Supporting Women at Work

06/20/2024 Written by: AP Employee Benefits

In the last decade, women have made their voices heard about how their roles differ from their male counterparts in the workplace; however, the topic of conversation has moved past the pay equality gap and has ventured into subjects such as menopausal and hormonal challenges, and the influence their familial role has on their workday, as many do not feel comfortable to take time away from work for family matters. These topics, and many more, are added stressors for women that can take an additional toll on their mental health. There is a never-ending competition over a woman's time, with constant juggling between work priorities, duties at home, and the increasing need for caregiving support.

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Mental Health and Safety Support

Remote and hybrid work models have given women more flexibility to manage these additional influences; however, the increased push around returning to the office has many women questioning how they can incorporate family-related tasks back into their workday. According to Deloitte’s Women @ Work: A Global Outlook, a survey of over 5,000 women globally, the majority of women do not feel supported by their employers to balance work responsibility with their commitments outside of work. According to the latest release of Deloitte’s Women @ Work Survey, half of women indicated that their current stress levels are higher than where they were the year prior, with the vast majority indicating they have concerns over the toll that stress is taking on their mental health, ranking as a top three concern, only following financial security and women’s rights. More concerning is that over two-thirds of survey respondents indicated they are not receiving adequate mental health support or do not feel comfortable discussing feminine issues with their employers. The psychological safety of female employees is something that is often not taken into consideration; yet, it can be one of the most significant influences on the employee’s overall workplace satisfaction.

There are additional factors that play into the overall satisfaction and safety of women at work, especially during work-related travel. These things can include feeling unsafe when traveling for work due to fears of harassment or uncomfortable commentary from colleagues or clients. 31% of Deloitte's Women @ Work Survey respondents indicated they have experienced microaggressions in the workplace. These microaggressions can form a consistent feeling of unsettledness for many women in the workplace as they are rooted in disrespect and place a diminished value on women in the workplace. According to a recent McKinsey report, 78% of women who are victims of microaggressions in the workplace self-shield, or change their appearance, especially when it comes to their place of work. For many women, this behavior does not change when advancements in their careers occur, as nearly a quarter of women in senior positions have been the recipient of inappropriate actions or commentary. A workplace culture that allows this behavior can significantly impact female employee turnover rates.

Addressing the Silent Pain

The vast majority of working women have experienced some kind of health challenge related to menstruation, menopause, or fertility, and these challenges don’t stop when women go to work. Many women silently work through pain, discomfort, and mental health episodes they may be experiencing. According to a recent report from SHRM, up to 40 percent of women reported missing up to a week of work in any given month due to menopausal symptoms, with a higher prevalence amongst those with a disability. This trend seeps into all hierarchical levels, with up to 29% of senior executives affected. A recent survey from Carrot found that an astounding 89% of respondents reporting that fertility and family forming has negatively impacted their mental health. The same survey also reported that 77% of respondents would remain at their current employer longer if they implemented better fertility benefits, and 88% of respondents indicating they would change roles for better fertility benefits.

While conversations surrounding hormonal and other feminine issues may be uncomfortable at first, they are necessary for women to feel heard and understood by their employer and colleagues. These conversations can also be an educational opportunity for many women, as a recent study published in Women's Health reported that, despite two-thirds of perimenopausal women experiencing symptoms, more than 60%reported they did not feel informed about menopause at all. ay organizations are implementing flexible work arrangements to accommodate female employees struggling with these conditions, an act that demonstrates that the organization is prioritizing the overall health of its employees.

As organizations look to foster more diverse and inclusive places of work, conversations regarding women in the workplace are more important than ever. Connect with your local AssuredPartners team for more information on how your organization can better support female employees across all life stages.

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