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Deloitte’s Women @ Work Report Is Out

  • Half of women say their stress levels have increased since last year. Despite some progress, they are still not receiving adequate mental health support in the workplace
  • Women’s disproportionate share of domestic responsibilities, including a sharp rise in those caring for another adult, is taking a toll on their careers and mental health
  • Nearly half of women are concerned about their personal safety at work or while traveling to or for work
  • Many women who experience challenges related to menstrual disorders, fertility and even more so for menopause, feel unable to seek support or take time off from work
  • Experiences with hybrid work are improving. But some women say they have made adjustments to their work and personal lives following return-to-office policies

Stagnation in and outside the workplace for women

In its fourth year, Deloitte’s Women @ Work: A Global Outlook surveyed 5,000 women in workplaces across 10 countries. The survey explores some of the critical workplace and societal factors impacting women’s careers. Rising stress levels and poor mental health persist. Fewer women report feeling supported by their employers to balance work responsibilities with their commitments outside of work. This trend is leading some women to switch employers. Women working in a hybrid model are reporting better experiences this year than last. However, many have recently been asked to return to the office and are reporting adverse effects on their mental health and productivity.   

This year, the report also further explores women’s physical health. The report reveals a startling number of women working through pain or symptoms related to menstruation, menopause and fertility. It also reveals worrying statistics on safety and non-inclusive behaviors in the workplace.

“Despite a small number of improvements since last year, our survey tells us that women are facing mounting pressures in the workplace, their personal lives and in their communities,” says Emma Codd. Codd is Global Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at Deloitte. “Globally, women feel their rights are backsliding. T they are experiencing increased stress and taking on the majority of household tasks at home. In addition, they are experiencing non-inclusive behaviors at work. They are concerned for their safety and feel unable to disclose when they are experiencing women’s health challenges. This is a situation that must change—and employers must enable this change.”

Stress and long working hours take an increased toll on women’s mental health

Half of women say their stress levels are higher than they were a year ago. A similar number of women say they’re concerned or very concerned about their mental health. Mental health is a top three concern for women globally (48 percent), falling behind only their financial security (51 percent) and rights (50 percent).

There are a number of potential factors behind declining mental health levels. Among those factors is an inability to disconnect from work. The survey findings show a link between working hours and mental health. While half of women who typically work only their contracted hours describe their mental health as good, this declines to 23 percent for those who regularly work extra hours. Only 37 percent of women say they feel able to switch off from their work.

Despite these concerning findings, more than half of women say they aren’t receiving adequate mental health support from employers. Two-thirds of women don’t feel comfortable talking about their mental health in the workplace. This highlights a need for significant improvement. It also shows progress from last year’s findings when even more women said they did not receive adequate mental health support from their employer and did not feel comfortable speaking about mental health in the workplace.

Women bear the most responsibility for household responsibilities—and this burden is affecting their careers

Women are feeling the weight of misbalanced caregiving and domestic responsibilities. Fifty percent of women who live with a partner and have children say they take the most responsibility for childcare. This number is up from 46 percent in 2023, with only 12 percent saying this falls to their partner. Additionally, 57 percent of women who live with a partner and are involved in the care of another adult say they take the greatest responsibility for this. The number is up from 44 percent in 2023. Only 5 percent of women say this responsibility falls to their partner.

Meanwhile, more than two in five women bear the most responsibility for cleaning and other domestic tasks, similar to 2023. These pressures are taking a toll. Women who take on the greatest share of household responsibilities are far less likely to say they have good mental health than those who do not. And nearly half say they have taken time off work for mental health reasons in the past year. This is compared with just under a quarter of women who don’t have the greatest responsibilities for these tasks.

The result of this disproportionate allocation of responsibilities makes it more challenging for women professionally. Only 27 percent of women who bear the greatest responsibility at home say they can disconnect from their personal lives and focus on their careers.

Women feel unsafe in the workplace and non-inclusive behaviors persist—especially for underrepresented groups

Nearly half of women say they are worried about their safety when at work or traveling to or for work. These concerns may be founded on experience. One in 10 of these women have been harassed while commuting or traveling for work. Sixteen percent deal with customers or clients who have harassed them or behaved in a way that has made them feel uncomfortable. Nearly one in 10 have been harassed by a colleague.

Overall, 31 percent of respondents have experienced microaggressions. Four percent have experienced sexual harassment. Eight percent have experienced other types of harassment at work in the past 12 months. A quarter of women say that people in senior positions within their organizations have made inappropriate actions or comments toward them.

Women who identify as part of an underrepresented group are more likely to be worried about their personal safety at work or when traveling to or for it. This concern is more pronounced for women with a visible disability (66 percent) and transgender women (64 percent). Underrepresented groups are also more likely to experience non-inclusive behaviors. For instance, 40 percent of women belonging to an ethnic minority in their home country and 45 percent of women with a disability have experienced microaggressions at work. This number is compared to 30 percent of women who are not from these groups. More than half of LGBT+ women have experienced microaggressions, compared to less than three in 10 women who are not LGBT+.

Women are working through pain

More than one-quarter of women experience health challenges related to menstruation, menopause, or fertility. And across each of these challenges, a common theme remains true: many are working through pain or discomfort.

Around 40 percent of women experiencing high levels of pain or discomfort from menopause work through their symptoms. This is almost double the percentage who said the same in 2023. More women say they don’t feel comfortable discussing their menopause symptoms with their manager (14 percent) compared to last year (10 percent). Sixteen percent of women say citing menopause as a reason for taking time off work has negatively affected their careers. This is a sharp jump from 6 percent in 2023.

Nearly one in six (15 percent) of women experiencing challenges relating to menstruation, menopause or fertility feel that speaking up about this at work would affect their career progression. Notably, one in 10 believe doing so would make them vulnerable to redundancy.

Flexibility and work/life balance are key to retaining women in the workplace

This year has seen a notable improvement in women’s experiences with hybrid working—including when it comes to exclusion, predictability and flexibility. However, about three in 10 women still experience exclusion from meetings, a lack of predictability in their working pattern and a lack of flexibility.

More than 40 percent of women surveyed report that their employer has recently implemented a mandatory return to office. Of these women, a quarter are required to be on-site full-time. Some of these women report that they have made adjustments to their work and personal lives following the introduction of such a policy. Some report an impact to their mental health and their productivity levels:

  • Just over a third say they have asked to reduce their hours.
  • 30 percent say they had to relocate.
  • 26 percent say their mental health has been negatively impacted.
  • 20 percent say their productivity has decreased.

The impact of challenges with flexible working is also evident. Lack of flexible working hours is among the top reasons women have changed jobs over the past year (15 percent), with the same number also citing poor work/life balance. Fewer than half of women feel supported by their employer to balance their work responsibilities with commitments outside work. Nearly all women (95 percent) believe that requesting or taking advantage of flexible work opportunities will negatively affect their chances of promotion. Ninety-three percent don’t expect that their workload would be adjusted if they moved to a flexible working arrangement. 

Gender equality leaders are excelling—but more are needed

Company culture seems to be standing in the way of women’s retention and career progression. The survey found that one-quarter of women do not want to progress into a senior leadership position in their organization. The top reason they state is that they’re put off by the company culture. At organizations known as “Gender Equality Leaders,” 92 percent of women do want to progress into a senior leadership position. These organizations benefit from building inclusive cultures where work/life balance is valued and respected and where women feel supported in their career progression. Women in these companies report higher levels of loyalty toward their employer and productivity. They feel safer and more comfortable talking about their mental health at work and are more comfortable that they can work flexibly without damaging their career.

“It is widely understood that more diverse organizations perform better. Yet most organizations in our study are not making visible progress on their commitments to gender equality,” says Elizabeth Faber. Faber is Global Chief People and Purpose Officer at Deloitte. “To create inclusive cultures that enable women’s success at work, organizations should focus on addressing workplace factors that drive stress, reduce stigma and create a culture where women feel able to disclose challenges with their mental and physical health, support efforts to balance work responsibilities with commitments outside of work and enact policies that empower women’s career progression.”

View the full report and learn what organizations can do to address these challenges here.

Methodology

Between October 2023 and January 2024, Deloitte Global conducted a survey of 5,000 women in 10 countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States) to learn more about their experiences in the workplace and society at large. The survey also aimed to understand the state of gender equality in the workplace from an intersectional lens. It seeks to identify the types of actions that employers are taking to support, retain and empower women. Each respondent answered 34 questions about their experience at work. They answered about the impact of that experience on their personal life; the steps their employer is taking to support their career progression and well-being; and their experiences beyond the workplace impacting their overall well-being.

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