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43% of Women Leaders are Burnt Out. Here's Why (and How to fix it)

Updated: Apr 7

Closing the Self-Worth Gap: A Self-Care Guide for Professional Women and Mothers in Leadership

43% of women leaders are burned out, compared to only 31% of men at their level.

Women have come a long way, from earning the right to work outside the home to voting. Yet, there are still obstacles that prevent us from making desired changes in our lives. Recently, I've found myself contemplating the gender pay gap and how it correlates with making personal changes.

The Gap Before the 'Gender Pay Gap'

Understanding the gender pay gap is straightforward. According to Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA):

"The gender pay gap is a measure of how we value the contribution of men and women in the workforce. Expressed as a percentage or a monetary figure, it shows the difference between the average earnings of women and men. Closing the gender pay gap is important for Australia's economic future and reflects our aspiration to be an equal and fair society for all."

When it comes to enhancing our mental and emotional health and well-being, we confront another gap. It’s what I term the "gender self-worth gap". But what is the gender self-worth gap?

Before we delve into that, let's first clarify the meaning of self-worth, which is often confused with self-esteem. Dr Christina Hibbert, a women's clinical psychologist and author, succinctly distinguishes the two: "Self-esteem is what we think and feel and believe about ourselves. Self-worth is recognising 'I am greater than all of those things.' It is a deep knowing that I am of value, that I am loveable, necessary to this life, and of incomprehensible worth."

So, what's the gender self-worth gap in this context? It's similar to the gender pay gap but looks at the difference between how much men and women invest in themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Now, let's consider the WGEA’s gender pay gap concept directly applied to self-worth and personal well-being.

What is the "Gender Self-Worth Gap"?

The gender self-worth gap is a measure of how we value our personal contribution as men and women, not just in the workforce but also on the home front. Expressed as a percentage or as self-care minutes, it reflects the difference in the average well-being rewards of women and men. These 'rewards' are defined as downtime, a relaxed state, stress reduction, self-appreciation, increased focus, productivity, creativity, and being present. Closing the gender self-worth gap is vital for Australia's emotional and mental health future. It echoes our aspiration to foster an equal and fair society for all, not only economically but also in terms of individual self-worth and well-being.

In my work as a Work-Life Flow Coach, I see the transition from discussing self-worth in monetary terms to emotional terms as a breakthrough in professional women's personal development. It provides a fresh perspective and offers an approachable way to discuss mental and emotional health in relation to gender differences.

Women in leadership often juggle numerous responsibilities at work and home. The constant pressure to excel in all areas can lead to neglect of personal well-being and self-worth, often causing burnout for women in leadership. As a society, it's crucial that we understand and address this gender self-worth gap, promoting a healthy work-life balance and well-being for women in leadership roles.

I have a theory that men place more value on their health and well-being and are more willing to invest in themselves. This commitment manifests not just financially in the workforce but also in prioritising self-care by dedicating time and effort to it. So, one underlying reason why some women do not prioritise self-care is the gender self-worth gap.

As women and mothers, we often relegate ourselves to the bottom of the priority list. In fact, many women don't even include themselves on their to-do list, let alone prioritise themselves.

From the women I've interviewed, coached, and conversed with, as well as from women who've coached and taught me, I've learnt that many of our challenges or resistance to change stem from an underlying feeling of unworthiness, a sense of not deserving. Many women are not aware of this until they dig a little deeper, either alone or guided by a counsellor, therapist, or coach.

Men seem to struggle less with this issue. It's not that men don't grapple with low self-worth; rather, I'm highlighting the gender differences that exist.

How Does It Relate to the Confidence Gap?

The gender self-worth gap is related to the confidence gap, which is the disparity in feelings of impostor syndrome between the sexes. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of 'The Confidence Code' and 'The Power Code', noted in their article: "there is a particular crisis for women—a vast confidence gap that separates the sexes."

Why does the confidence gap matter? As the authors go on to highlight, success is a blend of confidence and competence. Confidence triggers action, which in turn reinforces belief in one's abilities, thus fostering further confidence. As you can see, confidence triggers a success cycle. Whereas low confidence results in a lack of action. Stagnation. As Estes, a research psychologist, concludes, "low confidence results in inaction... When women don’t act, we hold ourselves back. But when we do act, even if it’s against our will, we perform just as well as men do." The choice not to try typically stems from low confidence.

Consequently, we must address and close the gender self-worth gap, ideally before or simultaneously with closing the gender pay gap. Prioritising self-care and recognising the value of the 'thankless' work we do at home, where there's no monetary exchange, is a crucial part of this.

Why Is It Important?

According to the 2022 Women in Workplace report, 43% of women leaders are burned out, compared to only 31% of men at their level. One of the reasons cited is that women leaders tend to do more to support employee well-being and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion. This work improves retention and employee satisfaction but is not formally rewarded, leading to burnout. One way to prevent and overcome burnout is to reduce stressors and increase support and resources. Some of our efforts need to focus on changing external things like the workplace environment and the gender pay gap.

But another way is to change our internal environment and build ourselves up from the inside out. The first step towards a better work-life balance and overall well-being is within our control. It's by refilling your replenished resources not when and if you burn out, but daily by prioritising self-care.

What To Do Next

So, if you're feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or if you can't seem to get everything done, it's time to prioritise self-care and start investing in yourself. Join the Self-Care Revolution, and let's close the gender self-worth gap, starting with our health and well-being.

I have a question for everyone reading this article, irrespective of gender:

What specific step will you take today to close the gender self-worth gap in your own life?

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below, as your stories could inspire others.

Are you ready to take a decisive step toward personal growth and professional success? I invite you to email me directly at and request a free discovery call for your 'Self-Care Revolution: A tailor-made 90-Day Transformational Journey for Women Leaders'. This is your chance to transform your life and lead the way in closing the gender self-worth gap.

I look forward to reading your comments and potentially working with you on this transformational journey.

Together, let's make our collective success healthy and happy!

Dr. Masi

Disclaimer: The content in this blog and related Wix posts is for informational purposes only and not medical advice. Views expressed are those of Dr. Masi Njawaya and Herself Health and not any official organisation. Consult a healthcare professional for personalised advice. Use this information at your own risk.

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