaders they need right now. According to a study, 87% of companies agree that it is “very or extremely” critical that managers support employee wellbeing, but only a quarter actually do anything about it.
Women role models in senior leadership
Seeing leaders who look like you, by gender, colour or otherwise, is inspiring. Companies must give women the reassurance that they are interested in women’s contribution and talent. Middle level women can be supported to build confidence to put themselves forward for promotions with programs such as DrivenWoman.
Measure wellbeing at work
Managers are encouraged to check in with their teams with their workload and wellbeing, but these efforts are generally not incorporated into formal performance reviews. Invest in tools and practises that help prevent women taking too much on and that make them feel supported at work.
Help managers to manage workload properly
Companies can support managers with formal training helping them understand the risks of burnout. According to a study, when managers actively managed the workload of their team, their staff were 32% less likely to be burned out and 33% less likely to leave.
Invest in self-leadership tools for women
Help women gain confidence to express their needs at work. Many women have not learned to set boundaries and are used to putting everyone else’s needs before their own. Pleasing others has been a way to get ahead, but can lead to burnout. DrivenWoman’s Lifeworking™ groups help women gain self-leadership, get clarity on what they want for themselves and learn to create self-care routines that help prevent burnout and promote holistic wellbeing.
Women need their tribe
Companies should invest in women-only networks and support groups. Women thrive with the help of other women. Sharing experiences in a safe space free of judgement will help women feel supported and manage work related stress. DrivenWoman’s groups are a great way to create supportive environments for women that can prevent stress and burnout.
Anna used to work in the male dominated field of finance and shares her story: “I felt totally drained from years of burning the candle at both ends and overwhelmed by my constantly increasing responsibilities. The higher up the corporate ladder I went, the more pressure there was to perform and the more isolated and disheartened I felt. I was knocked down by all the classic symptoms of a burn out. If only I had access to DrivenWoman’s tools and support when I was still at my job, things could have taken a very different turn.”