A Call for Gender Equality: Getting Serious About Emotionally Inclusive Workplaces

Someone once said to me at work years ago that you would never know I had children from the way I carried on. It was as though it was a secret. This was back in the day when I worked in corporate and I was desperate to go toe to toe with the men and I was damned if I was going to let my children get in the way. I say this now with shame because even though it was a different era back then and the workplace was quite hostile for working mothers, behaving as though I didn’t have children was detrimental to my mental and overall health. 

In today’s fast-paced and competitive work environment, it’s no secret that employees face numerous challenges that can impact their mental well-being. One concerning issue that often goes unnoticed is the phenomenon of emotional recession, which disproportionately affects women in the workplace. Emotional recession refers to the suppression and undervaluation of emotions, resulting in the deterioration of mental health and overall job satisfaction. 

The cause

  • Gender Stereotypes and Bias: Deep-rooted gender stereotypes perpetuate the notion that women are more emotional, making their emotions less valid in a professional setting. This societal bias can lead to women feeling compelled to suppress their emotions to conform to workplace expectations, often at the expense of their mental health.
  • Lack of Emotional Support: Many workplaces prioritise productivity and performance over emotional well-being. The absence of adequate emotional support systems, such as access to mental health resources or supportive mentors, further exacerbates emotional recession among women employees.
  • Double Bind Dilemma: Women often find themselves caught in a double bind, where they face scrutiny regardless of how they express their emotions. If they display assertiveness, they may be labelled as aggressive, while exhibiting vulnerability may be seen as a sign of weakness. This dilemma leaves women feeling trapped and reluctant to express their emotions freely.

Consequences

  • Mental Health Impacts: Persistent emotional recession takes a toll on mental health, leading to increased stress, anxiety, and even depression among women in the workplace. The continuous suppression of emotions can contribute to burnout, decreased productivity, and overall job dissatisfaction.
  • Reduced Collaboration and Innovation: Emotional recession inhibits effective teamwork and collaboration. When individuals are unable to express their emotions openly, it hampers communication, trust, and creativity, thereby impeding organisational growth and innovation.
  • Gender Inequality: Emotional recession reinforces existing gender inequalities by perpetuating the belief that emotions are a hindrance to success. This can further limit opportunities for women, making it difficult for them to break the glass ceiling and attain leadership positions.

What can be done

  • Promote Emotional Intelligence: Employers should prioritise emotional intelligence training for all employees, emphasising the importance of recognising and managing emotions effectively. This training can create a supportive environment where emotional expression is valued, leading to improved mental well-being.
  • Foster Inclusive Work Cultures: Companies should actively work towards creating inclusive work cultures that value diversity, where employees feel safe expressing their emotions without fear of judgement or backlash. Encouraging open dialogue and providing platforms for discussing emotional well-being can make a significant difference.
  • Implement Flexible Work Policies: Flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options or flexible schedules, can help alleviate the pressures that contribute to emotional recession. Providing employees with greater control over their work-life balance can reduce stress levels and foster better emotional well-being.
  • Address Gender Bias: Employers must challenge gender stereotypes and unconscious biases within the workplace. Creating equal opportunities for women, promoting gender diversity in leadership roles, and implementing fair policies and practices can help dismantle the barriers that contribute to emotional recession.

Emotional recession poses a significant challenge to women in the workplace, perpetuating gender inequalities and hindering personal and professional growth. By acknowledging and addressing this issue, organisations can foster a more supportive and inclusive work environment that prioritises the emotional well-being of all employees. Creating spaces where individuals, irrespective of gender, can freely express their emotions without fear of judgement will lead to healthier, happier, and more productive workplaces for everyone.

Whatever we do, let’s not get back to the shameful place of women having to hide the fact that they have children in the workplace.

If you’re a working mother and you also think employers should bring about a more emotionally inclusive workplace, grab a chat with me here. If you want to hear more from me, you might be interested in my FREE masterclass – register here to watch anytime.