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The Uncomfortable Truth About The Gender Wellbeing Gap

You're probably aware of the Gender Pay Gap.

But are you familiar with the Gender Wellbeing Gap?

The statistics on the Gender Wellbeing Gap are alarming.

We are seeing a stark difference in the wellbeing experiences of men and women in both their work and personal lives.

According to Gallop, the gender burnout gap has more than doubled since 2019.

And in their Women in The Workplace Report, McKinsey & Co share that women are even more burned out than they were a year ago, and burnout is escalating faster among women than men.

After the onset of the pandemic and during the first Covid wave, there was a decline in the mental health and wellbeing of both men and women. However, according to the European Economic Review women were impacted more than twice as much as men (Volume 145, June 2022).

Whilst we're seeing the Gender Pay Gap reduce, albeit at a painfully slow speed. The Gender Wellbeing Gap has widened. This trend isn't looking to change anytime soon.

This has huge implications for women both professionally and personally - not only now, but in the future too.

As a BBC article reported, “One of the greatest concerns workplace experts harbour is that poor mental health among women in the workplace could discourage future generations from setting ambitious professional goals, particularly if they want to start a family. That could exacerbate the gender inequalities that already exist in terms of pay and seniority in the labour market.”

So for International Women’s Day 2023 addressing the inequalities in wellbeing is critical.

I've made it my mission to understand why we are experiencing this Gender Wellbeing Gap.

My own experience of burnout fuels my mission. When it happened nearly a decade ago, it blindsided me.

On my journey to recover, I got fiercely curious about how it had happened. Because how could I stop it from happening again if I didn't understand how it had happened in the first place?

What I've learnt over the last decade has been mind-blowing. It's fueled a passion for sharing these insights with other women. Helping them to avoid hitting the burnout wall and shift from surviving to thriving.

When I first got diagnosed with burnout, I thought I'd done something wrong. Maybe I wasn't strong enough? Maybe I wasn't capable enough?

I only focussed on the individual factors influencing my burnout. These psychobiological factors are based on personality, preferences, mindset and habits. Whilst they do play their part, they're not the full picture.

The Gender Wellbeing Gap is actually influenced by a vast and complex picture.

There are a number of psychobiological *and* psychosocial factors that are influencing this trend.

The psychosocial factors that play their part for women include:

  • Conflicted sense of identity - getting caught between the ideal worker and ideal mother paradigms

  • Discrimination/marginalisation in the workplace

  • Domestic inequality and division of household labour

  • Carrying the majority of the mental and emotional load

  • Impact of social media on unrealistic standards we hold ourselves to

From research conducted by the Global Leadership Wellbeing Survey and the rigorous investigation into the extent of gender-related differences in the wellbeing profiles of 5000+ professionals and leaders, we know this:

In comparison to men, women in professional roles experience significantly:

  • Lower professional and personal wellbeing

  • Less respectful and more toxic work relationships

  • Less performance and career clarity

  • Less meaningful, rewarding and purposeful work

  • Higher emotional and mental loads

  • Higher risk of burnout

Now more than ever, it's important for us to learn how to sustain our wellbeing.

And for International Womens Day 2023 as we ‘Embrace Equity’ it’s about understanding the specific factors that impact each of us - our unique circumstances and resources - that either support or detract from our wellbeing.

What we know from the extensive research by Global Leadership Wellbeing Survey is that there are six key domains of our wellbeing that we need to pay attention to in order to feel that overall sense of wellbeing in our lives - in both ‘living well’ and ‘working well’:

By doing this, it will enable us to use our energy sustainably to make an impact in our professional lives while also being able to show up in our personal lives in a happy and healthy way

If not, we're going to continue to see too many women feel like they've got to dim their light to avoid burning out. Or to ignore the signs of burnout and slowly their light goes out.

Leaving them to either 'silently quit' their dreams and ambitions or actually to quit.

Neither is acceptable, in my opinion.

Because, as mothers, we're often our family's wellbeing compass. If we're not flourishing, it's hard to lead a flourishing family without depleting ourselves in the process. I now know this from painful personal experience!

So this International Women's Day, let's take back our power by putting ourselves at the centre of our wellbeing. It's the single most powerful and strategic way you can make the impact you want in this world.


About Author:

Nicky Lowe is an award-winning Executive Coach and has supported thousands of executives in some of the world's best-known organisations to thrive personally and professionally. She is the founder of Wisdom For Working Mums and has been an Executive Coach for nearly two decades.

After having her first child, Nicky experienced burnout and reimagined her approach to work and motherhood. She's now on a mission to support career-driven women to combine their work and family life in a more successful and sustainable way - without sacrificing their sanity or wellbeing. She applies her coaching, leadership and psychological skills to help women to thrive in life and work.

Nicky has created Empow-Her®, the only wellbeing programme designed specifically for career-driven women that provides a full and unique picture of what's sustaining or detracting from your wellbeing and identifies key focus areas to create a practical and individualised action plan to thrive in your life and work. She is an accredited Global Leadership Wellbeing Solutions practitioner.


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