How Employers Can Advance Women's Mental Health in the Workplace

Taryn Byrd, senior director for Kate Spade New York, discusses the role leadership can play in advancing women’s mental health in the workplace.


Air Date: March 3, 2022

Moderator: Kana Enomoto, Co-Lead, McKinsey's Center for Societal Benefit through Healthcare

Featured Guests: Taryn Bird, Senior Director, Kate Spade New York

While the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a rise in mental health concerns across all employee groups globally, women’s mental health has been disproportionately affected. As growing numbers of women express heightened levels of anxiety, depression and burnout, business leaders are seeking actionable ways to support the mental wellbeing of their employees.

At the 12th Annual International Women’s Day Forum, Taryn Byrd, senior director for Kate Spade New York, discussed the role leadership can play in advancing women’s mental health in the workplace.

Women’s Mental Health Needs Demand Actionable Initiatives

Kate Spade New York is committed to providing 100,000 women with empowerment and mental health support by 2025. Byrd explained how the company pursues this mission by taking actionable steps to advance women’s mental health.

“Providing employees access to resources is so critically important right now,” Byrd said. “We made a commitment to train our teams to become mental health first aid [reponders], and as of today, we have 68 of us across our corporate and our field teams that are trained in mental health first aid.”

Byrd added that employers should prepare to adapt their mental health initiatives as employees’ needs change and evolve.

“It’s definitely an area that we see as a journey,” she said. “That's where we are today and [we’re] definitely looking to make improvements for the future as well.”

How Leadership Communicates Mental Health Messages to Employees Matters

When asked how her company shares mental health resources and knowledge with its employees, Byrd underscored the importance of strategic communication.

“It’s not just what you communicate — it’s how you communicate it,” Byrd said. “One of our core values at Kate Spade is to welcome with warmth. Regardless of [whether] it's selling you a handbag or it's telling you about an internal resource that we have, we're very conscious of how important it is to create content with that level of warmth.”

“We've taken that level of warmth to share mental health resources with our teams, and I think that that's incredibly important,” she added.

Byrd noted that another component of successful messaging is making the subject of mental health accessible to all employees.

“I think when people hear mental health, sometimes they think, ‘I'm not ready for that yet,’” she said. “But we know mental health comes on a spectrum and there are a lot of ways you can practice cultivating mental health.”

Mental Health Messaging Should Reflect Company Culture

To deliver effective and authentic mental health support to employees, Byrd recommends companies pursue initiatives that closely align with their brand values.

“Our work in the mental health space is deeply connected to our purpose as a brand,” Byrd said. “That is something I think that's critically important to not only how your work connects to your brand purpose, but how we're able to tangibly help bolster our message of joy in a really authentic way.”

Byrd also reinforced that efforts to support women’s mental health will grow and evolve alongside a company’s leadership journey.

“We have work to do there too, just like everybody does,” she noted. “That's what we strive for and what we're continuing to work towards as a group and as a community.”