Women in the Workplace Series: Part 1

This three part series will provide an in-depth look at the results of the 2023 “Women in the Workplace Community Survey” provided by REACH Women’s Network, exploring the importance of its findings and recognizing the opportunities and change women hope to see in our local workforce. REACH is an acronym for Recognize, Encourage, Advance, Connect Her. The nonprofit’s mission is to close the gender gap by raising the collective voice and influence of women in the workplace.

Navigating the complexities of the modern workplace, women encounter a multitude of specific and unique demands, challenges, and barriers that profoundly shape their professional journeys. 

This past April, REACH conducted its first comprehensive study of its kind conducted in Forsyth County, with its survey designed to measure how working women in the community feel about issues such as workplace flexibility and benefits, company culture, job satisfaction, career advancement, work/life integration, and more. With 687 working women in Forsyth County participating, the results provided an up-close understanding of what women in our community experience, as well as have their eyes on when it comes to the future of their careers. 

In this first article of the series, we’re shining a spotlight on a pressing issue that impacts countless women in the workplace both locally and across the nation: mental health and burnout. 

This probably doesn’t come as a shock, but the relationship between women’s well-being and their professional lives has a major impact on their mental health. Balancing expectations from society, family roles, and career responsibilities creates a tremendous strain that often leads to heightened stress levels, burnout, and even long-term psychological and physiological implications. “Women have been leaving the workforce at a greater pace than men, so we wanted to ask them, directly and anonymously, what it would take for them to thrive, not merely survive, in the workplace,” Julia Townsend, co-president of REACH shared.

Survey Results: A Look at Collective Burnout
  • 83% of responding women stated they experience burnout at least sometimes; 47% of those said they experience it “often” or “almost always.” 
  • 1/3 of respondents said they believe that requesting or taking advantage of their employer’s existing flexible work opportunities would negatively affect their chances for promotion (1/3 said it would not, and 1/3 replied “neither agree nor disagree.”)
  • 82% say mental health care coverage is absolutely essential or very important as a workplace benefit (second only to affordable medical insurance coverage).
Opportunities for Employer Support & Change

“The level of burnout is concerning, but not all that surprising, given some of the national statistics we have seen that are in line with this,” Townsend said. “At the same time, at least one third of responding women believe taking advantage of options that could reduce their stress would negatively impact their careers. Employers must do a better job assuring women that they will not be penalized if they take advantage of these options.” 

While many employers over the last decade have added mental health benefits or created programs and resources for employees to help improve mental health overall, the need to reach its female associates is evident. Ofen there is a misconception that burnout and mental health overwhelm is an issue more rampant for lower income families or those struggling with unemployment. The majority of survey participants were full-time employees at one job, working 35–50 hours per week. 95% were self-identified as professional women and 88% had completed at least a bachelor’s degree. The annual wage income recorded from participants followed a bell curve; 27% had an annual salary of $50,000–$74,900 and 19% had an annual salary of $100,000–$199,999.

There is still work to do. 

The initial idea for the survey arose from the questions, “What do women need to thrive in the workplace? And how do we know if we’re moving the needle on those things?” said Julia Townsend. The fact of the matter is that women are navigating a complex and ever changing professional landscape where their unique skills, talents, and perspectives are essential for fostering success for their employers and communities. However, the overwhelm of expectations and systemic barriers for women continue to hinder their progress, stifling their potential and limiting their ability to fully thrive in the way that they crave and deserve. 

The hope of this survey and of the women in this community is that by learning more we’re developing understanding and in turn proactive efforts to create a truly inclusive and equitable working environment.

If you are interested in learning more about the 2023 survey or receiving additional

information, you can sign up for updates through the REACH website, reachwomensnetwork.org/survey.


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