Workplace Wellbeing

All Over the Globe, Women’s Mental Health is Linked to Organizational Success. Here Are 6 Ways to Empower Them.

The workplace reflects the broader world, showing the inequalities that exist. Women's mental health experiences as employees vividly highlight these imbalances.

Written by
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Jess Maynard
Clinically reviewed by
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Chloe Rowshani
Senior Manger of Global Product Marketing
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    Mental health is a global issue. Wherever people live, they experience the interconnected dynamics of work and mental health, often spending much of their lives as employees. 

    By the age of 75, approximately half of the global population will develop a mental health condition, with over half of these individuals being women.

    A recent report by the World Economic Forum and the McKinsey Institute of Health revealed that women spend 25% more time in poor health than men, resulting in 75 million years of lost life annually. 

    Almost half of women’s health burden emerges during their working years, primarily due to conditions like depression, which affect women disproportionately.

    Along with the impact on women’s lives, there are also significant economic effects. Closing the women’s health gap for depression, anxiety, and drug use disorders alone could contribute 167 billion dollars to the GDP. Additionally, investing in women’s health has a positive return on investment, with an estimated $3 in economic growth for every 1$ invested.

    Prioritizing women’s mental health

    In light of these health disparities, recognizing and addressing women’s health in the global workplace is a moral and social responsibility and a wise business decision. A comprehensive mental health solution tailored to the unique needs of women globally is essential for organizations aiming to prioritize women’s well-being, engagement, productivity, and a healthy workplace culture.

    So, how do women experience mental health, and how does that translate into the workplace? To answer this question, we must consider the gendered experiences of women and reflect on how these dynamics unfold in their specific social environments. 

    Global gender disparities in mental health

    Women face a higher likelihood of experiencing mental health challenges compared to men, with conditions like depression being about 50% more common globally among women. While the roots of these issues are likely a complex interplay of social, genetic, and environmental factors, recent research suggests a connection between social inequalities and the prevalence of depression in women. 

    Researchers found “a significant correlation between gender inequality and gender disparities in mental health.”

    These gender disparities, though widespread, manifest uniquely in various cultures. Social and legal norms, wage gaps, gender-based violence, unpaid care work, socioeconomic status, and limited access to education and reproductive rights all contribute to the nuanced ways in which gender disparities influence mental health challenges in women.

    Cultural perspectives on women's mental health

    Understanding the diverse cultural nuances of women’s experiences worldwide and their influence on mental health can be challenging. Adding to this complexity, women’s identities are often intersectional, with overlapping factors impacting both mental health outcomes and their experiences in the workplace. 

    When thinking about how to support the mental health of women in the workplace globally, a mental health solution must be culturally responsive

    Every country has its own stigmas surrounding mental health, shaped by historical and cultural perspectives, as well as unique metaphors and narratives. A mental health solution that acknowledges and addresses these nuances is necessary for ensuring employee engagement and effective support.

    Women’s mental health in the global workplace

    The workplace reflects the broader world, showing the inequalities that exist. Women's experiences as employees vividly highlight these imbalances.

    When exploring the factors influencing women’s mental health in the workplace, several key considerations emerge: 

    A recent global survey reinforced the growing importance of mental health in the workplace. Over 12,000 employees across 13 countries overwhelmingly associated health with mental well-being (91%), surpassing physical health (88%). Notably, 79% of global employees expect their employers to contribute actively to their overall health.

    This heightened mental health awareness among employees is one of the many reasons for workplace leaders to prioritize the wellness of their women employees.

    The business case for prioritizing women’s mental health

    A high-level economic argument must be made for prioritizing women’s health in the workplace. Globally, the annual economic cost of depression and anxiety alone is 1 trillion USD, stemming from decreased productivity. When considering the higher prevalence of depression in women, it becomes apparent that robust mental health support correlates with enhanced productivity and improved retention for women in the workforce.  

    Mental health conditions are projected to cost the global economy 6 trillion USD by 2030. Workplaces lacking a strong culture of mental health support experience higher turnover, increased absenteeism, and elevated presenteeism. Additionally, untreated mental health conditions contribute to a rise in overall health spend.

    For women in the workplace, these stats take on an even more significant impact, given the negative influence of gender disparities on their mental health, as discussed earlier.

    Creating supportive global workplace cultures

    HR and benefits leaders are pivotal in championing workplace cultural change, especially prioritizing women’s health through targeted initiatives and comprehensive mental health support. 

    This strategic approach involves empowering women individually while also reshaping organizational culture. 

    Here are six strategies to empower your women employees:

    1. Tailor support to meet the unique needs of women and their loved ones
    2. Extend mental health benefits to cover the entire family
    3. Provide coaching services to support working parents
    4. Offer resources that facilitate a healthy work-life balance
    5. Actively address and eliminate gender pay disparities
    6. Encourage the retention and advancement of women within your organization, cultivating an inclusive leadership culture 

    Here are eight initiatives that can shift the culture of your organization:

    1. Use language that’s inclusive and free of stigmatization when discussing mental health
    2. Organize sessions that amplify the voices of women and foster empathy among employees from diverse backgrounds
    3. Leverage ERGs as advocates and valuable sources of feedback
    4. Ensure that awareness and engagement campaigns represent diverse voices and perspectives
    5. Analyze data by gender and other dimensions to gain insights into utilization and outcomes
    6. Tackle physical, psychological, and sexual harassment at work to prioritize psychological safety 
    7. Recognize and address the additional childcare responsibilities women often shoulder after work hours
    8. Offer localized mental health benefits tailored to the diverse needs of a global workforce

    Empower women in the workplace with a global EAP

    Global companies face many challenges, including diverse regional requirements for employee benefits, a multilingual workforce, cultural stigmas to navigate, and varying barriers to access. These organizations need a localized approach to mental health benefits to support and empower their female employees effectively. 

    Recommendations for designing comprehensive and inclusive benefits

    Consider the following questions when evaluating global EAP partners to ensure they effectively meet the diverse needs of your organization’s employees worldwide.

    Coverage and accessibility:

    • Do the mental health services cover all geographical regions where the company operates?
    • Are the services accessible to employees in different time zones?
    • Are the providers fluent in the languages essential for supporting your employees?

    Cultural responsiveness and diversity:

    • Do the mental health services account for cultural differences and diversity within the global workforce?
    • Are the services culturally sensitive and inclusive, addressing employees’ unique needs and expectations from different backgrounds?
    • Is the provider network diverse enough to meet the needs of all employees, including those of marginalized populations?

    Scope of services:

    • Does the EAP offer comprehensive services, including counseling, coaching, self-guided resources, complex clinical support, financial advice, legal assistance, and other work-life resources?
    • Are there specialized services available locally to provide timely and effective crisis support?
    • Are services offered virtually and in-person, catering to individuals of all ages and accommodating diverse needs and preferences?

    Compliance and legal considerations:

    • Do the mental health services comply with all operating countries’ local laws, regulations, and privacy requirements?
    • Are there any legal or regulatory limitations that impact the scope or delivery of services in specific regions?

    Empowered women make stronger workplaces

    Understanding and addressing women’s workplace experiences requires a nuanced and comprehensive approach. It’s complex and complicated, but prioritizing and investing in women and their mental health is necessary to create a thriving, inclusive, high-performing workplace. 

    Historically, women’s experiences have often been undervalued and overlooked. Yet, workplace leaders hold a powerful position to change this. In doing so, they can bolster their workplace culture and achieve positive ROI.

    Explore three effective ways to break down the major barriers to global mental health access, from diverse regional requirements and cultural stigma to language challenges.

    About the Author
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    Jess Maynard

    Jess is a seasoned writer who has completed graduate work in women’s studies. She also works at a domestic violence shelter facilitating support groups for children and teens. Jess follows her curiosity devoutly and is committed to using her accumulated knowledge and life experiences to articulate facets of being human.

    About the clinical reviewer
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    Chloe Rowshani
    Senior Manger of Global Product Marketing

    A Los Angeles native living in San Francisco the past decade, Chloe has managed product marketing and community development with early startups, fortune 500s, and government agencies, across various sectors, including law, entertainment, nonprofit, and technology. She is passionate about holistic wellbeing and mental health, and spends her free time coaching others in their career pivots, pursuing her graduate degree in Counseling Psychology, and enjoying the great outdoors.

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