A Blog series by Elise Misse

Blog #10

Working Women and the Search for Joy

It’s no secret that a happy workplace leads to productive employees. It is believed that team members who enjoy their work achieve up to 13% more than those that find themselves worn down by the daily grind. In the challenging work climate that we are all currently facing, a sense of contentment is arguably more important than ever.

This begs a critical question, though – what is happiness? Philosophers have been pondering this longer than anybody can remember. Aristotle famously claimed that the pursuit of happiness revolves around the acquisition of health, wealth, knowledge and friendship. He also memorably claimed that, “happiness depends upon ourselves.” I agree with this.

Defining Happiness
Happiness and joy cannot be boiled down to a bite-sized solution. If it could, a pharmaceutical company would have long since bottled this and sold it by the gallon. Instead, we all have our own interpretation of joy, and how is can be manifested. As we spend a significant period of our lives at work, however, this is surely something that should be factored into our business lives.

Now, I fully appreciate that this is a challenge. Demanding that a management team provide joy to a staff team is unrealistic and unfair. As discussed, happiness is not a tangible object. Every individual has their own personal definition of happiness. What can be done, however, is focussing on the removal of unhappiness from the working day.

HBR provides an interesting insight into the idea of joy in the workplace. Millennials, for example, seek an overarching purpose in their work to find happiness and motivation – something that has often been repeated. I would like to assess this from a gender perspective.

Happiness in the Workplace
If you are a regular reader of these articles, you will know that I do not shy away from the differences between the sexes. In fact, I firmly consider them something to be celebrated. Men and women do not always think the same, and that is OK. Disparity in opinion, attitude and priority is critical to create a diverse, functional workplace that appeals to all parties.

What I find interesting is that some research suggests that women are happier than men in the workplace. It could reasonably be assumed that the gender pay gap would render this impossible. However, it appears that 45% of female employees declare themselves happy at work most of the time. This drops to 38% of men.

Now, on paper, this is heartening news. At the risk of pouring cold water on this bonfire of positivity, though, I would like to address the remaining 55% of female employees. A quarter of 30-49-year-old women rarely, if ever, feel happy at work. We have to ask ourselves – why is that? Are one in four women of this age group just miserable by nature? I find that hard to believe. Instead, perhaps we should look at what we can do to enhance happiness and joy at work for these employees.

Take another look at the statistic above. It could just be coincidence that the unhappiest age group of working women are those likeliest to be balancing career with raising younger children. It could be … but I’m not convinced that it is. As shown in my home country of Australia, flexibility around childcare responsibility makes working women happier.

This demonstrates an understanding of the challenges of ‘invisible work’, and the additional responsibilities that so many women of this generation take on. And, ultimately, that is what brings joy to many women in the workplace, whether they are mothers or not. A sense of understanding, and of being heard and respected.

The Joy of Being Heard
Employees of any gender that feel their voices are being heard in the workplace are almost five times likelier to be motivated and content in their career. Sadly, an eye-watering 92% of women still feel less able to speak up and making their voices heard. I’m no mathematician, but that does not make pretty reading to me. If we are to aid women in finding joy in the workplace, this needs to be addressed.

I am confident that plans are afoot to achieve this aim. I am a volunteer at the LEAD Network, and we work tirelessly to empower working women. There is still so much to be done though, and we all need to play our part.

By ensuring that women feel comfortable speaking up, we will make the working environment a happy and joyful place for women. This, in turn, will empower the next generation of female employees who will continue to shatter pre-existing glass ceilings and rewrite the unofficial rulebook as to what is possible. That’s certainly an idea that fills me with joy. I sincerely hope that that same applies to anybody reading this – especially those in positions of authority who are capable of making this happen.

About LEAD Network Europe

The LEAD Network Europe is a non-profit and volunteer-led organisation whose mission is to attract, retain, and advance women in the consumer products and retail sector in Europe through education, leadership, and business development. The LEAD Network is run by and for its members, women and men, and we value every individual for their unique perspective. With a primary focus on promoting gender equality the organisation strives for the advancement of women of every race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, educational background, national origin, religion, physical ability and lifestyle. Its vision is of a fair, diverse and vibrant industry where everyone can thrive. A diverse workforce where both men and women are enabled to contribute their full potential and lead their organisations to the next level of value creation. LEAD Network accounts for 18,000+ members – both women and men – from 81 countries.

For more information, please visit www.lead-eu.net