The bad news? Working Canadian women are stressed – and it’s impacting workplace happiness, productivity, retention, recruitment, and long-term organizational success. The good news? More Canadian companies are leaning in with proactive initiatives to support women’s mental health and wellbeing at work.  

While all workers are feeling the crunch of economic uncertainty, the ongoing challenges stemming from COVID-19, and the impact of demanding jobs, women are disproportionately impacted. Women face additional expectations outside of work — and these combined forces impact how they show up for work, perform, and prioritize new opportunities.

Women are primary caregivers – and loyal workers

It’s no secret that women already do more than their fair share of household work, child rearing, and eldercare. However, the numbers are staggering: in 2019 alone, Canadian women put in 820 hours of unpaid housework, 50% more than men. Having children also adds to this load, with women spending double the hours caring for children compared to men. When they come to the workplace, the numbers don’t even out, either. In and out of the home, women are expected to work more for less, and for women of colour, the pay gap can be even wider

Women are undervalued and overworked in almost every aspect of their lives — and it impacts their mental health and wellbeing. 

Understanding her mental health challenges

Most people would agree that life, across the board, has become more stressful since the pandemic. Between changing regulations and shifts from office to remote to office again, it’s been a tumultuous time. Stress at the workplace still seems inevitable, with women most commonly reporting issues with anxiety and depression — including postnatal depression

All three factors — stress, anxiety, and depression — can impact job performance and productivity, inhibit learning, cause burnout, and lead to job turnover.  

However, only half of women who deal with mental health concerns feel comfortable coming to their manager. Most worry about their employer’s reaction to disclosure — managers might see them as less capable if they share their struggle. Others believe their managers simply don’t care about how they feel at work.

For women, perceptions can be especially important. In a work culture where many women already feel under-appreciated compared to their male coworkers, it can be difficult to be transparent about mental health. Most women are concerned about unconscious bias — leading many male managers and executives to take women’s concerns or abilities less seriously. Across demographics, people see sexism and unconscious bias as the biggest reasons for a woman’s stalling career

Add the stress of life, home, wage gaps, and a pandemic, and it makes sense why many women may roll the dice with another job rather than risk disclosing mental health concerns.

Strategies to support women in the workplace

While it certainly can be frustrating for employers struggling with turnover, the most fundamental aspect of employee retention is wellbeing. 

Employers often miss the mark when it comes to taking happiness seriously, with only 39% of companies taking the time to track employee wellbeing. For companies struggling to find and retain talent, leveraging a Wellness Score can come with a big payoff: 87% of workers with a high sense of workplace wellbeing plan to stay at their jobs for the next 12 months

For employees, expectations around workplace happiness and wellbeing are increasing, and it’s one of the top motivators — alongside salary — to start actively seeking new opportunities. Competitive compensation alone isn’t enough, though.

Canadian working women want to feel valued and respected in the workplace. Indeed’s 2023 Building on Optimism study found that 90% of women felt being themselves at work was important — and almost half said that seeing women of diverse backgrounds welcomed was extremely important. Across the board, a comfortable work culture, pay, and work-life balance are the main priorities for women

Simple next steps

Survey your employees, have an ongoing easy communication process in place to get continuous feedback, tap into your talent’s wellbeing metrics, and address key aspects like compensation and job security, work-life balance, stress management, and unconscious bias training. These measures will ensure women feel valued and recognized in their jobs, make them more likely to remain with your organization, and help you attract other talented women.