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Even women in the C-suite are burning out during the pandemic

In a survey by Chief, a private club for women executives, 70% of women reported taking on more professional responsibilities since the pandemic started.

Even women in the C-suite are burning out during the pandemic
[Photo: StockSeller_ukr/iStock]
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The lagging economic recovery from the pandemic was laid bare in yet another jobs report last week, as hiring rates continue to fall and temporary unemployment becomes permanent for many Americans. One major story of the coronavirus pandemic-induced recession has been the damage done to working women, hundreds of thousands of whom were forced to drop out of the workforce or have lost their jobs. And a new survey by Chief, a private club for high-powered women, indicates that women in the executive ranks aren’t exempt from the pandemic’s effects.

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Many women have seen their working lives change radically this year, and Chief’s findings make clear that this holds true even for women at the helm who presumably benefit from job security and financial privilege. Nearly a third of women surveyed reported that the pandemic had altered the course of their career, while about a quarter of them said they would leave their posts sooner than expected due to their employer’s response to the pandemic. (The survey collected responses from more than 300 Chief members, most of whom are in the C-suite or at the VP level at their companies.)

Like working women across the country, many respondents have seen their personal responsibilities shift significantly, with 65% of them identifying as caregivers. In fact, almost half of the women surveyed said their greatest challenge has been managing employees amid their own personal struggles. A majority of them—70%—have taken on more responsibilities at work since the pandemic started, irrespective of their personal circumstances or childcare obligations. But among the women who aren’t caregivers, more than 77% expressed that they felt like they were taking on more than their counterparts who have caregiving responsibilities.

The pandemic has weighed heavily on many women of color, who are more likely to be essential workers and have also been disproportionately affected by job losses. While 77% of Chief members reported feeling more stressed due to the pandemic, those effects were exacerbated for women of color at the executive level, in particular, who were more likely to say they were “much more stressed.”

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“The news that women are shouldering the burden at home was frustrating, but not all that surprising,” Chief cofounder and CEO Carolyn Childers said in a statement. “What was surprising was the amount of extra responsibilities on top of an already full plate women are taking on in the workplace. This is a problem that we know is being addressed in women’s inner circles, and we think companies need to be aware of just how close to burnout their senior women leaders are.”

About the author

Pavithra Mohan is a staff writer for Fast Company.

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