For over a decade, we’ve seen a drive for gender balance in the workplace, with leadership in particular under the spotlight. Despite considerable effort and investment, many remark that progress (even at Google) is glacial, with economists extending their prediction for gender equality until 2186.
With International Women’s Day (8th March) upon us, the #BeBoldForChange campaign encourages us to take courageous action. So, at Yoke we’ve been pondering the question:
“Is wellbeing the one thing holding women back?”
What have we found
Diversity is about inclusivity. Expanding the accessibility of the workplace to all genders, races, sexualities and more. Historically such agendas have used campaigns to attract diverse talent and change the way people perceive themselves and others at work.
Yet what if this is only part of the story?
What if each group also has a unique set of wellbeing drivers that needs recognising for diversity to sustain itself over time? What if failing to recognise this wellbeing reality, is the single biggest thing holding the diversity agenda back?
Starting with women and stress as a specific example, evidence from neuroscience and psychiatry continues to show that women react differently than men to stress. Psychologically and biologically women have greater tendencies to develop depression, anxiety and other stress-related disorders in challenging times. This relates to a variety of factors, including compromised cortisol feedback effects during menstrual cycles. Alongside this, research also demonstrates that heightened stress levels limit productivity and morale.
With that in mind, a contradiction emerges. We are striving for performance equality yet failing to acknowledge the fact our pressure fueled workplaces do not offer an equal chance for diverse groups, including women, to thrive.
It may sound simple but in our experience this wellbeing and performance contradiction is the one thing holding women back.
For us, daring to reflect honestly on the topic means 3 things:
- Integrating the wellbeing story
Fundamentally you cannot treat wellbeing as a separate add on. It is a core part of any people agenda. Aligning wellbeing to your diversity strategy is key to understanding where your organisation is really at.
- Changing mind-sets
In today’s world, many of us are aiming to be advocates for change. In this arena, change starts from a belief system that wellbeing and performance can coexist. From our experience, this mind-set is missing, in particular amongst women and is emulated by role models and mentors who often share the same outlook. Educating people on this possibility is the key to unlocking behavioural change .
There is exciting and innovative work going on in the wellbeing and performance space. Yoke are fortunate to be a part of this movement and feel privileged to be working with clients who are open minded to experimenting with the topic. This investigative approach is seeing insightful and often unexpected results, changing the way people view their own performance.