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The Gender Gap and why #EmbracingEquity won’t fix it!

burnout leadership Mar 08, 2023

The Gender Gap and why #EmbracingEquity won’t fix it!

Today we’ll see our feeds filled with stock photos of women hugging each other and themselves, we’ll see organisations talking about all that they are doing to #EmbraceEquity in their organisations whilst they bring out the bunting and balloons and provide a round of applause to all of the women in their workplace.

Don't get me wrong, I love a celebration (as long as it's a quiet, not over-stimulating one), and I love celebrating the incredible women in my life and in the world. But I’m done with paying lip service whilst we still see very little actual change in practice. And, until there actually IS equity, for all, there's nothing to embrace!

Unless you’ve been hiding under a bush for the last few years, you’ll know that I talk about Burnout A LOT! And whilst I work with men and women, the number of women I work with, who all come to me with the same issues as clients, or just to share their own story, is staggering. (And as an aside, I’m currently creating something that will help me help even more of you, so do look out for that).

Six of my current clients are all self-funding their coaching because their organisations felt they would be ‘better off’ waiting for the “women in leadership” programme that’s starting later this year. These are global organisations and my clients are Directors in these organisations, but when speaking to the VP’s, one-to-one coaching wasn’t deemed appropriate whilst an in-house programme was being designed. Two of my clients asked what the equivalent was then for their male colleagues, “oh, well there isn’t a men in leadership programme so they’ll be part of the coaching cohort”, I mean really!! Come on people, what’s going on?!?

And I’ll tell you now that these organisations will be flying the global flag for #IWD2023 today just like thousands of others out there, whilst actually doing nothing to actually embrace equity or the women in their organisations.

Now I could bang on about this all day, all week, probably even all month, but because I know I’ll also receive a lot of ‘what about the men posts, don’t you care about them at all?’ I’m not a man-hater. I live with five men, my best friends are men, I’ve supported and been supported by men my entire life and some of the biggest cheerleaders in my career have been men. And, today is International Women’s Day, part of Women’s History Month, and there is still a LONG way to go before we can embrace equity.

The most toxic people in my career, have been women, five of them to be exact. The most toxic friendships have included women. I’ve seen the most backstabbing and toxic behaviours in the workplace, by women. And some of the most hurtful comments and behaviours that I’ve had throughout my life, in my career, and daily in my DM’s are from women. And I know that this is driven by fear, and it’s taken me a long time, but I’ve been able to forgive each of these women for their behaviour toward me and I’ve been able to move on and move forward. And this fear, is why more women need coaches, and one-to-one and group coaching and support more than ever because few of us realise just how good we actually are.

That said, some of the most inspiring teachers, mentors, friends, and community in my life, are women. And last week as part of a group programme that I’m part of, we were asked to think of a handful of people that inspire us, I listed 37 women immediately, including the qualities I admire in each of them, and I felt lucky to have these women in my life and in my periphery.

But we must all do more, to keep lifting each other, and to keep supporting each other, and to close the many gaps that still exist and that are widening.

So let’s look at some stats!!

Gallup’s Gender Gap in Burnout report stated that: Working women report more on-the-job burnout than working men do, and the gap has only widened during the pandemic.

In 2019, 30% of women and 27% of men said they "always" or "very often" felt burned out at work. That three-percentage-point gap expanded to 12 points in the pandemic-era months of 2020, from March to December, and has averaged eight points in 2021 -- 34% of women and 26% of men this year have reported feeling burned out.

The expanded gender gap in worker burnout seen during the pandemic is the result of two shifts since 2019 -- increased burnout among women and decreased burnout among men. Burnout among men has varied, dipping significantly to 22% in 2020 and then rising to 26% this year, but is still just below the 27% recorded in 2019. By contrast, women's burnout increased four points to 34% in 2020 and remains at that level in 2021.

To be clear, burnout among working men is still far too common, with about one in four currently experiencing it on a regular basis. Employees who reach this breaking point of always or very often feeling burned out at work are 23% more likely to visit the emergency room, 63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times as likely to leave their employer. Burnout is a serious workplace issue for all genders, races, ethnicities and job types.

However, the disproportionate increase in burnout among working women during the pandemic has resulted in a third of them dealing with it as a routine part of their job -- a figure that demands attention.

PWC’s Women In Work Index 2023 stated that: “If progress towards gender equality at work continues at its historical rate, an 18-year old woman starting work today will not see pay equality in her working lifetime. Our Women in Work Index shows progress towards gender equality at work across the OECD has been exceedingly slow over the last 10 years, with a persistent gender pay gap of 14%, down only 2.5 percentage points since 2011. Improvement in the Index this year is a symptom of economic recovery in post COVID-19 labour markets, and does not demonstrate genuine progress towards gender equality.”

The motherhood penalty - the loss in lifetime earnings experienced by women raising children - has become the most significant driver of the gender pay gap. Prompted by the underemployment and slower career progression women experience on returning to work after childbirth, it is perpetuated by the unfair share of childcare women take on in almost every country around the world.

They also report that it will take over 50 years to close the gender pay gap at the current rate of progress.

McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2022 report stated that: “Despite modest gains in representation over the last eight years, women—and especially women of color—are still dramatically underrepresented in corporate America.

And this is especially true in senior leadership: only 1 in 4 C-suite leaders is a woman, and only 1 in 20 is a woman of color. Moreover, most companies are grappling with two pipeline problems that make achieving gender equality in their organization all but impossible:

The “broken rung” remains broken. For the eighth consecutive year, a “broken rung” at the first step up to manager is holding women back. For every 100 men who are promoted from entry level to manager, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted. As a result, men significantly outnumber women at the manager level, and women can never catch up. There are simply too few women to promote into senior leadership positions. 7 More women leaders are leaving their companies.

Now companies have a new pipeline problem. Women leaders are leaving their companies at the highest rate in years, and the gap between women and men leaders leaving is the largest we’ve ever seen. To put the scale of the problem in perspective: for every woman at the director level who gets promoted to the next level, two women directors are choosing to leave their company.”

I could go on. The fact is that women are reaching Burnout at a faster rate than men, and are leaving the workplace at a faster rate than men, whilst being underpaid for equal work and receiving less tailored and specific support for the same work in the same organisations.

We have work to do, and bunting and balloons just aren’t going to cut it. Our friend the Gender Pay Gap App will be working especially hard today, and don’t forget, we can all see if you’ve deleted your tweet once they’ve shared it. So if you’re not happy with the data, fix it, and then you’ve got nothing to be ashamed about!

And so, to all of the women who are lifting and supporting other women, and those that aren’t, Happy #IWD

To all of the women who are at the point of Burnout, and those that aren’t Happy #IWD

To the women who are paid equally and fairly, and those that aren’t, Happy #IWD

And to the leaders who are supporting the women in their workplace, and those that aren’t Happy #IWD.

Let’s all keep striving for progress and for better!


I'm Kelly, the Burnout Recovery Strategist, and Coach for leaders who are ready for a life beyond burnout. They hire me to help them identify what's next, reduce stress, and align their mind, body, and goals, to stop burnout from striking again.

As a lifelong high-achieving, overperforming, recovering perfectionist who thrives under pressure, I know a thing or two about stress and jeopardising your wellbeing. I reached Burnout twice. And I've spent the last 9 years creating strategies and techniques to stop me, and my clients from burning out again.