Maggie McCracken for Brit + Co
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A study by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company shed some light on what work was like for women in 2020. Throughout the past year, COVID-19 and the Movement for Black Lives have raised even more questions about workplace diversity, safety, and employee well-being. While headlines were spouting workplace trends, women were living the reality of 2020's work environment every day. This study, which included more than 65,000 employees at 423 companies across the U.S., reveals what women's experiences were really like over the last year — and whether or not those experiences were different than those of years past.

A lot of the study's results aren't surprising: We've known for a long time that traditional workplaces often undervalue women's contributions. It's exactly what prompted our founder and CEO Brit Morin to start Selfmade, an online business course for women ready to go it alone in favor entrepreneurship. It's why so many women are exploring creative freelancing as a career option.

Here's what the study revealed about work, burnout, diversity, and recognition for today's working women.

Women Are Taking the Lead on Allyship

As we expected, the study revealed that women, much more so than their male coworkers, view DEI as a top priority and do the work to help put it into practice. This is in line with companies' goals as a whole: According to the study, 90 percent of companies say DEI is a top or very important priority. But women are doing more of the work to ensure that this happens. The study found that 61 percent of female managers regularly practice at least three types of allyship compared to 48 percent of male managers.

But here's the problem... while it's great that so many women (and some men) are doing this work, it's still undervalued in the workplace. While many organizations say DEI is a top priority, very few actually implement it as a factor in performance reviews, and only 41 percent of employees said they felt their company had followed through on its promises to take DEI seriously.

According to the authors of the study, this important work is now running the risk of becoming the "new office housework... work that contributes to the business but isn't formally recognized in performance reviews, typically does not lead to advancement, and usually isn't compensated."

Women of Color Still Face Extra Burdens At Work

The study also found that women of color were more likely than white women to experience othering behavior, such as hearing surprise at their language skills and being confused with someone of the same race and ethnicity.

Additionally, women of color still don't get the allyship they need from their coworkers. Unfortunately, while 77 percent of white employees say they're allies to women of color, only 39 percent said they call out discrimination when they see it, and only 21 percent said they regularly advocate for new opportunities for women of color.

Women Are More Likely Than Men to Experience Burnout

The pandemic has created a whole new set of struggles for working women, and particularly for working moms. While both women and men are struggling with pandemic fatigue and burnout, 42 percent of women (32 percent last year) said they felt burned out at work this year, compared with 35 percent of men (28 percent last year). Burnout has become such a struggle that 1 in 3 women have considered downsizing their career or dropping out of the workforce entirely.

As burnout has increased among all genders, mental health has become a focus for workplaces. The study found that 60 percent of workplaces added or expanded mental health benefits in response to the pandemic — but, much like DEI, the act of promoting employee well-being isn't being widely tracked on managers' performance reviews.

Without mental health and employee well-being being made a measurable, trackable priority, this part of management also risks becoming "new office housework," making it increasingly unlikely that these factors, which contribute so greatly to employees' work-life balance and life satisfaction, will actually see significant change in the workplace.

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This article originally appeared in Brit + Co. Brit + Co keeps women inspired and encourages them to DIY their most creative lives with self-care and life hacks, home and recipe ideas, virtual classes, entrepreneurial guidance, and so much more!