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  • The Woolf Partnership

The Juggling Game

Updated: Jun 6

Women are hanging on. And that is probably the most blunt and simple way to put it. Forty-two percent of women report being burned out.

Brexit. Covid-19. The Great Resignation. Quiet Quitting. It has been a hectic few years and they have taken their toll on everyone. Everyone is tired, worn out and weighed down by the impact of the global crisis we have felt.

But burnout is affecting women far more than men.


Well there is no clear cut reason, but experts agree that women are feeling the burnout significantly more than men. Perhaps it is because the gender pay gap amongst full time employees in the UK as of April 2022 was still 8.3% - up from 7.7% the previous year.

Or maybe it is due to the crippling costs of childcare in this country? The average cost of childcare in the UK rose by over 25% between 2015 and 2022, despite average weekly earnings only rising by 14%. I have seen a plethora of memes recently congratulating Germany on the low childcare costs which allow parents to work, and oh yes - contribute to the economy. Here in the UK net childcare amounts to almost a third of family income, not quite the1% in Germany. The so called "motherhood penalty" means the UK is allegedly missing out on up to £38billion of economic growth. Let's just leave that there for a moment.

Could women be burned out by the obstacles they face gaining promotions? Overcoming the perception that they aren't as dedicated to their work as their male counterparts because they have other commitments?

According to Deloitte's Women @ Work 2022: A Global Outlook,

over half of women experienced harassment and / or microaggressions (yup... being interrupted, talked over, patronised, condescended) during the past year at work. So that could have something to do with it.

Or perhaps it is the vast mental load that women carry like an old accessory we can't do without. Earlier today I explained to someone I felt my mind is like an old computer starting up. Remember the endless lines of data? That is how it feels sometimes.

The reality is that this combination of stress is weighing down on us.

Brexit meant that affordable childcare seemed to evaporate overnight. The pandemic afforded us flexible working but in reality is also presented further caring responsibilities and more reliant families on our presence. Casual sexism hasn't disappeared now that 8% of FTSE100s and 4% of FTSE 250s have female CEOs. And it is exhausting knowing that however hard we are fighting, the gender pay gap still means that as of November 20th, the women of this country are working for free.

I have thought long and hard about writing this today, because unlike most of my posts I realise this is a little downbeat. The truth is that the theme for IWD 2023 hasn't really hit the mark for me.

Whilst I 100% embrace equity and fully understand the difference between talking about equality and embracing equity, I found the imagery a little condescending. The thought of millions of women hugging themselves and posting photos.. well it didn't feel quite right.

And then I heard Helen Pankhurst in conversation with Vanessa Vallely this week. I heard this incredible woman seeped in history speak of her actions to affect change. A woman who must feel the privilege of being born into such a trailblazing family and yes, probably the pressure to continue the family name. I heard her words, echoing those of her grandmother and great grandmother - "deeds, not words" and I remembered, it doesn't matter how I feel about the terrible optics of IWD 2023, the day itself deserves to be honoured.

Burnout is real. Women are feeling it more than men. So if you are really serious about equity in your organisations, consider how you may support those who are teetering on the edge.

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