On International Women’s Day, we look at women who have broken the glass ceiling and are leading the way into every industry. You name it and there is an example of leading and successful women. Every achievement is important and it would be futile to measure the achievements of one person against the other.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme, ‘Choose To Challenge’, calls for women worldwide to challenge the status quo and stand up for an equitable world.
It was 100 years ago when Clara Zetkin established International Women’s Day on March 8 (voted in 1910 by the women’s movement). During the 1975 International Year of Women, the U.N. celebrated International Women’s Day (IWD), and in 1977 designated March 8th as the official day for the Women’s Rights and International Peace.
With nearly a year after Covid-19 pandemic further exacerbated women’s safety and security, women from across the world share their thoughts on what IWD means for them, how they celebrate the day, and what they demand.
For the occasion, the Australian Embassy to the Holy See has organized an open webinar that sees the participation of women and men, religious and lay persons, who work with the Holy See or with the Vatican. They include Sr. Alessandra Smerilli, coordinator of the Economy Task-Force of the Vatican’s Covid-19 Commission; Bishop Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Francesca Di Giovanni, Undersecretary for the Holy See’s Multilateral Sector Section for Relations with States; and Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary-General of the Synod of Bishops. Exciting isn’t it?
But there is something very commonly heard by women across the globe. Exhausted. Stressed. Anxious. Berating yourself for “not doing enough” are some signs of burnout that many women are intimately familiar with.
But, burnout is more than just stress — it’s accumulated stress that could lead to exhaustion, pessimism, and anxiety. Burnout can affect women significantly, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made this even more evident.
Women, who have ‘traditionally’ taken on the primary caregiving duties, in addition to their professional lives, have been especially hit hard, with added daily responsibilities and a host of new challenges to their work/life arrangements.
On average, 75 per cent of the world’s total unpaid care work (including child- care, caring for the elderly, cooking, and cleaning) is performed by women — be they homemakers or working professionals. Covid-19 has disproportionately increased the time women spend on family responsibilities. This has led to women dropping out of the workforce at a higher rate than explained by labor-market dynamics alone. Along with having to adapt their daily lives in significant ways, many working women are also experiencing stress induced by the impact the pandemic has had on their career progression- both short as well as long term.
A critical step towards supporting both well-being and career advancement can come from employers and organizations. Some ways to achieve these twin objectives could include — though not be limited to — flexible working, mentorship specifically for women, and creating an environment free of unconscious biases.
Whilst organizations and society at large can play a significant role, here are six ways in which women themselves can both manage ‘burnout’ as well as take care of their well-being whilst still pursuing their life goals — whether personal or professional:
Examine your work-environment – In May 2019, the World Health Organization updated the definition of burnout as: “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
Awareness – catch it early: This is sometimes the hardest part. Women may experience the ‘symptoms’ of burnout or lack of well-being, and still not recognize them.
Ask for support – Whether it’s a good friend, family member, or coach, it is important to have someone who can listen to you, empathize and give you another perspective along with constructive solutions.
Prioritize a ‘healthy’ lifestyle – We tend to underestimate the impact lifestyle has on our behaviour and well-being. Healthy eating, exercise, meditation/breathing techniques and a good sleep routine benefit not only our physical well-being but also our mental state.
Well begun is half done – start your day right – You wake up in the morning, immediately check notifications on your phone, and then run over that ‘overwhelming’ to-do list in your mind.