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Supporting women’s mental health in the workplace

May 16, 2024 | 4 min read

May marks Women's Health Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. That makes it a notable time to address and raise awareness about the distinct health hurdles women encounter. It’s also an opportunity to shine a light on an often-overlooked dimension of women's health: mental well-being. While mental health issues don’t discriminate, statistics reveal a stark disparity in the impact on women versus men.

Women face a host of exclusive mental health conditions, such as pre-natal and post-partum depression, alongside symptoms linked to menstruation and menopause, all of which can significantly influence their quality of life. Additionally, the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders is notably higher among women, occurring at twice the rate observed in men. [1] This reality underscores the need for a gender-sensitive approach when it comes to mental health support strategies.

Millions of women struggle with mental health

The high rate of mental health challenges among women continues to grow. Nearly 40% report having been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime, compared to 20% of men. [2] Research shows that mental health among women has worsened since the pandemic. Likely causes include that women were more likely to lose jobs or leave work since children were home from school and women made up 78% of healthcare workers, which exposed them to heightened emotional and psychological pandemic-related risks. [2]

Discrimination plays a role in mental health

A significant cause of mental health challenges for women is ongoing gender inequality. [3] Avoidable and unfair differences in status, power, wealth, health, and employment can lead to disparities that contribute to mental challenges. For instance, receiving less pay for performing similar tasks, being expected to manage all caregiving burdens, and being exposed to harmful media messages can all contribute to chronic stress and depression. [4]

Investing in women’s mental health is smart business

While the need for mental health services is increasing, the stigma surrounding the need for these services is decreasing. Employees have come to expect — and are making decisions to switch jobs based on — benefits that support their physical and mental well-being. In short, mental wellness offerings are no longer a perk. They are strategic imperatives. Employers that prioritize women’s mental health can:

  • Attract top talent: Offering mental health support signals to job seekers that a company values employee mental health, which makes it a more attractive career destination.

  • Improve retention: Employees who see their employer’s commitment to well-being are more likely to feel satisfied with their job and stay with the organization.

  • Boost productivity: Mental health resources help employees manage stress and improve overall well-being, which can enhance performance and productivity.

  • Reduce absenteeism: Proper support can reduce absenteeism and presenteeism, which happens when people are physically present but disengaged.

  • Enhance company culture: Prioritizing mental health creates an empathetic culture, makes employees feel supported and comfortable, and creates a positive work environment.

Four ways employers can support women’s mental health

Employers have a responsibility to offer an environment where women feel empowered to speak up about and have the support to take control of their mental health. Here are some ways an organization can prioritize women’s mental health.

  • Promote a culture of well-being: Encourage work-life balance and healthy habits, such as mindfulness practices and stress management techniques.

  • Normalize conversations about mental health: Encourage employees to talk openly about mental health issues and available resources.

  • Provide support services: Offer mental health benefits for employees, including support for working parents, remote work options, flexible work schedules, and paid time off.

  • Empower managers to lead by example: Inspire managers to have open conversations about mental health, talk about their self-care practices, and model effective stress management techniques.

Breathe mental wellness into your company climate

Women face unique challenges when it comes to mental health, many of which remain unseen because there’s a reluctance to discuss them — particularly at work. From hormonal fluctuations and societal stereotypes to socioeconomic elements, such as abuse, education, and income, women face a long list of complexities that affect their mental health.

Employers can highlight these issues by offering safe spaces for and normalizing mental health discussions, enhancing resources and communicating their availability, advocating for a culture of flexibility and well-being, and equipping managers with training and support tools. Companies that make these changes to support women’s mental health can create a thriving and inclusive work environment for all their employees.

To learn more, view a digital discussion about innovative approaches to supporting your workforce's mental health.

[1] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression/art-20047725

[2] https://news.gallup.com/poll/505745/depression-rates-reach-new-highs.aspx

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5959880/

[4] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/psychological-effects-of-gender-inequality#what-is-gender-inequality

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