In this week's episode of "When will we win?", it would appear that dedication to work may earn women a few rewards, but it also inadvertently has mental health disadvantages.
Standard working hours for any professional with a typical '9 to 5' job are between 35 hours to 40 hours a week. However, we all know that strictly sticking to a solid 8-hour day isn't always an attainable goal as tasks often spillover into the evening.
This is how some of your colleagues might end up working 55-hour weeks, which is about 11 hours a day.
A new study led by University College London and published last week in BMJ's Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health investigated the effects of working overtime on more than 20 000 adults and the results were astounding.
According to this study, women who worked longer hours than the standard, "displayed 7.3 percent more depressive symptoms than women who worked standard 35-40 hour weeks, while men’s depression rates remained essentially unaffected by long work weeks."
So not only do women bare the brunt of the gender pay gap, they're getting depressed in the process too.
Some of the contributing factors observed were that workers with the most depressive symptoms were on lower incomes, smokers, in physically demanding jobs, and who were generally dissatisfied at work.
But you can also probably guess why women are more affected than men, as it's often said that women work two shifts - the office shift and the second shift begins when they clock in at home.
This is supported by the study's lead author Gill Weston, who attributes these findings to the fact that "many women face the additional burden of doing a larger share of domestic labor than men, leading to extensive total work hours, added time pressures and overwhelming responsibilities."
She also added that “women who work most weekends tend to be concentrated in low-paid service sector jobs, which have been linked to higher levels of depression."
The study did not specify any discrepancies between the race group of women more affected than the other, but if the study were conducted in South Africa, it might have further revealed that black woman are more susceptible to a mental health slump than their white colleagues as a result of work pressure.
This is not a mere generalisation based on hear-say. Over the past few years, a few reports revealed why young black professionals are leaving their jobs or relocating from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
Last year, a personal essay by Tinyiko Ngwenya detailing why she was leaving Cape Town for Joburg, went viral as many young black women could also relate. Fin24 reported that in this essay, Tinyiko wrote that "no matter how hard I worked, I never really felt good enough, and that inferiority complex was as a result of being a minority."
In response to this, ABASA and BMF stated that they "view her letter as articulating the view of most, if not all, black professionals in Cape Town. Her struggles are the main reason why many black professionals leave for Johannesburg and has caused the massive 'black brain drain' experienced in the Western Cape."
Stats provided by Business Leadership SA also show that in the Western Cape only 3.4% of top management consists of African males and 1.2% of African females, compared to 9.7% and 5.4% in Gauteng and 10.7% and 4.6% in KwaZulu-Natal.
From this then, you might understand how in addition to work pressure, not having support from upper level management that is neither black nor female, might affect overall morale and mental health.
As Tinyiko said, it affected her confidence.
Sometimes it's not a geographical problem, but also an industry problem.
Joburg-based video editor *Nondumiso - a young black woman - shared the following with us about how her working environment affects her mental health:
She further added that toiling away well into the evening, especially in a toxic work environment "really does depress you."
"You look forward to nothing and you feel trapped with no one to talk to because your bully is also friends with HR people," Nondumiso says. As a result, she is now considering freelancing so that she can also manage her own working hours and to get peace of mind.
This also ties into what Gill Weston says was the aim of their study; "certain trends found in the research could prove useful for employers seeking to reduce the mental strain on their employees."
"We hope our findings will encourage employers and policy makers to think about how to reduce the burdens and increase support for women who work long or irregular hours — without restricting their ability to work when they wish to,” she said.
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