WX trends: What women are up against at work

WX trends: What women are up against at work

Our workplace experience (WX) trends series looks at recent news articles, videos, social media posts and thought leadership pieces on workplace experience. You’ll also hear from our experts on what’s trending.

This week, it’s all about women. First, we’re looking at some of the barriers women face at work and how it’s contributing to their stress levels. Next, we’ll explore the extra shift that often falls on women to perform. Finally, how ageism impacts women in the workplace.

Stress levels and mental health concerns on the rise

A survey of 5,000 working women in 10 countries found that there are factors inside – and outside – of the workplace that contribute to increased stress levels and concerns about their mental health.

Deloitte’s Women @ Work: A Global Outlook survey found that half of the women surveyed are more stressed than they were a year ago, putting their mental health in the balance. Mental health was their third most important concern behind financial security and rights.

What are the factors impacting working women’s mental health? Long working hours, bearing the brunt of household responsibilities, feeling unsafe in the workplace and working through pain such as menstruation, menopause, or fertility symptoms are some examples.

“Globally, women feel their rights are backsliding, they are experiencing increased stress and taking on the majority of household tasks at home,” said Emma Codd, global chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at Deloitte.

“Alongside this they are experiencing non-inclusive behaviors at work, are concerned for their safety and feel unable to disclose when they are experiencing women’s health challenges. This is a situation that must change — and employers must enable this.”

Holly Grogan, head of people and culture at Appspace, says annual surveys like Deloitte’s help workplaces get a sense of how women are feeling in the workplace.

“It helps us to know the areas where we need to focus.”

The unpaid “extra shift”

Emotional labour is rarely listed in a job description and it’s women who take on the majority of it, according to a BBC article.

Women are socialized at a young age to enter fields that require a lot of emotional labour, such as nursing or hospitality, but every field requires some form of it and it often falls on females to carry the load.

Party planning, team-building exercises and relationship building are some of the examples of emotional labour and the work often stretches beyond being good at your job, according to the article.

“In an engineering firm, say, to get ahead, a male engineer has to be two things: confident and competent,” says Rose Hackman, the author of a 2023 book on the subject. “For a female engineer to get ahead, she has to display the same attributes, and then she also has to be kind and reassuring and a team player.”

What are some potential solutions? The first step is acknowledging that it’s work, says the article. Next, adding it to the way staff are evaluated is a good step forward.

Finally, finding a way to compensate for emotional labour may help balance the playing field more.

How the nuances of ageism impact women at work

Nearly 80% of women have experienced age-related discrimination at work, according to a Women of Influence+ survey of more than 1,250 women from 46 countries.

Ageism, a form of prejudice directed at individuals based on age, leads to stereotyping and unfair treatment, hindering professional growth and wellbeing.

The survey indicates that ageism affects women at all career stages, with notable peaks in early and later years. Respondents attribute ageism to societal biases that disproportionately affect women, impacting recruitment, promotions, and workplace culture.

Ageism intersects with other identity factors such as race and gender, amplifying its effects. The article calls for systemic change, recommending awareness-raising, policy implementation, mentorship programs, competency-based hiring, and inclusion of ageism in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

“The survey underscores the need for organizations to address ageism to foster fairer, more inclusive workplaces for women”, says Grogan.

One way to help create a more inclusive workplace, she says, is by having dedicated online spaces and communities that “foster empathetic interactions and empower colleagues to find connection.”

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