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More women leaving their jobs

Mental health and lack of flexibility top concerns for women at work

More women worldwide left their jobs in the last 12 months than in 2021 and 2020 combined, citing a lack of flexibility among the top reasons. Mental health remains a top concern for working women.  More women feel unable to switch off from work, even as they bear the greatest responsibility for household tasks, according to consultancy Deloitte’s annual report on women at work comprising 5 000 women in ten countries.

59% say they are very/extremely concerned about women’s rights, making it their top concern, followed by financial security (58%), mental and physical health (both at 56%), and personal safety (54%). LGBT+ women are more likely to be concerned about women’s rights, while women in ethnic minority groups are more likely to be concerned about their financial security, the survey says.

The report says there are some signs of progress for women in the workplace: rates of burnout dropped; non-inclusive behaviours declined; and hybrid work experiences improved. 

“But these issues are still a challenge for many, and other factors have worsened since last year. There has been a significant decline in the number of respondents who feel comfortable talking about mental health in the workplace. Fewer women feel they get adequate mental health support from their employer.” 

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The report shows one in five women report experiencing health challenges related to menstruation or menopause. Many say they work through the pain and discomfort, at least in part due to a persistent stigma around these topics.

“Employers need to go beyond setting goals and policies and consistently foster a more inclusive and respectful work environment where all women are able to succeed”, says Emma Codd, the consultancy’s global inclusive lead.

Less than a quarter of women surveyed say they have a high degree of flexibility over where and when they work, and lack of flexibility around working hours is one of the top three reasons cited by women who left an employer in the past year.

“There is a correlation between flexibility and employer loyalty, with two-thirds of women in highly flexible work arrangements saying they plan to stay with their company for more than three years, compared to only 19% of women who have no flexibility.” 

“But many women don’t feel comfortable taking advantage of flexible work options—97% believe requesting or taking advantage of flexible working would affect their likelihood of promotion, and 95% believe it is unlikely their workload would be adjusted accordingly if they moved to a flexible working arrangement.”

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About a third of women surveyed say they have experienced a lack of predictability in working hours in hybrid arrangements and did not have enough flexibility in their working pattern. 

Despite some improvements, 37% of women still report that they have experienced exclusion while hybrid working in the past year (versus 58% last year), and nearly a third say that they don’t have enough exposure to senior leaders (versus 45% last year).

The report shows that more than a third of women say they feel the need to prioritize their partner’s career over their own, often because their partner earns more money. More than two-thirds of women say their partner is the primary earner. 

Even among women who are the primary earner, almost one in five still say they have to prioritize their partner’s career over their own. 

“This may contribute to a cycle that diminishes women’s chances of earning more”, the report says.

Similar to the 2022 research, mental health remains a top concern for working women. “While respondents report a slight improvement in mental well-being and fewer women say they feel burned out compared to last year (28% versus 46%), only 37% rate their ability to switch off from work as “good,” declining from 45% last year.” 

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“Meanwhile, the stigma around workplace mental health continues to exist, as only a quarter of respondents feel comfortable discussing mental health in the workplace—a significant decline from 43% in the last report.” 

“And many don’t feel they get adequate mental health support from their employers. These issues are particularly prominent among women from underrepresented groups, who are more likely to report feeling burned out and are less likely to feel comfortable discussing mental health in the workplace.”

The report says that women who work for gender equality leaders are more engaged and have higher levels of well-being and job satisfaction. 

But just five percent of women view their employers as leaders in gender equality, which should be a wake-up call that significant action is still needed,” says Michele Parmelee, Deloitte Global Deputy CEO.

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