Building resilience among women at the workplace to achieve SDG5


Most countries have not done enough to protect women and girls from the economic and social fallout. Many of such situations are seen in our workplaces, it is however important to change the narrative to deal with gender inequality and its effects on women and society.

There is the urgent need to undertake reforms that will give women equal rights to economic resources, access to ownership amongst others.

It is important to consider that any attempt to improve resilience among staff will need to take into consideration women’s unique challenges and individual needs. Female employees are threatened with many challenges and they become susceptible and sensitive towards them.

Keeping female employees is therefore a major concern considering gender equality issues that has been raised over the years. Female employees have also demonstrated and justified why they also deserve a seat at the top through their consistent innovativeness and skills over time.

Many organizations have deliberately developed policies on women inclusion – certain percentages and quotas are reserved for female top talents. To be able to realize the best out of female employees; recruitment and onboarding may not address the entire issue, there should be the need to create an enabling and welcoming working atmosphere to attract and retain them.

Despite enormous support for greater diversity in leadership, the representation of women in senior roles is growing slowly at best. Generally, there are a few women holding leadership positions. Hardly do we see women in key management and leadership positions, gender diversity and equality is therefore a major challenge that must be dealt with.

And while many organisations are increasingly investing in building gender-balanced leadership profiles, there are a number of converging factors that create unique obstacles for women when they’re climbing the corporate ladder. Women thus require a higher level of resilience to counteract these obstacles at work. The corporate culture must ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in the organization.

An observation indicates that the majority of working women worryingly lag behind their male counterparts on almost all factors of resilience; this is a pressing trend. Career women are experiencing the chronic symptoms of distress far more than men. Women are more likely to be self-critical, to neglect their physical health, and feel overloaded or stressed in the workplace.

Interestingly, female colleagues are forced to deal with a number of conflicting personal, professional and systemic challenges that are not as commonly experienced by their male counterparts. To put these challenges into perspective; a school of thought believes that single-parent families account for a significant number of family units. Worrying enough is the fact that female single parents who are in the working class keeps increasing and the trend is alarming.

It’s because of these realities that working women are more susceptible to experience the crossover and spillover effect. Crossover or spillover occurs when the stress from work or home impacts our stress levels and performance in other domains of life. While at work, thoughts bubble below the surface of what is being missed at home and visa-versa.

For the main caregivers in families – which proportionally still remains to be women in majority – this effect can, in turn, drive a sense of guilt, resulting in higher levels of withdrawal, vulnerability, confusion, and self-doubt. It gets worse when such women have bosses/leaders who are not sensitive to their plight and come across as bullies.

Women have expectations that may lead to self-criticism and compromise self-care if not managed effectively. There are factors in our current working environment that erodes resilience in females. Gender equality and women empowerment can be promoted by enhancing the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology.

The architecture of a sustainable high-performance organization is a resilient workforce, however, a unique challenge for organisations today is that they must acknowledge that women are dealing with systemic challenges that have not previously been issues in the workplace. Whether a case of correlation or causation, what we can see is that as female participation in the workforce has increased, the issue around managing work in the context of a personal life has also risen in prominence.

Employers can begin by building a framework that considers the individual needs of their employees, supports the person as a whole, and aims to foster resilience in all areas of their life, not just in the workplace. For every initiative that is implemented in the workplace, employers should have a simple question or a short list of criteria that helps them frame the impact of each program. For instance, “Is this program going to grow our people’s resilience and make them more productive?”

To be able to achieve the desired impact, special unit can be created with experts who will run the centre, they will be dedicated to offering assistance and counselling for women colleagues who have issues relating to work or otherwise.

This simple approach is what businesses can use to build a culture of trust in the workplace, and grow resilience in the organization from the top down. Where people feel comfortable to attend to their family needs, they’re less likely to be affected by the crossover and spillover effect because they’re confident that everything else is under control.

That includes initiatives such as offering flexible work hours to support external family responsibilities or policies that support employees’ personal lives, employee wellness interventions. Parenting is now a huge responsibility, children are demanding and have become sophisticated with their needs. They seek attention from parents – rightly so, they deserve it. All these must be considered in creating an enabling work environment.  After all, resilience is best built through a number of positive lifestyle practices.

Employers will be pleased to know that on the whole, women typically respond more positively to resilience interventions than males, especially in terms of improving their levels of overload, worry, distress symptoms and fatigue.

And when faced with challenges, resilient women show strength in their ability to minimize the impacts of distractibility, disengagement and avoid a space of self-absorption. With a resilient workforce, the result is female leaders who are happy at work, tactically agile and lead with purpose and optimism. This will clearly impact in their output and personal lives.

Surprisingly, the few women who were able to defy all odds to climb the corporate ladder have done incredibly well and it sends a single that employers have the responsibility to grow more women into leadership roles.

As indicated in SDG5, target 9; corporate organizations must adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels. This will impact SDGs1, 2, 3, 8 and SDG10.

Source: StuartTaylor/Bright Ampadu Okyere (An SDG Advocate) and Lead Partner SDG Alliance-Ghana

Email: [email protected], Twitter: SDG Alliance-Ghana, Facebook: SDG Alliance-Ghana Tel. #0244204664

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