Overworked, Underpaid, and Under-resourced: How Will Burnout Impact Gender Equity?

Brave Souls® newsletter with Katica Roy

Welcome to my weekly Q&A feature. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)

If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions — tough questions, brave questions, you name it. The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. Each week I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.

The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusion.

  • Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.
  • Inclusion: bringing others along on the journey.

Be Brave™

Is The Burnout Epidemic Worsening Gender Inequity?

Question:

I’m curious if you have any insight on how the “burnout epidemic” will impact companies’ diversity and inclusion targets, especially goals like hitting a certain threshold of women in leadership?

Curious about something? Ask your question here for a chance to have it answered in an upcoming edition of Brave Souls®.

Answer:

It’s likely the burnout epidemic you’re referring to has to do with the fact that 53% of women in formal jobs say they are more stressed now than they were a year ago. And, a staggering 46% of women have reached the point of burnout.

Moreover, and piggybacking off the Great Resignation trend, approximately 40% of women actively looking for a new position are doing so to alleviate…you guessed it, burnout.

Burnout Fueling The Great Resignation While Undercutting Gender Equity

Even if they aren’t actively looking for a new position now, a not-insignificant amount of women up and down the corporate ladder plan to switch employers within the next two years:

  • 59% of women in non-managerial positions
  • 64% of women in middle management positions
  • 21% in upper management positions
  • 23% in c-suite positions

High churn of female employees doesn’t bode well for gender equity. Nor does it bode well for companies. And it especially doesn’t bode well for companies with gender equity goals. Every 10% increase in intersectional gender equity yields a 1–2% increase in revenue for a given organization.

So your curiosity about burnout’s impact on DEI raises some red flags for organizations. Empirically speaking, we’ll have to wait to see how today’s burnout impacts tomorrow’s DEI. However, for those of us in positions of power, we don’t have to wait to act.

We can use the red flags of burnout to our advantage — as signals, alerting us to aspects of the employee lifecycle that require attention.

Address Mental Health To Assuage Burnout & Improve Gender Equity

Burnout falls under the umbrella of mental health, which means mental health falls under the purview of companies.

Yes, I am saying that companies that want to reduce burnout and decrease churn must address the mental health of their employees.

That’s because mental health =

  • Employees feel psychologically safe at work
  • Employees can rest assured knowing they receive equitable pay
  • Employees don’t have to second-guess their worth (no tokenism)
  • Employees are free from micro-aggressions
  • Employees don’t have to choose between economic and physical safety

As it stands, almost half of all women in the paid workforce report experiencing poor or very poor mental health, yet only 44% feel they receive sufficient mental health support from their employer. Only 43% of women feel comfortable talking about mental health at work.

These dismal numbers perk up for women who work at companies with higher levels of gender equity. In fact, 87% of women who work at leading companies for gender equity say they receive sufficient mental health support from their employer and feel comfortable talking about mental health in the workplace.

Coincidentally (or not), only 3% of women from these companies are experiencing burnout.

Overworked, underpaid, and under-resourced

Now, as a leader who wants to equitably tackle employee burnout, you may be asking: which comes first, mental health or gender equity?

Both, because the two are intertwined. (Remember, gender equity is a systemic issue and cannot be reduced to a single causal variable.)

If resources allow, by all means provide mental health benefits to employees. For instance, I recently gave my employees annual subscriptions to Calm. However, there are other steps employers can take to address symptoms of burnout while improving levels of gender equity within their organizations.

1. Can you ensure all your employees receive equitable access to resources so they can be successful in their jobs? Only 19% of Black women have received job or executive leadership training in their careers compared to 30% of white women and 33% of white men.

2. Can you ensure all your employees receive equitable wages so they don’t have to second-guess their worth? The pay gap has barely budged since 2010.

3. Can you ensure all your employees receive equitable performance reviews so they have a path for career advancement? Nearly a third of all employee performance reviews contain bias, and 4% of the time that bias leads to women receiving lower ratings than men.

4. Can you ensure all your employees receive equitable opportunities for promotions so they’re not trapped in lower-level jobs? Men receive promotions at a 21% greater rate than women, and that rate disparity doubles for Black women.

5. Can you ensure all your employees feel safe to report instances of harassment or inequity without fear of retaliation? 68% of sexual harassment cases included a retaliation charge, and 64% of people who filed sexual harassment charges lost their jobs after filing a complaint.

TL:DR — Can you ensure your employees (especially women) aren’t overworked, underpaid, and under-resourced? Imagine what would happen to the burnout epidemic if companies across the US could answer yes to that question.

Curious about something? Ask your question here for a chance to have it answered in an upcoming edition of this newsletter.

This article was first published on my website.

© 2022 Katica Roy™, Inc.

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