Although women in the workforce have made important gains in representation, particularly in senior leadership, in 2020, the toll of the pandemic appears to be hitting women harder than men. As a result, women are experiencing significantly higher rates of burnout compared with their male counterparts. That’s according to Women in the Workplace 2021, the largest study of women in corporate America, conducted by McKinsey in partnership with LeanIn.Org.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to date, the study finds, women leaders have been the major drivers of efforts to support wellbeing and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in the workforce—increasingly more so than men. Women are also the most likely group to support women of colour at work. These efforts, which add to existing stress and exhaustion, are going largely unrecognised by employers and adding to the rate of burnout for women at work.
This has created a situation of some urgency: Organisations who do not value and prioritise efforts to build inclusiveness, support well-being and navigate the changes imposed by the pandemic risk losing the very leaders they need to succeed.
A pandemic within a pandemic
Without taking proper action and giving it priority, we may be facing a mental health pandemic in the workplace. The stress of the pandemic, the existing “othering” of women, and particularly women of colour in the workplace, and the fact that women, more than men, are doing more work to address mental health and inclusion issues, is leading to a potential burnout crisis for women at work.
Our own Resetting Normal research shows that mental health has emerged as a global and universal challenge. Data show that 72 percent of professionals feel mental health should have an increased focus at work. No matter the age or gender, 32% of respondents reported declining mental health compared to our 2020 report – and women were leading respondents reporting worsening mental health.