NOTE: The opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of Shortlister
Women in the workforce are making great strides. But when it comes to their financial (and overall) stress, finding a way to reduce it could pay big benefits for their employers.
Women make up roughly half of the U.S. workforce, but when it comes to financial, household, and workplace stress, they’re shouldering more than their fair share. And, that’s a problem all employers should be focused on solving.
Let’s start with workplace stress. From #MeToo to gender pay disparity and discrimination, a variety of research shows that women are fighting multiple battles in the workforce.
When it comes to pay, women still earn less than men. The Department of Labor notes the median weekly income of women is only 81 percent of what men earn. (The good news, if you look at the median weekly earnings of persons aged 16 to 24, young women are earning 95 percent of what young men earn, so there is hope that pay parity could be achieved within a generation.)
But while women earn more than half of all college degrees, and represent nearly half of entrants at top business schools, they remain less likely to get promoted and are underrepresented at every level of corporate management. Today, just 6.4 percent of the current Fortune 500 list of companies is headed by women.
There’s nothing more stressful than being great at your job and ready for a promotion only to see it go to someone less qualified and with less experience.
On the homefront, women continue to shoulder more of the caregiving burden and house management duties, adding to their overall stress level.
Women are the primary caregivers of children and the elderly. The Department of Labor reports that 70 percent of mothers with children under 18 participate in the labor force, and of those, three-quarters work full-time. According to Caregiver.org, 75 percent of all caregivers are women and they spend 50 percent more time doing it than men.
Which would be fine if women and men split home work equally. But on a typical day, 85 percent of women spend time on household activities such as housework, cooking, lawn care, or financial and other household management versus 69 percent of men. They spend 2.6 hours completing these tasks versus 2 hours for men.
Exhausted yet? Many women are mentally and physically wiped. But the kicker is financial stress, which has reached crisis proportions. Roughly 75% of Americans have no savings to speak of and live paycheck to paycheck. Wages have been stagnant over the last several decades, and the typical worker has lost ground when you factor in inflation. The Federal Reserve recently found that 44 percent of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency cost out of their savings. More than half of all workers acknowledge they are financially stressed.
The cost to American Business is huge: at least $250 billion a year is lost to financial stress, as employees spend between 12 and 15 work hours per month managing financial issues.
In plenty of homes, families are choosing between putting food on the table, paying for doctors visits or prescription medication, or paying the rent. That’s a lot of stressors piled on top of each other, which helps explain why women, 40 percent of whom are single mothers, report higher levels of stress than men.
It’s hard to focus on your job when you’re worried about making everything else in your life work. Which is why reducing stress for all employees, but women in particular, should be a priority for companies.
How You Can Help
There are several ways companies can help reduce stress for their employees:
1. Institute recognition and rewards programs. Provide a mechanism where people can recognize each other in a peer-to-peer format will quickly be adopted as part of corporate culture, notes Madeline Laurano, co-founder of Boston-based Aptitude Research.
2. Acknowledge financial stress is an issue for your workforce. Financial wellness programs that are limited to 401(k) contributions do little to recognize the other financial stressors at work, including rising health care costs (with an increased burden for employees), elder care, credit, identity theft, student loan and other debts, and more. Choose a financial wellness platform that helps employees identity their own financial stressors and provides a personalized approach to solving those problems.
3. Create new job sharing and flex opportunities. Many companies stress “work/life balance,” but adding more options for flexibility in a career (whether it is working from home one day a week, expanding short-term leave or creating part-time programs) can help women relieve short-term stress without getting off their career path.
Focus on ways to help your workforce deal better with work, home, and financial issues, and you’re sure to see a huge boost to your bottomline.
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Article By Ilyce R. Glink
An award-winning financial journalist, bestselling book author, and radio talk show host, Ilyce Glink is the Founder/CEO of Best Money Moves.