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Why Are So Many Women Burning Out? (Sabrina Starling on Small Business)

Sabrina Starling on Small Business
3 min read

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I recently had the privilege of speaking at the opening session of the Soirée Women’s Leadership Symposium. I chose the topic of intentionally designing our work to support our lives rather than vice versa.

The burnout rates among successful women are alarmingly high. According to various sources, the prevalence of burnout ranges from 43% to 61%. Women entrepreneurs are particularly vulnerable, with 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs experiencing burnout. If you feel burned out, you are not alone in this struggle.

Why are women’s burnout rates so high? Many women experience role strain while caring for children and aging parents while juggling a career. Women in middle management may feel pulled in multiple directions, balancing leadership demands alongside the needs of their direct reports. Discrimination may be happening at work. Women are likely to have a second shift with caregiving and home tasks after work. The need for self-care and deep rest is high, yet finding the time for it is challenging.

Burnout is insidious. It comes on gradually. It’s like being the frog in a boiling pot of water. You don’t know you’re burning out. You may recognize you are working harder and feel emotionally or mentally exhausted. Yet you may adjust to a high-stress lifestyle and decide “This is just the way it is.”

As the pressures continue to mount, and there are few opportunities for deep rest, the symptoms of burnout mount. Increasing cynicism toward others is another symptom of burnout. You may experience a sense of futility, as though nothing you do makes a difference. Anxiety, irritability, withdrawal and procrastination are additional symptoms of burnout. Physical symptoms may include headaches, gastrointestinal issues, difficulty sleeping and chronic illness.

Steps to Reduce Burnout

Work-related stress contributes to burnout. Working from our strengths is energizing, creates a sense of accomplishment and increases confidence. Yet research shows that professionals are spending 41% of their time doing tasks that offer little to no personal satisfaction and could be competently handled by others. This is a setup for burnout. Delegating is critical to making work more enjoyable. Delegation allows you to work more from your strengths while allowing others to demonstrate competence. When we hold on to tasks we don’t enjoy that could be competently handled by others, we inadvertently create a glass ceiling.

We all need time to “turn off” work. Determine a set time to end your workday. Turn off your phone for downtime to be present with yourself and those you love. Use your weekends to recharge.

Check in with yourself. Ask “What do I need to be at my best?” Take action to address your needs, and ask for help from others. Be willing to accept help.


Sabrina Starling, Ph.D., PCC, BCC, is the bestselling author of “How to Hire the Best” and “The 4 Week Vacation.” Founder of tapthepotential.com and host of the “Profit by Design” podcast, she and her team coach entrepreneurs to take their lives back from their businesses. They are on a mission to send 10,000 entrepreneurs on a four-week vacation in 10 years.
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