Managing or mothering? More women stressed in work than men

by Mar 1, 2022

Women stressed in work

As we ease out of the pandemic research suggests that more women stressed in work than men  

People on the move

LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index is drawn from an online survey distributed to members via email every two weeks targeting about 5000 randomly sampled US-based members. research to participate. Students, stay-at-home partners, and retirees are excluded from analysis so we can get an accurate representation of those currently active in the workforce.  Gender analysis included an option to identify as neither male nor female, but the size of this group was too small to be analyzed separately. The analysis draws upon responses from 26,537 LinkedIn members, polled between Dec. 4 2021, and Feb. 11 2022.

women stressed in work

The latest pulse is telling us that millions of Americans are ready to make a move. This is not reflected to the same extent in other regions, but there seems to be no doubt that people are more open to at least considering a move than they might have been before the pandemic.

The LinkedIn survey shares that 17% of respondents say that they are ready to jump ship within the next 6 months. 45% of U.S. respondents say they plan or hope to stay in their current role over the next six months. Within the group which have itchy feet that group, women (18%) are more restless than men (16%) by a small but statistically significant amount.

Job search drivers

There is a mix of drivers.

women stressed in work

As the chart above shows, there’s clear agreement about the new opportunities that these restless respondents are moving for specific reasons and benefits.  The top factor behind this great resignation is a desire for better compensation or benefits which is cited equally by women and men (69%). Other motivating factors are looking for organisations more aligned with an individual’s values, increased career and growth opportunities.

Another key driver is looking for a less stressful environment and this is where we see a key gender difference. 43% of women cite this as a key trigger compared to 30% of men.

This is in line with data from the pandemic where women are assuming a greater share of domestic and child care responsibilities. For most people in this demographic, the pandemic was a source of stress and anxiety. Many were dealing with child and elder care, plus home schooling, in addition to working remotely in pandemic conditions. On top of this, they were frequently themselves in middle management roles.

women stressed in work

Running hybrid and remote teams takes a different set of skills, especially with a general spike in mental health issues. In the Forrester report on the Changing Attitudes About Mental Health Care and the Workplace, 71% of managers say that in the past year:

“they have been asked to do more than ever to support their employees. But most felt ill-equipped to manage newly remote workers while supporting the mental health of their direct reports.”

Managing or mothering

In a post on LinkedIn from George Anders, Senior LinkedIn Editor at Large he cites Amanda Kersey, a producer for the “Women at Work” podcast for Harvard Business Review, “stress levels can be especially high for female managers, who not only need to steer their own careers but who also feel a deep responsibility to solve problems for people reporting to them.”

This is the “managing or mothering” conundrum which can be dangerous territory for many women. It confuses empathy and sympathy and may be the root of women stressed at work. No manager can solve the problems for their reports. What they can do is be empathetic  They can support their staff, but they can’t carry the load for them. My own observation working with women middle managers is they tell me that they factor in the challenges of their reports, but feel that their leaders do not take into account their challenges. It is this cohort of women leaders who are ready to vote with their feet.

Not forgetting that women have led the way in the workplace exodus at 55.4% compared to 47.2% (men.) Many of whom are still not returned.

Support for existing employees is the only way to make sure they don’t walk. I’ve said it before you have to love the one you’re with. 


Do you need some help with managing stress? Take look at the 3Plus program work/life balance and stress management 

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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