This story is part of a series recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month and how RingCentral supports its employees’ mental health and well-being.
As of May 2021, records show that COVID-19 has caused the deaths of 3.4 million people since the first known case in 2019. And while it does not directly infect the mind, the virus has contributed to many things that globally caused a mental health decline.
As support services closed, financial pressures climbed, and social distancing measures tightened, many suffered mentally. Sadly, recent findings tell us that women’s mental health is most susceptible.
Research from non-profit aid organization CARE showed that women are three times more likely to report mental health issues than men. Meanwhile, a study from Frontiers in Global Women’s Health found that, during the pandemic, women reported more trouble sleeping and more symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Symptoms of depression and anxiety tend to include: loss of appetite, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia—the list goes on. As a result, women find it increasingly difficult to accomplish daily tasks. It’s time to consider the underlying causes of this unseen mental health crisis.
Health and social sector risks
According to the World Health Organization, women represent 70% of health and social sector workers worldwide. This suggests these frontline workers are more exposed to COVID-19 than men. On top of the increased risk, women – especially women of color – earn less than their male colleagues in most cases in this industry. Most women do not even have strong financial protection.
At home, the strain continues as women are often responsible for every activity in the house, including caregiving. When childcare centers closed, findings showed that women often became even more accountable for the welfare of their children. This has led to a loss of wages during the pandemic.
In the U.S., two out of every three caregivers are women. And according to a study from Syracuse University, 80% of U.S. adults who are not working during the pandemic due to increased caretaking responsibilities are also women.
Because of the increased caregiving responsibilities, it’s understandable why many women would be experiencing burnout. All of these factors also put extra strain on women’s mental health during this global health crisis.
The pandemic has also had a devastating impact on the care of pregnant women and new mothers. First, there is a greater risk of pregnant women contracting the virus because of their heavy dependence on the healthcare sector (especially those working in the sector themselves.)
But there’s been a larger crisis at hand.
When hospitals become overburdened with the task of fighting off peaks of the virus, pregnant women suffer in vulnerable isolation—while carrying, during labor, and as new mothers.
In many countries, pregnant women admitted to a hospital that treats COVID-19 patients are monitored carefully and asked to fill out surveys so doctors can gather more information about their condition.
According to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pregnant women who contracted COVID-19 were more likely to be hospitalized with severe cases of Covid-19 than non-pregnant women. They were also at higher risk of pre-term birth.
Therefore, it is especially crucial for pregnant women to pay attention to social distancing and other health rules.
The CDC also says that some pregnant women are more likely to develop critical health issues:
- Black and Asian pregnant women, as well as women from minority ethnic groups
- Pregnant women above thirty-five years
- Extremely overweight pregnant women
- Pregnant women with underlying health issues
For the thousands of women who became mothers or went through the loss of a baby in 2020/21, COVID-19 left its mark.
Lack of job security
According to a study conducted to evaluate unconscious bias, 62% of working women single out gender inequality as an impediment to female leadership in organizations. This became more of an issue during the pandemic as companies struggled to keep operations running and ensure employees’ jobs were safe.
The reality is women are more at risk of job loss and furlough than men. According to the National Women’s Law Center, women experienced virtually all job losses in December 2020, when women lost 156,000 jobs and men gained 16,000. Women in the U.S. lost around 5.4 million jobs during the first 10 months of the pandemic, around 1 million more jobs than men lost during the same period.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, many organizations have figured out that employees can work remotely from home. Most businesses have become very flexible with work schedules. While these are welcome developments, employers must assure women that their jobs are safe and that they can work remotely without any employment worries.
Businesses should support women’s mental health
All of this tells us that employers and colleagues must support women (and, indeed, all genders) passing through difficult moments to help them manage anxiety and stress.
Every organization has different policies while handling certain situations. But the main objective should be promoting a gender-diverse workforce where both men and women receive equal treatment.
Overall, businesses should address women’s mental health and welfare with utmost interest as the crisis continues.
Read more on how RingCentral supports the mental health and well-being of all employees:
Originally published Jun 01, 2021, updated Dec 30, 2022