The Greek God Sisyphus was famously punished to push a boulder up a hill every day, only to have it fall to earth at the end of it. He should have been a woman, writes Nico Simmonds.
NO woman needs the concept of invisible labour explained to her. The pressure of choosing between motherhood and a career, the lack of appreciation for stay-at-home parents, the burden of sexual harassment, the onset of postpartum depression, the expectation to be a primary caregiver for children and adults alike; it’s a familiar yet frustrating pattern which never seems to end. For women in the workforce (and, let’s face it, everywhere else), these issues are gear-grinding – why are these issues still so prevalent in today’s relatively modern world? Surely we’ve come far enough since the fifties to solve them?
When you step back from all-consuming, mega-progressive internet culture and look into the real-life professional world, it still feels like the corporate world is not built for women. Office culture is still mind-bendingly malecentric, and it leaves women in the position of fighting female-specific mental health issues. Sure, most women are working now – but are companies actually doing enough? Are women’s issues dismissed as a part of life? Should companies not accommodate their female workers just as well as their men? Most importantly, why are we hearing so much about mental illness in the workplace?
Are women really more susceptible to mental health issues?
Women are diagnosed as mentally ill more often than men; for all intents and purposes, this would mean that women are more vulnerable to mental health issues – except that statistics like this are rarely ever interpreted accurately. Only 12.1% of men in the United States sought out mental health treatment in 2021 as opposed to 21.4% of women. There is a gender gap in the usage of mental health services, and it perpetuates the stereotype that women are more fragile than their male counterparts. The world will continue to use the prevalence of mental health diagnoses in women as a weapon to undermine their ability unless the tenets of workplace culture are made anew.
In the productivity-manic era of 2023, the idea that all of the responsibility of personal wellbeing is dependent entirely on the individual and not their environment permeates the atmosphere; but how can one learn to make the best of their situation when the situation is, for the most part, fixed? How can women overcome the centuriesold rock of Sisyphus that is the journey to enrichment and financial freedom? Some of the burden surely lies at the feet of the companies and corporations employing them.
So, how can workplaces be better to their women?
A strange side effect of our 21st century uber-productive work culture is the idea that productivity and work hours are in a stable, linear relationship – when in reality, they’re closer to being in a mid-20s on-andoff college situationship. Of course, this isn’t applicable to all types of work, but inflexible work hours aren’t what keep a company running – that’s down to its employees being happy, healthy, and ultimately productive.
Covid-19, in all of its turbulent glory, has started a workplace revolution with its introduction of the flexible work day. So often, women are saddled with additional invisible baggage; looking after children, running households, keeping communities together – why should workplaces make their lives more complicated by adhering to unmoveable customs because “that’s how the world works”?
People can finally be free to conquer the rest of their lives during the day as long as they get their work done productively. For many working women, this flexibility is well-appreciated; communities are flourishing, peace is kept, and houseplants are being watered.
Everyone needs a friend
Entering the workforce as a young woman is intimidating, no matter how you look at it. Subtly misogynistic workplace culture, limited support systems, and a lack of representation isn’t exactly encouraging – but it is entirely solvable. Corporate DEIDiversity, Equity and Inclusion policy comes to mind, as well as the more traditional paths of well-organised HR and health insurance policies that companies and burgeoning entrepreneurs can offer.
A company’s employees are what keep the gears turning; you’d like them to be well-oiled.
Equipping young women (as well as our perennial ladies) with resources to stay afloat and build connections with each other is better for a community’s collective good. If you ask us, it’s a no-brainer.
Leading by example; eliminating misogyny from the top-down.
Too often, we have seen films and media of businessmen in suits as the golden standard of success. The last forty years have shown us a different path; one of successful, flourishing women in business and entrepreneurship. Yet still some industries remain stunted – the abuse of power, ever present in human nature, continues – for whom, exactly, is this better?
Privileged communities and parties in power play an equally important role in the movement against race and sex-based discrimination. When they rise to the occasion, the rock of Sisyphus can be split; the invisible labour that women and POC carry can be shared. As an example, men who are granted paternity leave may ease an invisible workload that others in their lives might be carrying, just as bystanders who call out discrimination when they see it can help eliminate negative influences in the office. Collective effort is singularly the most important factor in a healthy environment, and environments that encourage these efforts are ones that will last.