Women are Rightfully Burnt Out & Organizations Need to Help

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

The new annual Women in the Workplace report by McKinsey and LeanIn.org, which surveyed 423 organizations and 65,000 employees, tells us that 42% of women say they often or almost always feel burned out. That’s up from 32% last year and seven percentage points higher than their male peers.

But these findings are not surprising as they also outline how women are overworked, mistreated and undervalued in the workplace.

According to the study women are promoted to manager at far lower rates than men, are more likely to face microaggressions and are more likely to spend substantial time on DEI efforts outside of their scope of work without being recognized. When you dive into how this data impacts women of color, specifically black women the margins grow significantly.

There's this concept identified as the "broken rung" which addresses the fact that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted. As a result, men significantly outnumber women at the manager level, which means there are far fewer women to promote to higher levels. This data point looks at women collectively, but when looking at women of color this drops 16%. Representation of women of color falls off relative to white employees and men of color at every level of the corporate pipeline, leaving women of color severely underrepresented at the top.

The study outlines that Women who regularly experience microaggressions are twice as likely as those who don’t to be burned out, more than twice as likely to report feeling negatively about their job, and almost three times as likely to say they’ve struggled to concentrate at work in the past few months due to stress.

Why you ask? Because, not only are they facing the stress of their demanding workload, but they also have to be on high alert for mistreatment. When you face microaggressions day in and day out it makes it challenging to be authentic, to be vocal and to bring the best version of yourself to work. Women's energy, especially women of color has to be distributed to not only their work, but managing the impacts of being consistently mistreated.

“Someone told me I was ‘so articulate.’ They thought they were paying me a compliment. It’s frustrating to hear those comments, to have your decisions questioned, to be perceived as the angry Black woman. It is very stressful. The average person has no idea about the stress that women and people of color carry. They have no idea about the small ways that women and people of color get humiliated, that make them feel undermined or made to feel smaller than they are. It happens all the time.” BLACK WOMAN, SENIOR MANAGER - From the Women in the Workplace Study

Female leaders are prioritizing their teams well being. The study cites that female leaders are 18% more likely to provide emotional support and check in on their teams overall well-being. When managers support employee well-being, employees are happier, less burned out, and less likely to consider leaving.

Women are also stepping up and taking on more work than men and also receiving little to no recognition for it. The study cites that, senior-level women are twice as likely as senior-level men to spend substantial time on DEI work that falls outside their formal job responsibilities, such as recruiting employees from underrepresented groups and supporting employee resource groups. And women leaders are more likely to be allies to women of color. Compared to men in leadership, they are more likely to educate themselves about challenges women of color face at work, speak out against discrimination, and mentor or sponsor women of color.

So, not only are women doing their job, checking in on their team's well being, and facing consistent microaggressions, but they are also fighting for equality, getting involved in ERG's creating new policy, supporting underrepresented groups AND educating themselves. This sounds like the recipe for burnout.

So what do we do?

We need Organizations as a whole (primarily male leaders) to step it up in all aspects.

The "broken rung"

  1. Leadership Development for all managers, team leads and high performing individual contributors

  2. Mentor women in individual contributor roles

  3. Create networking opportunities inside not outside of working hours

  4. Offer your female employees stretch projects

  5. Hire leadership coaches for high potential female managers and individual contributors


  1. Educate yourself and your organization - Get clear on the definitions (microaggression, bias, intersectionality, gender gap, unpaid labor)

  2. Enroll everyone in bias training

  3. Research employee benefits and programming for women and make sure the entire organization is clear on them


  1. Create diversity metrics for both hiring and performance reviews - tie them to leadership compensation

  2. Pick one ERG to get involved in

  3. Create a formal mentor program and personally mentor a woman of color

  4. Genuinely vocalize your support for diversity, equity and inclusion and what it means to you

If gender and racial diversity exists across every level of the organization and if the workload is carried evenly across gender we will start to see a decline in burnout.

Just like women carry the brunt of unpaid labor at home, the data shows they are doing more inside the office, too. Women are rightfully tired. One in three women says they have considered downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce this year, compared to 1 in 4 who said this a few months into the pandemic. Additionally, 4 in 10 women have considered leaving their company or switching jobs.

We've seen article after article citing an increase in employee turnover the past few months and according to this study it doesn't look like things are turning around. Organizations have a choice and they can make changes, but they need to act quickly. Infinidei can help with many of the bullet points above, reach out if you're interested in learning more or partnering together.

Sources: Women in the Workplace 2021 - LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company