Workplace Wellbeing
min read

Workplace Absenteeism

Absenteeism during the 9-to-5 workday, often more pronounced among women, poses an intriguing puzzle for employers. Exploring the underlying causes and implications of this phenomenon sheds light on its significance in the workplace!

Published on

April 22, 2023


Nadeen Daka

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Absenteeism during the 9-to-5 workday is a prevalent and puzzling phenomenon, particularly among women — but what does it mean and why exactly does it happen?

We’ve all experienced it: having to call in absent from work. Whether it’s due to an illness or a need to juggle other responsibilities, missing a day on the job is something many of us can relate to. When prolonged, this practice is often referred to as “absenteeism,” defined as an extended absence from work that goes beyond what’s considered reasonable.

Numbers don't lie

In recent years, gender has become a salient topic in discussions about workplace absenteeism, driving much of the discourse that surrounds it. This is primarily because studies have found that on average, women are absent from work more often than their male counterparts (Johns, 2003), but there are limited explanations as to why. The common assumption is that women miss work more frequently than men due to their domestic duties and physiological differences; they have children to tend to and menstrual cycle symptoms to deal with. However, the truth is, that while this intuitive notion seems plausible, there is a lack of empirical evidence to support it. In fact, it has actually been found that a comparable absence rate persists among women with good health and no children (Mastekaasa and Olsen, 2000).

A Separate Absence Culture

One prevailing theory suggests that women experience higher rates of absenteeism because it is more socially acceptable for them to be absent. This idea aligns with what Jost and Banaji (1994) describe as a system-justification culture, whereby we “perceive, understand, and explain an existing situation with the result that the situation is maintained.” Let’s break this down a bit:

Gender research reveals that while women have become increasingly present in the workforce in recent decades, stereotypes about them remain stagnant. Subconsciously, there remains a perception that women are less dependable, rational, and committed to their careers compared to men. As these stereotypes continue to be reinforced, we begin to shape societal norms and, in turn, nurture the expectation that it is not only normal for women to skip work, but even expected. Essentially, we embrace an environment in which women feel more encouraged and at ease about calling in absent from work.

The Consequences for Women

The negative link between women and absenteeism can have detrimental consequences in the workplace. It often results in gender-based discrimination when it comes to hiring, promotions, and wage disparities. The gender imbalance further contributes to decreased morale, disrupted productivity, and elevated expenses.

Women’s absence from the workplace can even lead to a loss of creativity and ingenuity. According to the Catalyst, companies that hire the most women have 16% higher return sales and have a higher collective intelligence. Through such findings, it becomes quite clear that women’s presence at work holds great significance for a company as a whole. This underscores the need to foster conversations that promote gender inclusivity and create new social norms where women are valued and sought after in the workplace. Only then can we begin to move beyond conventional absenteeism expectations and dismantle gender barriers.

How Womco Can Help

In today’s job market, prioritizing employee well-being is a strategic advantage. At Womco, we understand that female health isn’t merely a benefit; it’s key to talent attraction and retention. Our tailored solutions empower your female teams to receive the support they need at any stage of their hormonal health journey — that may lead to their absence from work. If you’re aiming to create a workplace where physical and emotional health thrive, while also improving ED&I metrics, ROI, and company performance — join Womco and discover the future of employee wellbeing.

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Attract and retain top female talent, elevate company performance and improve DE&I metrics with Womco ‘s solution today!