Every year, McKinsey and LeanIn release an annual report on Women in the Workplace, and the current 2020 data was right on target for how women make a difference in all workplace environments. However, the impact on women in these organized and established settings — and female entrepreneurs whose work has been challenged with the pandemic — has highlighted the uphill climb that women have faced for several generations and continue to do so. The most significant research has been on mental health issues being a foremost factor in overall wellness.
The negative economic influence for women in organizations, as well as small businesses, is going to be staggering. Couple that with the impact each sector will have on a woman’s mental stability, and there’s no question we are facing a global crisis of epic proportions. Burnout, overwhelm, anxiety, depression, lack of sleep — these are just some of the milder symptoms we are seeing.
What are the current negatives for women?
The results will show up in the lives of women trying to hold it all together. Throughout their busyness, more women are likely to experience high levels of stress and mental fatigue, alongside financial insecurity, perhaps more than in any other time in history. The pressures for top-notch performance; the feeling of always being "on;" managing children and homeschooling, and the physical and mental health tolls this will take; and, more often than not, finding themselves in the “sandwich generation,” where they are taking care of their own families as well as an aging parent, are at record highs.
Add to that the extra burden of shame or guilt many women feel because — well, let’s face it — we “should” be able to accomplish all of the above with our hair done and a smile on our faces. The internal pressures of having an unproductive day because we women are juggling so many things are exacerbated by being in cultures where “no excuses” and “accountability” or “performance-driven results” are the flavor of the year. Women often feel like they are failing at everything and can’t keep pace with their male counterparts.
Let’s shift the paradigm.
Why are we talking about being resilient in business? It’s time to change the paradigm and shift the model.
What is resilience exactly? How do we know if we are resilient? Simply put, resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties or toughness. For its performance elasticity, the question remains — how well do you bounce? How well do you recover? Even the definition of resilience uses language like tenacity, which creates a certain pressure to be mentally and physically firm while emotionally steadfast.
Instead, what if resilience is simply your ability to move through challenges at a pace that works for you, and that your performance elasticity became your ability to let go of things that don’t serve you in your business or home life? Being a superhero on the outside and falling apart on the inside isn’t resilience.
Becoming resilient incorporates the necessary vulnerabilities and the willingness to ask for help and acquire resources that support you in your business and assist in managing your life. The impact on women without children who are also squeezed into this box of unrealistic expectations is also staggering.
The guilt and shame that accompany high demands happen in the workplace and basically everywhere. High levels of stress, the feeling of being overburdened and the expectations to perform are under the microscope in a time when so many women are feeling disconnected, inundated with daily responsibilities and completely overwhelmed — emotionally, physically and mentally.
How about vulnerability?
Senior-level executive — as well as entrepreneurial — women are coming to a point where being powerful and resilient needs to be redefined. Being vulnerable with colleagues, while also being willing to manage our energy levels, is equally as important as matching our performance indicators and results.
The internal and external pressures we put on ourselves as resilient and strong role models are outdated and could use a dose of upgrade.
The Bottom Line
What can you do about it? These are not answers, because quite frankly, no one has the answers to all of the challenges that women face. These are merely suggestions for people who are being affected by this crisis. Whether you are in a leadership position or running your own business from start to stop, turn it off.
You will only accomplish in one day what there is facing you in a day’s work. The first step is to take care of yourself. Creating mental clarity and focus demands a healthy you, which means proper rest, carved out time for a reset and reboot, daily meditation, a brisk walk or anything else that clears the mental clutter.
Get rid of the notion of “shoulds.” This word imposes a false set of expectations for yourself and others that are not based in fact and rarely give you access to changing the situation or circumstances.
Combine resources with friends, family and neighbors for group learning experiences. Create learning pods for those with children and share these resources to help reduce financial pressures on families. Ask for help, and offer help.
Finally — as simple as it seems, cooking and cleaning after meals until the wee hours of the morning, then having to get up at the crack of dawn to run your business or be on an international video call meeting is a recipe for disaster. Use meal services, get high-quality food delivered and, wherever possible, outsource as many of these things as you safely can.
It’s worthy to note that men are also very much affected by the same things on a daily basis. They continue to strive to understand the pressures while offering up their own grievances. It’s an ongoing balancing act for men who also have their own personal pressures during this globally challenging time.
The bottom line in a nutshell is to listen, to be aware, to show empathy and compassion and to gradually find footing that will get us all over this 2020 hump of obstacles.