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  • Azbah Wasim, Ruoshui(Grace) Zhang, Zaira Shareef

Workforce 101: The Ins and the Outs

The workforce is a place that makes up a significant portion of our lives. It is a vital part of life, one which we must make an effort to learn more about. Read on to learn more about some interesting facts about the workforce, its history, experiences of women, and some tips to ensure a good work/life balance.

Being in the workforce is defined as being in the labour force. It is this idea of individuals being apart of a group of employed individuals, ones who either work for a single company on a smaller scale, or on a larger scale in a geographic location. 

Being in the workforce is a unique experience for individuals, and this experience is dependent on various different factors. An individual's employment level, race, sex, and so much more can make or break an individual's journey within the workforce. Within this article today we will take an approach in which we speak about challenges faced by various women within the workforce, their journeys and how they overcame the various hurdles brought upon them.

Before we get started, the workforce is a very interesting place, a place which remains quite unknown to those who do not engage in the force. Here are a few interesting facts about the workforce. 

  • Individuals spend over 90,000 hours at work and at their workplace, which is a significant amount of time, resulting in this idea that workplace satisfaction should be of utmost importance to individuals who are choosing to remain a part of the workplace. 

  • Moreover, since the start of the pandemic, virtual meetings and virtual job positions have increased by over 1000%, and such a change is expected to stay. Virtual opportunities have various benefits ranging from a more diverse pool of employees and increased job satisfaction. 

  • Furthermore, there is a strong stigma around this idea of dress code=productivity at work, but such a correlation has been debunked numerous times. A study has found that 61% of employees are more productive at work when the dress code either remains casual or is omitted completely. Dress code often becomes a limiting factor when it comes to optimal performance, considering both men and women. Allowing individuals the freedom to choose what they look like, and especially how they feel at work, will not only improve employee performance, but will allow for growth of the individual company/organizations and growth of the employee as an individual. 

  • A final interesting fact: sustainability has become a significant factor of consideration for millennials when considering which company they would like to work for. It has become a limiting factor for various individuals. A company's sustainability goals must align with those of the searching employee, resulting in sustainability becoming  a growing priority. 

Although prioritizing sustainability is a great step towards a greener and better future, we need to work towards addressing even more issues, such as the pay-gap, gender inequality within the workforce, sexual harassment/abuse within the workforce and so much more. 

The workforce has been around forever, it has a history of its own. Women started to officially enter the workplace around the mid-1800s and this has increased later due to the world wars. However, nowadays, even more than a quarter of the GDP in Canada is contributed by females, we still face many challenges around the workplace.

Harassment: According to Statistics Canada, one in four women reported having personally experienced inappropriate sexualized behaviours in their workplace. Moreover,  approximately one-third of women (32%) said that they had not received any information about how to report sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Fewer Opportunities for Advancement: Due to gender discrimination, women also face fewer opportunities for career advancement in the workplace. According to Indeed, 35.9% of management positions were held by women, while 64.1% of those positions were held by men. This statistic displays the unequal treatment and hardness that women currently face.

Equal Pay: Women are also experiencing unequal pay in the workplace and their effort tends to have less recognition. Women make $0.71 for every dollar men make while their contribution is never fewer than what men have done. This wage gap brings pressure on women and discourages them from the workplace.

Work-life Balance: Based on research, women tend to face more challenges between work and family. They have the pressure of creating achievement in the workplace and also the pressure of taking care of the family. Based on Indeed, women spent 15% of their time caring for their families while men only spent 10% of their time doing the same tasks.

Barriers in leadership: Cased by discrimination, women also face much more challenges in terms of leadership. The stereotypes women face, such as being less logical, irresponsible, weak, etc, cause many problems on their leadership journey. They face doubt from co-workers, bosses, and teammates and receive pressure to stay successful in the workplace.

Because the workforce remains a significant portion of the lives of majority of individuals, it is vital to understand how to balance both a personal and work life, to allow one to optimize their way of life. Being a part of the workforce, oftentimes individuals tend to forget that life is not solely based on working. For the ones who do base their lives on working, the results can lead to many spirals. That is why it is extremely important to be able to balance between your work, your family and doing what you love. 

As mentioned in the above paragraph, according to Indeed, women spend 15% of their time caring for their families whereas men spend only 10% of their time doing the same thing. This makes it incredibly difficult for women and as a result, can cause spirals and holes in their lives such as physical and mental health issues, increased levels of stress and familial problems. With that being noted, it is possible to be able to balance all the small things in one’s life to avoid these spirals and holes. 

Prioritizing Mental Health

The biggest factor in balancing everything with work is being able to prioritize your mental health. According to Mental Health First Aid, in March of 2023, women are twice as likely as men to develop mental challenges such as depression, anxiety and PTSD when at work. The main contributions behind these challenges is the unbalanced responsibilities at home, pay inequity and underrepresentation at work. By prioritizing mental health, one can reduce the risk of developing these mental challenges 

How to Prioritize Mental Health

Think of your body as a car. Cars run on fuel and if a car drives on and on without taking a break, eventually, it’s going to run out of fuel and can not continue driving. In the case of our body, we can consider “fuel” as the things we eat and socialize with and the break as a symptom of taking a step back. Because of societal norms such as “women are more organized” and “women are more responsible”, most women believe that they need to be at the top of everything because of these norms. 

When it comes to prioritizing mental health, there are three things you can do. The first is realizing that no one is perfect; everyone will have their own flaws and will face their own struggles. The second thing is to stop worrying about things that aren’t in a person’s control. For example, if you are worried about a deadline, a shift or even a presentation, realize that the more you worry about things like that, the more stress you will cause yourself resulting in a greater mental pressure put on the brain. The third thing is to enjoy something you like. Shifting your attention to something you enjoy has been scientifically proven to release the “feel-good” chemical known as dopamine. Those who undergo mental pressures such as stress tend to have fewer amounts of dopamine in their bodies. Increasing the amount of dopamine in your body reduces the risk of developing mental challenges.

Physical Health

Physical health is also a factor that contributes to having a good work-life balance. With physical health, it is much easier to identify when your body needs a break. Jobs that usually have long hours of standing or sitting tend to be jobs that put physical pressure on your body. Understanding that caring for your physical self is significantly important in order for one to be able to function properly at one’s workplace. 

How to Prioritize Physical Health

Having the ideal work-life balance results in having good time management skills between your work, family, and your health - more specifically, your body. When it comes to your body, you need to realize that your body needs a balance of physical activity and rest every day. The first thing to get a balance between these two is to create a schedule. Plan out the day indicating the times you will be active(this can include when you are working and when you will be doing any form of physical activity such as brisk walking) and the times when you will not be active. By planning out your day, our physical health is balanced with activeness and rest. Additionally, this schedule can also include activities or breaks that will prioritize your mental health. The second thing is to know your limit. This ties in with the first point, but the only difference is realizing the times in your day when you are at your lowest. When you notice this, plan out your schedule according to your moods during different times. The third thing is not being afraid to speak up about the fact that you need a break. Know that it is okay to admit that you need a break from reality and that it’s okay to ask for time off from your placement to take care of yourself. When you combine these three tips together, your physical health will become better.

Achieving the ideal work-life balance is variable when it comes to different individuals. It is okay to feel like you need to take a step back from reality and also note that you are not the only one going through the mental pressure from societal norms. Do not be afraid to speak up and make sure that you always find the time to spend with your loved ones. 

Remember that you are only given one life, so you may as well make the most of it. 

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair”

Shirley Chisholm

  First African American woman elected to the US Congress

The workplace is a beautiful place with a history, journey, and stories of its own. Not everyone will find themselves there, but many will, and thus it is vital to learn more and be aware.   

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