Burnout–it’s probably one of the most common reasons why people resign, but this phenomenon is especially true for working women, especially at this peculiar moment in time for the American workforce. According to an article that CNBC.com posted in February of 2021, more than 2.3 million women left the labor force between February 2020 and February 2021, which put the “women’s labor force participation rate at 57%, the lowest it’s been since 1988” (Connley). I bet if we asked those 2.3 million women why they left the workforce, a large number of them would cite burnout as the main factor. It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why these women felt that way. The pandemic did a wonderful job of exposing what most working women already knew to be true–working women’s work days don’t stop when they “clock out” at their 9 to 5s. In a recent episode of The McKinsey Podcast, the hosts state that ““One in three women, and 60 percent of mothers with young children,…spend five or more hours a day on housework and caregiving” (Krivkovich). At bare minimum, that’s the equivalent of a part-time job. That same podcast notes that women also, for the most part, shoulder the responsibility of “office housekeeping”. Basically, women, in leadership especially, are oftentimes providing emotional support and nurturing for those who might be feeling extra stress and pressure at work. No wonder we are burning out!
Ok. This is a problem. What can we do to fix it? There’s no one answer, and it’s definitely going to have to be a team effort. If you’re a woman in the workforce who constantly feels pressure or an obligation to be the “office housekeeper,” don’t do so at the expense of your own workload. Brainstorm ways to improve processes and workflows in ways that will benefit everyone, including you. That might involve implementing moments of self-care for employees, shedding activities that aren’t really necessary, and soliciting suggestions from the team on ways to improve the office environment. If you’re a man in leadership, your job is to make sure the burden of emotional support isn’t just falling on the women on your team. The McKinsey podcast asserts that “women who say they have allies in their organizations show much lower levels of microaggressions, much higher levels of overall support. They’re happier, and they’re more likely to stay” (Krivkovich). You can also make sure that you are providing a space to mentor and sponsor the women on your team. If the women genuinely feel like they have a chance at growth in the organization, that’s motivation for them to persevere, even in the face of adversity. The effects of the pandemic threaten to reverse years of progress made in increasing the number of women in the workforce. There is hope, however, if we all take proactive steps in acknowledging and correcting the adverse factors that might be creating excessive stress for women. Burnout is real, but it doesn’t have to be your reality.
“Women’s labor force participation rate hit a 33-year low in January, according to new analysis,” CNBC Make It. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/08/womens-labor-force-participation-rate-hit-33-year-low-in-january-2021.html 28 February 2021
“The state of burnout for women in the workplace”. McKinsey & Company. 4 January 2022.