What Kim Kardashian Got Wrong About Work, According to Mental Health Advocates
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- Recently, Kim Kardashian advised women in business to "get up and work."
- Mental health advocates say Kardashian's advice hurts more than it helps.
- They offer different advice for working women.
No one can turn a sound bite into a meme like Kim Kardashian. In March, the billionaire shared a now-infamous hot take in an interview for Variety:
“I have the best advice for women in business: Get your f---ing a-- up and work, It seems like nobody wants to work these days.”
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— Kim Kardashian
"I have the best advice for women in business: Get your f---ing a-- up and work," said Kardashian. "It seems like nobody wants to work these days."
"That's so true," said sister Kourtney Kardashian, who is known for not wanting to work if she can help it.
As you might have guessed, the internet had a lot to say about Kardashian's lackluster assessment of America's working women. But BestColleges wanted to know: What do mental health advocates and experts think of her advice?
The State of Working Women Post-Pandemic
Most of the experts we spoke to noted the historic economic context of this moment for women in the United States. For example:
- Working women, who exited the economy en masse to act as caretakers during the COVID-19 pandemic, lost significantly more jobs than men in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center.
- Women of color — especially Hispanic and Asian women — experienced sharper job losses during the COVID-19 downturn than other workers, reported Pew in 2020.
- According to CNBC, men recouped all of their pandemic job losses by January 2022.
- While February started seeing some job gains for women, 1.1 million women are still missing from the workforce, reports Business Insider.
- At the same time, according to CNBC, employment numbers for Black women in 2022 have gotten worse.
The data is pretty dire. So is the problem really that women just won't get up and work?
What Mental Health Advocates Think
Experts say, unanimously: No.
“Women are not sitting on their butts. They are lying on the floor wondering if they have anything left to give. Working moms are putting in more time at home and work than ever before — much of it unpaid.”
— Dr. Jaqueline Kerr, burnout specialist
"Women are not sitting on their butts," said burnout specialist Dr. Jaqueline Kerr. "They are lying on the floor wondering if they have anything left to give. Working moms are putting in more time at home and work than ever before — much of it unpaid."
"I imagine her point was that women who want to be successful need to hustle –– to put in the work and effort that leads to future success," said Kerr.
"But women are already doing that. Often, they have to work ten times harder in the workplace just to be recognized. Women of color have to do even more. It's tone-deaf to suggest that women aren't successful because they aren't hustling."
“The statistics about women leaving the workplace in droves during the pandemic will be analyzed for a long time, but mass laziness is unlikely to be in the findings.”
— Jody Diana, LCSW
Licensed clinical social worker Jody Diana agreed: "The statistics about women leaving the workplace in droves during the pandemic will be analyzed for a long time, but mass laziness is unlikely to be in the findings."
Kim's Advice Is a Ticket to Burnout
Recent studies show that working women suffer from burnout more now than ever and far more than their male counterparts. According to the 2021 Women in the Workplace report by McKinsey & Company, the burnout gap between men and women more than doubled between 2020 and 2021.
- 42% of women report being often or always burned out in 2021
- 35% of men report being often or always burned out in 2021
Source: Women in the Workplace 2021
A 2020 analysis by Maven indicated that working moms are nearly 30% more likely to experience burnout than working dads. Working moms of color reported the highest levels of burnout.
Professor of forensic psychology Dr. Debra Warner worried that Kim's "just work" mentality will only make things worse.
"Millions of people in this world work very hard and still live paycheck to paycheck," said Warner. "Kim's advice may make them think they aren't working hard enough and should make even greater sacrifices –– like time with their friends and family –– in order to do more. This will take a toll on their mental health. They are going to burn out."
Kim's Advice Lacks Nuance
Licensed mental health counselor Heather Heunermund noted that the choice to work, for many women, isn't as straightforward as Kardashian implies. There are many barriers between women and high-paying jobs that have nothing to do with a lack of work ethic.
"We know, for example, that many people have barriers to regular work –– like lack of transportation and childcare. We know that education is a barrier, that 21st-century job skills are required for a living wage, and that those things are unattainable for so many mothers."
It takes significant resources to overcome these obstacles, said disability educator and activist Caz Killjoy: "Most of us have to live without housekeepers, assistants, nannies, and private education. Kim falsely assumes that it's easy to find extra hours in the day, to find childcare, even to find the mental-emotional capacity to overcome difficult circumstances."
This is why telling women to get up and work isn't very helpful, said Dr. Kerr.
“Instead, we need to dismantle the motherhood penalty so moms can be paid and promoted equally at work. We need paid leave as a default for all caregivers. We need subsidized childcare. We need childcare tax credits. We need men to embrace caregiving. We need to give women more support –– because they are doing all the work that keeps our kids and our communities alive.”
— Dr. Jaqueline Kerr, burnout specialist
Instead, "we need to dismantle the motherhood penalty so moms can be paid and promoted equally at work. We need paid leave as a default for all caregivers. We need subsidized childcare. We need childcare tax credits. We need men to embrace caregiving. We need to give women more support –– because they are doing all the work that keeps our kids and our communities alive."
5 Tips for Women in Business from Mental Health Advocates:
Maybe you're thinking about heading back to school to pursue better career opportunities. Maybe you've just started a new job and are figuring things out. Maybe you're the person in charge. Wherever you are in your professional journey, our mental health experts offer some helpful advice:
1. Redefine Success
"Understand that hard work is only a portion of what makes someone successful. You are successful as long as you are trying to create a better world for yourself and those around you. If you are making a positive impact, that's success."
–– Debra Warner, Psy.D.
2. Give Yourself Grace
"Many women juggling career and home life have to make sacrifices that create a tremendous amount of guilt. Give yourself some grace. Give yourself breathing space to enjoy life outside of work. Take care of yourself."
–– Jessica Jefferson, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
3. Ask for Help
"I would tell women to avail themselves of any and all public services that might help them get ahead. Don't be ashamed to ask for help: We've all been there. Collaborate with other women to network and resource."
–– Heather Heunermund, Licensed Mental Health Counselor
4. Celebrate Your Accomplishments
"Women are expected to work like they don't have a family and parent like they don't have to work. If you get into a negative thought-loop about your inability to do this, stop and take stock: Acknowledge the obstacles you had to overcome to be where you are. Identify what you are doing that brings you pride. Just getting through the day is something to celebrate in our current circumstances."
–– Jody Diana, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
5. Tune Out the Noise
"Women's work situations can't be reduced to a bumper sticker. The advice I would give women? Stop taking advice. You likely already have the answers. No one knows your life better than you."
–– Ron Blake, Director of the American PTSD Association
Feature Image: Daniele Venturelli / Contributor / WireImage / Getty Images