Tag Archives: mental health

‘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.”


Balancing work and family makes women prone to depression

5 Sep

The balancing act of work and family tips many women over the edge into depression, according to a report into mental health across Europe.

Women aged between 16 and 42 are more than twice as likely as men to suffer from depression, and  women aged 25 to 40 are three to four times more likely than men to become depressed. The rates of depression in women have doubled since the 1970s – which parallels the increase in the number of working mothers, suggesting that the quest to ‘have it all’ is taking it toll on some women (who perhaps don’t have the support networks or the options to help them achieve a healthy balance in their lives).

Professor Hans Ulrich Wittchen, one of the study authors, from Dresden University of Technology in Germany, said: “In depression we see 2.6 times higher rates among women, which interestingly and importantly clusters in the reproductive years between the ages of 16 and 42. It’s not this increase after 45 – getting older – that some people think it is. In women, we see these higher rates of depressive episodes at times when they have their babies: they have to cope with the double responsibility of job and family.”

The study, published in European Neuropsychopharmacology, covers 30 countries including the UK, and reveals that 38.2% of people are suffering from mental health issues, such as anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Buying into the ‘supermum’ myth can make working mothers depressed

22 Aug

If you find yourself frantically juggling your home and work life – spending sparkling time with your children, as well as shining your reputation at work – then the effort of being all things to all people can leave many women exhausted and depressed.

Are you buying into the myth of the supermum? (pic credit: istockphoto)

Even if the pressures are self-imposed – and many of us do have that in-built drive to be the absolute best at absolutely everything we do – we can find it unbearable if we end up dropping any of those many balls we’re juggling.

Maybe that’s not surprising for most working mothers, but the main finding of a report from the University of Washington, by researcher Katrina Leupp, is that working mothers who buy into the ‘supermum myth’ put themselves at risk of depression.

Her analysis of 1,600 married women round that those who worked were less likely to be depressed than women who stayed at home. But for the mums who do work, seeking to be a high achiever at work and a domestic goddess at home would lead only to frustration and depression. They feel guilty for not being brilliant at everything, and uncomfortable about making tradeoffs, such as leaving work early to pick up the kids.

The key to happiness, says the report, is making some sacrifices either in the workplace or at home. So, successful career women can’t always expect to attend sports day or recorder recital at their child’s school. Or a mother who seeks a more comfortable work-life balance may not put herself forward for a promotion that requires longer hours and nights away from home.

Leupp said: “Women are sold a story that they can do it all, but most workplaces are still designed for employees without child-care responsibilities. In reality, juggling home and work lives requires some sacrifice, such as cutting back on work hours and getting husbands to help more.

“You can happily combine child rearing and a career, if you’re willing to let some things slide,” she added. “Employment is still ultimately good for women’s health. But for better mental health, working mothers should accept that they can’t do it all.”

Looks like new Dragon, Hilary Devey, might have been right all along.

Related article: Women can’t have it all, says new female dragon

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