Updated: Mar 28
I want to share with you some statistics from a Deloitte report, which was a report that they did just after the end of the pandemic. These are industries and professions where we see a higher rate of women working within those and where burnout is prevalent.
I believe that core led women do three things:
Firstly, they have a deep understanding of who they are at the core.
Secondly, they have boundaries in place and these boundaries help them to protect their energy, their time, their health, their well being, their goals, aspirations, needs and desires. Thirdly, they take regular time out for themselves.
So as we near the end of this pandemic and definitely over the last couple of years, why is burnout still a reality for so many women? We know that women underwent major work-related stresses during COVID-19 and this took a toll on our relationships, on our relationships with employers, and I think some organisations are going to find that really hard to repair.
75% of women said that their work life balance became worse through 2020 and into 2021.
61% of women said that their employers commitment to supporting them during COVID-19 was insufficient.
65% of women said that their employer did not support their efforts to balance work with other responsibilities and commitments.
45% of women said they had to change their working hours as a result of everything that was going on during the pandemic and that they believe this hurt their relationship with their employer.
57% of women are struggling to switch off from work, and that this is leading to more burnout.
We know that the evidence supports the fact that when we have more women on senior leadership teams, particularly at the C suite level, that the organisations that have those women in those top levels, are outperforming those that don't. We also know that one in three women are considering either stepping down or leaving their employment altogether as a result of burnout.
We need women in senior positions within our organisations. Not only does it make ethical sense, a moral sense, it also makes total business sense. And yet if we've got one in three women that are considering leaving as a result of burnout, we're not going to have those women in those top jobs. We know that 61% of women didn't believe that they were supported by their employees and employers as a result of COVID, and this is unacceptable.
If we know that 45% of those who have had to change their working hours said it hurt their relationship with their employer, where is the trust? Prior to 2020, one in five women were considering leaving their employer as a result of burnout. Now we're one in three and if we are finding that these women are anticipating that their relationships with their organisations are going to be hard to repair, as a result of everything that they've had to go through for the last couple of years. It's not good for women. It's not good for our people. It's not good for business.
We've got a lot of work to do here. Many women are unhappy with their jobs. They're looking for positive change, they're looking at other employers, they're looking at stepping out of the workplace altogether, maybe giving up work altogether to allow them some time to really focus on spending more time with their family and friends. Or we're seeing women leaving the workforce and setting up their own companies. But we also know that funding support and business support for women as they start their own businesses, is at a considerably much lower rate than men who are starting their own businesses. The funding opportunities available to women starting their own businesses are rare, the numbers are low, the amount of approvals for women are low.
I think some of this is that those who were starting businesses were feeling a little more risk averse. So actually, do we want to be taking on investment? Do we want to be taking on grants or loans or funding to be able to do that? But of those of us that are requesting these, we're not getting the same approvals, or same approval process.
Interestingly, I have recently watched the Netflix series Inventing Anna. It’s about a young woman in her 20’s who gets arrested for fraud. I think what's interesting is when she realises that as a young woman people are not going to take her seriously in business. So she understands that she needs to get a number of senior men on board and recognises that she needs to get a man in her corner to fight for her. So I think many of us, in addition to burnout, are still experiencing the disconnect, the lack of support and the fact that people are not taking us seriously in business.
Sometimes we feel we have to push harder and prove ourselves more, whether we are employed or whether we are in our own business. All of this additional pressure that we feel is leading us to push harder, to try harder, to work longer hours, to really push and try to prove ourselves and if you know my backstory, you’ll know I have suffered from burnout before and that I felt for a long time, that I was still having to prove something.
I was the youngest director within the organisation. I was the only female for a time at director level, I was a mum of young sons and I felt I had a point to prove to myself and my family members- who told me that it was very unlikely that I would be able to succeed in my career whilst having my twin sons. The stubborn streak in me wanted to stick two fingers up at them and say, I'm going to do this and I'm going to show you. I also wanted to set an example for my sons to show them that I was capable, that I could provide for them and as the main breadwinner within the family, that we could challenge the norms. I think some of that was societal pressure in addition to the pressure that I was experiencing within my organisation. So I felt to prove I could really do this, I had to work harder, longer and faster than my male peers. So I kept going because I felt I needed to keep proving something.
We've got historical and societal pressure, plus we've got our own internal drivers that can all lead to burnout. Perhaps we have got that voice in our head from a family member or a friend telling us we can't do this and we want to show them that we absolutely can. As a result of the pandemic, a lot of the women that I was working with throughout 2021 were struggling and felt everything was out of control. Work Life balance is a myth by the way!
I had an inquiry last week from a woman that I'm going to start working with soon, who said to me; “I don't have balance, I feel like I'm out of control with everything, I feel lost and want to get back to where I was” Some women I have spoken to didn't ask for support that they needed during the pandemic. They weren’t asking for the support that they needed at home or the support that they needed to do their work. Again it felt like we had to be doing everything and that we had to be taking on all this additional pressure and responsibility. We didn't want anybody to say that we weren't coping or think that we couldn’t manage it all.
A lot of the women that I talk to haven't even told their employers how they're feeling because they perceive that it would damage their career and their career progression. This is not what somebody has told them and it's got nothing to do with how they're being treated. This is because they haven't been open enough to say I'm really struggling.
45% of women who said that they had to change their working hours said that it hurt their relationship with their employer, but what we don't have are the details that sit behind that. Did something really change? Have relationships changed? Have they started to be treated differently to any of their other colleagues? Is this because of how they are perceiving the situation? I don't have the details that sit behind these statistics to be able to quantify that, but sometimes this is our perception rather than what is actually happening.
As I was going into my burnout, I felt that if I slowed down, I would have failed. The reality is, I was still doing five times more than a lot of other peers at my level and I was dealing with 10 times more projects than anybody else. Slowing down would have been the sensible thing to do, but I’d gotten into my head particularly because of this toxic environment that I was working in and because of some toxic people on the exec team, so I felt that I had to keep going!
It took me years to realise this, but a lot of that pressure and perception was nothing to do with family, colleagues or peers. I was putting that pressure on my own shoulders and then I’d go home and think that I had to be doing all of the household responsibilities and be the one to sort all of the stuff for my sons and for the house during the weekends. This was my guilt that I was feeling and experiencing, thinking because I’m not there during the week and my husband is taking on a lot of responsibilities, then I needed to be in charge over the weekend.
My husband would be out every weekend with friends or watching football. I would be up at six o'clock on a Saturday and Sunday morning making sure the house was tidy, making sure that the washing was done, that the kitchen was clean and sometimes I could feel that level of intensity burning and I'd have a bit of an outburst saying that him and the boys should be helping more. I felt I shouldn’t have to ask them to help, but I’m sure if I’d asked him to help clean the house or do some washing, he would have helped. Or if I had asked my sons, I’m sure they would have helped me. But I'm not convinced that if I had spoken to my employer at the time and said that I'm struggling, or I need some more resources, or I need somebody to take on these projects, I'm not sure how that would have been received. That was an eye opening point for me.
If your employer, your manager, your leaders or your CEO are not supporting you, are you in the right organisation? This is where the reality of 2022 needs to change for women in the workplace. We have to get better at saying:
This is how I'm feeling.
This is the level of support that I need.
I’ve had women come to me and want to work with me on a one to one basis and say that they are going to be self funding the coaching. I always explore with them and ask if that is their choice or have you spoken to your boss about funding this? Some women that I have spoken to in the last year have never spoken to their CEOs about this or ask them to help fund the coaching. Well, why don't you ask? There's nothing to lose. You can say “I'm thinking of working with a coach Robert, will the organisation be able to fund it or fund part of it?” All of these women that were worried about speaking to their CEO and asking for money, got it. They got the money!
The reality of 2022 for women in the workplace, is that these figures relating to burnout are going to continue to increase. More and more women are going to continue getting to a point of burnout if we do not start asking for what we need. The next pandemic will be a mental health pandemic if we do not start to ask for what it is that we need. Probably no surprise that some of the careers that experience burnout are people like physicians, nurses, people working in retail, hospitality, social workers, emergency response workers, lawyers, teachers, and accountants.
What we've also seen is that about 40% of people right now are feeling exhausted and that's probably no surprise given all of the stress, anticipation, unknown, lack of holidays and lack of being able to socialise and go out and do all of the things that we would normally do to lift our energy. If we don't do enough to tackle this exhaustion, the exhaustion is going to lead to more stress and that stress is going to lead to burnout. We can absolutely change this and we need to make the change.
As women we need to change.
We are worthy of support.
We are deserving of support.
The reality of 2022 for women in the workplace has to be better than the reality of 2020 and 2021. We cannot allow these numbers to keep soaring. Let’s talk about self care- some women think it’s selfish to take time out for themselves, but you are worthy of support and it’s not about ‘me first’ it’s about ‘me too’ I deserve to be looked after, have my needs met, listened to, supported, helped and heard.
We have to make that change and it starts with understanding who we are at the core. When we understand who we are at the core, we understand more of our needs, wants and desires. We understand what our values are and we align everything we do, to who we are at the core. There's no escaping that when we become core led women and when we understand who we are, our boundaries become easier to set and manage and we create more time for ourselves.
Together we've got to stop 2022 being the year of burnout for women in the workplace, this cannot be our reality. It's been our reality for too long already and we have to make that change.
In 2013 Kelly had a successful leadership career, yet she was burned out, exhausted, and missing out on life with