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‘Token’ women in male-dominated workplaces suffer more stress

28 Aug
Working in male-dominated environments makes women more susceptible to chronic stress. (pic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/hin255)

Working in male-dominated environments makes women more susceptible to chronic stress. (pic courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/hin255)

Women who work in predominantly male workplaces are more prone to unhealthy levels of stress – and this is down to the environment, not to the woman’s personality type or the job she does. That’s according to a study by Indiana University into the stress exposure of women working in male-dominated professions.

The researchers measured the levels of stress hormone cortisol in women working in environments that were 85% male. “We found that women in male-dominated occupations have less healthy, or ‘dysregulated,’ patterns of cortisol throughout the day,” said co-researcher Bianca Manago, a doctoral student in sociology. ” Such women are more likely to experience exposure to high levels of interpersonal, workplace stressors.”

Those stressors and pressures can include doubts about the woman’s competence and performance, being excluded from after-work social activities, bumping against the glass ceiling, sometimes sexual harassment, and generally receiving little support. The study concluded that it’s exposure to these negative working conditions that puts ‘token’ women at risk of chronic stress – not the job they’re performing, or because they have high standards or a particular personality type. This ‘dysregulation of stress response’ – basically when too much cortisol is produced, leaving the woman in a state of high alert – can have consequences way down the line.

Co-researcher Cate Taylor, assistant professor of sociology and gender studies, added: “Our findings are especially important because dysregulated cortisol profiles are associated with negative health outcomes. This is evidence that the negative workplace social climates encountered by women in male-dominated occupations may be linked to later negative health outcomes for these women.”

Images of female role models empower and inspire women leaders, says study

22 Apr

Who’d have thought that looking at a photo of a powerful female role model, like Hillary Clinton or Angela Merkel, could inspire women to become more successful leaders. But a new study – Successful female leaders empower women’s behaviour in leadership tasks – shows that exposure to female role models can improve women’s performance in leadership tasks.

Men and women were asked to give a speech while being exposed to a photo of Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Bill Clinton or not picture. The speeches were measured in terms of length and quality. Women spoke longer (and were there perceived to give a better speech) when they were exposed to the photo of Hillary Clinton or Angela Merkel. But they spoke less, and their speeches were rated to be of lower quality, when Bill Clinton or no picture was shown.

The researchers concluded: “Subtle exposures to highly successful female leaders inspired women’s behavior and self-evaluations in stressful leadership tasks.”

Whose face would inspire and empower you when you have to make a stressful speech…?

The eyes have it: why men don’t understand women

17 Apr

Scientists have proven what women have suspected for centuries: men don’t understand them. It’s not for want of trying. It’s just that men can read other men’s feelings from the expression in their eyes, but not women’s.

Researchers from the LWL University Hospital in Bochum, Germany, attempted to find out why in their study Why men don’t understand women. Altered Neural Networks for Reading the Language of Male and Female Eyes. They carried out a brain scan, a version of the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test’ on 22 men. They found that men had twice as many problems recognising emotions in female eyes compared to male eyes. They just can’t work out what women are feeling.

The scientists explained that men could relate what they see in other men’s eyes to themselves, as they could link this back to their own past thoughts and feelings. But they drew a blank when looking into women’s eyes as the brain can’t recall similar images from the past, and are therefore unable to empathise with women’s feelings.

The scientists said these results could be explained by evolution: men’s ability to interpret “threatening cues” in other men “may have been a factor contributing to survival in ancient times”. They add: “As men were more involved in hunting and territory fights, it would have been important for them to be able to predict and foresee the intentions and actions of their male rivals.”

Majority of working women believe they can ‘have it all’

2 Mar

LI_Women@Work_thumbnailTwo-thirds (63%) of working women prize work-life balance over their pay check, and three-quarters(74%) really believe they can have it all. These are the key findings from LinkedIn’s ‘What Women Want @ Work’ study, released to celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March.

The emphasis for working women today is firmly on flexible working. Nearly two thirds (65%) of the 5,300 women who took part in the survey globally said they would like greater flexibility at workplace. And 80% believe a flexible work environment is the most important factor in determining the ‘success of the next generation of professional women’ – even more important than having more women in top jobs.

Having an interesting job was important for 58% of respondents, compared with 45% who prioritised salary. Interestingly, more than half (57%) of women without children thought having a child wouldn’t affect their careers, compared with 43% who do have children.

Another interesting fact emerging from the study is that 71% of women said their appearance Continue reading

Science shows woman have more empathy and intuition than men

6 Feb

While female intuition is renowned, scientists are proving a factual basis to it. Woman are much faster than men at reading people’s facial expressions, and can quickly work out if someone is approachable or intelligent. Men take twice as long as women to read people’s faces.

That’s according to a study carried out by Edinburgh University published in the journal PLOS One. Its scientific experiments of brain function when making social decisions found that “differences in the functioning of the social brain between males and females [could] contribute to the greater vulnerability of males to Autism Spectrum Disorders”.

The fact the male brain takes longer to make these judgements and so need more time to come up with the answers – which can be problematic when needing to make snap decisions in real life.

Flirty women in the workplace are liked but not trusted

11 Aug

Flirting in the workplace can help women get ahead, but they’re not liked or trusted by their colleagues. Non-flirty women are seen as more authentic, which means that being flirtatious won’t benefit women’s careers in the long term, according to research from the University of California – Berkeley.

Flirtatious behaviour in the workplace won’t help women’s careers long term. (pic: istockphoto.com/boytsov)

The research involved looking at videos of corporate negotiators, one of whom was a woman who kept flicking her hair and batting her eyelashes. The flirty women were liked but not trusted. However, flirting can be seen to be positive if used in a playful rather than overtly sexual way – and if used to ‘soften’ tough negotiations.

Professor Laura Kray, of University California-Berkeley, said: “We discovered both an upside and a downside to flirting at the bargaining table. Although flirtation appears to be positively related to women’s likability, negotiators who flirted were judged to be less authentic than those who refrained from exercising their sexual power.’

So, by all means use your feminine charm and read the audience so you know whether to dial up or dial down the charm offensive – but don’t overdo it. Other women in don’t like it – see Lucy Mangan’s column in Stylist, Flirting in the workplace won’t work long term – and it’s unlikely to get you very far.

Is anxiety burning women out?

8 Jun
womaneer rocking chair

Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere (pic: istockphoto.com/pterwort)

There’s a saying that worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere. That’s certainly the case for many women who suffer anxiety, and for whom it gets to the stage where it affects their performance at work.

Anxious female brains work harder than male ones, says research from Michigan State University. In tests, worried women performed the same as men on simple parts of the task – but performed worse on the more difficult parts, suggesting that “worrying got in the way of completing the task”.

Jason Moser, lead investigator on the project, said: “Anxious girls’ brains have to work harder to perform tasks because they have distracting thoughts and worries. As a result, their brains are being kind of burned out by thinking so much.” Continue reading

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