A new survey shows the workplace is taking a toll on women’s mental health even as women make strides in their respective industries.
"A year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, women have made important gains in representation, and especially in senior leadership," the report from McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org said.
"But the pandemic continues to take a toll," the report continued. "Women are now significantly more burned out—and increasingly more so than men."
Women made gains in representation but burnout is still on the rise
McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org noted that female representation has increased across the corporate pipeline but there are still areas of improvement.
The report revealed that White women have advanced much further on the corporate ladder than women of color since 2016. A corresponding chart showed women of color continue to lose ground between the pipeline of entry-level jobs and the C-suite — or executive-level jobs — with their representation dropping off by more than 75%. That has led to women of color accounting for only 4% of C-suite leaders, a number that hasn’t changed significantly in the past three years, according to the report.
When it comes to the burnout issue, the report said 1 in 3 women responded that they have considered downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce this year, compared to 1 in 4 who said the same a few months into the pandemic. Additionally, 4 in 10 women have considered leaving their company or switching jobs—as reflected in high employee turnover rates in recent months.
The study said 42% of women reported they have been often or almost always burned out in 2021, compared to 32% a year ago.
McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org added that a "broken rung" remains when it comes to women making their first step as managers. Researchers said, "for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted." This has resulted in men significantly outnumbering women at the manager level, which means there are far fewer women to promote to higher levels.
More women are rising to leadership, but their work goes unrecognized
McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org said more women in leadership positions are taking on extra duties such as "helping employees manage their workloads to checking in regularly on their overall well-being" compared to their male colleagues.
Surveyors said when employees reported having a manager who provides emotional support, 31% of those managers were women compared to 19% of those managers being men. When it came to employees reporting their managers who do check in on their overall well-being, 61% of those managers were women compared to 54% of those managers being men.
Women of color face more challenges, get less support
The study found that women of color are much more likely than White women to face disrespect and other micro-aggressions in the workplace — which can lead to that "burned out" feeling.
One example, researchers noted, is that compared to White women, Black women are more than three times as likely and Latinas and Asian women are twice as likely to hear people express surprise at their language skills or other abilities.
How companies can improve the workplace for women
The study’s authors urged companies to take steps to make sure women are fairly represented and respected in the workplace, which could lead to more happiness.
Recommendations included ensuring fairness when it comes to hiring practices and performance reviews, such as requiring diverse slates for open roles and providing bias training for evaluators. Companies should also have hiring managers undergo bias training. Researchers also advised companies should track hiring and promotions to determine whether women, and especially women of color, are being hired and promoted at similar rates to other employees.
The study also noted that companies should be more aware of the hardships women face in the workplace. They said companies "can promote awareness by sharing data on the experiences of women in their organization, bringing in thought-provoking speakers, and encouraging employees to openly share their experiences."
This story was reported from Los Angeles.