Professional women are burning out - what can I do?

Deepika Naidoo
Marketing Manager
April 17, 2023
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After switching on the news the other morning, it was reported that more than half of women are experiencing burnout, I heard as I sipped my necessary coffee.

Looking at myself this woman's month, a slightly-overwhelmed young professional woman in 2022, I thought about this 'new buzzword' that so accurately describes the state of many a woman's mental wellness right now.

I had to ask myself:

 "Am I experiencing this? How are the chartered accountants around me handling it? What does this mean for the women of South Africa?"

On 9 August 1956, around 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, protesting against the carrying of passbooks by black South Africans. 

A triumphant sight.

Who would have thought that 50-something years after this valiant resistance, women would face hurdles just as draining as the last?

With gender-based violence becoming fully understood and wholly examined, gender pay gaps, and the right to healthcare when pregnant, South African women continue to work against the current – but it seems like we are getting wiped out regardless of our resilience.

This year's theme for women's day is 'Women's Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment – building back better for woman's resilience.

Although we are seeing more women in solidarity, there is much work to be done to overcome out collective challenges (Photo: Womaniser Toys)
-      At that current rate of destruction, there is little to no hope. And most importantly, why are we aiming for a society that puts women in a position where they need to be resilient? 

It's lovely to see women finally taking up space in the professional world. Witnessing women flourish and innovate evokes so much joy when allowed to make a difference.

As it stands, women accounted for 43,4% of total employment in the second quarter of 2021 in South Africa, says Stats SA. Accensis' staff compliment is about 60% women, with all our managerial positions held by women.

But with our progress has come cracks in the walls, bashed in by the crippling effects of society and human action.

Though it isn't a medical condition per se, burnout is defined in ICD-11:

"Burnout is a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:

1.feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;

2.increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; 

3. and reduced professional efficacy."

Therefore, the many factors affecting one's work life, including personal life, can lead to running on fumes. As much as we can chalk it down to the 2022 climate, there are simply no systemics efforts in place to find a solution to burnout.

Two studies have proven that professional women are in dire need of structures to combat burnout.

Globally, just over 40% of women report being burned out. This especially rings true with mothers. Much blame has been pointed in the direction of the pandemic, workplace conditions, personal life … it's all about the work-life balance, a controversial term sure the stir up some debate. 

FloQast, an accounting services provider said that in a study they recently conducted, over 99% of participating accountants have reported being burnt out. 

So, What does Accensis think about this problem?

"I think as a female professional, it's more challenging in the sense that you have to be competent intellectually, but you also need to look good physically from a professional point of view. It takes time, and it's difficult to balance both. Men, although they are well groomed now,  there is more pressure on women, it's more difficult for. Sometimes, it's draining. Your thinking doesn't stop at the workplace. It sometimes follows us home." – Kavika Singh, Financial Manager.

"People deal with things in different manners. Some people you can see burning out; some are doing it quietly. I think the reason for burnout in women. Especially in an accounting environment, there are always deadlines. Our roles don't end at work. You work, and when you get home, you still need to take care of things and ensure everything is in order. Because of this, sometimes it's not an organisation to blame but the nature of women. Women have to look after their families … it just doesn't end for women. – Silindile Phakathi, Tax Manager

A culture of valuing mental health is in order – identify if you are experiencing burnout and make steps towards making sure you are taking care of number one.

If you or a loved one believe you are experiencing burnout, please contact your medical provider for assistance

Below are some resources on the topic:

Beating Burnout - Harvard Business Review

Job burnout: How to spot it and take action

Burnout & Work Fatigue