Gabby Swab

If you feel like your thoughts and insights aren’t valued at work, you’re not alone — 59.5% of workers report that they don’t think their organizations don’t care about their opinions, according to a survey conducted by the Greater Baltimore Committee and Towson University that aimed to understand the feelings of women in the workplace amid COVID-19. 

The survey, which was conducted online in two parts, during March and June 2021, was inspired by news that millions of women have left the workforce amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The GBC’s Baltimore Women’s Advisory Board and its research partners at Towson wanted to better understand factors that are contributing to this exodus, including female employees’ stress levels, the discrimination that they face at work and their desire to leave their jobs, referred to as “turnover intention.” 

Despite focusing on women in the workplace, Gabby Swab, an assistant professor in the Department of Management at Towson University, wanted to include men in the survey in an effort to contextualize the women’s responses. Eighty percent of the survey’s respondents were women, while 20% were men, with 433 people total responding to the first survey and 111 responding to the second. 

The initial analysis of the results, which was released today, looks mostly at data across both genders. Overall, the survey found that the majority of respondents — 64% — were unsatisfied with their job, and almost half felt they could find a comparable job if they left their current employer. The researchers found that a lack of organizational support during the pandemic was a leading cause for respondents to want to leave their jobs. Turnover intention was evident in all sectors covered by the survey, except professional services. 

Most respondents also reported feeling stressed at work, with 64.2% indicating that they feel they are asked to complete “a great amount of work” at their job. However, only a third report feeling “burnt out” at work, a term that indicates feeling fatigued after doing particularly taxing work and has grown in use over the course of the pandemic — especially when talking about jobs that have become more difficult due to COVID-19, like teaching and health care. 

Swab said that this may be because burnout indicates a more intense and problematic level of exhaustion that most workers haven’t reached.  

“While people may be stressed, (most) aren’t like, ‘how am I going to do this for another day?’” she said. 

This is an area in which Swab said she saw differences between respondents of different genders — but not in the way some might expect. Whereas women reported that they have been feeling burnt out at work since before the pandemic, men’s levels of burnout have started to climb towards women’s during COVID-19.  

Similarly, women have long felt discriminated or singled out due to having children or a family, but during the pandemic, male workers have also reported feeling this way (64% of participants said they have children, with just under 11% of that number saying that they believe they have been “singled out” for having children). 

“For myself, I found it very interesting that men are feeling the struggles in the pandemic that women have been feeling for a long time,” she said. “That could mean a lot of different things, but I think that’s important both personally and professionally.” 

It’s something Swab hopes to continue investigating as she and her fellow researchers continue analyzing the data. They also hope to look deeper into survey questions that asked what work-life practices — like paid-time off and on-site day care — respondents’ employers offered and how accessible those resources were to employees. 

“We are planning on doing a very deep dive into work-life balance,” she said. “To get into what’s going on with stress and discrimination, we’re really searching for the ‘why.’” 

The survey also found that about a quarter of respondents have been discriminated against at work, with about a fifth of respondents saying they were “treated differently” due to their race or ethnicity. Swab also wants to look further into the topic discrimination in the workplace, especially as it ties into and leads to turnover. 

“The survey results highlight that the pandemic has had a negative effect on women in the workplace in the Baltimore region. Employers run the risk of losing high-quality employees and diversity in the workplace unless they work to understand and address employee needs in this very stressful time for everyone,” said GBC President and CEO Donald Fry in a statement. “It’s a workforce issue that deserves deeper understanding and smart solutions.”