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“The issue is not with fixing women, but with fixing this environment” The one surprising factor that could cause you stress at work

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It's staggering that in the developed world in 2015, there's still wage inequality based on nothing more than gender, but it's sadly just one of the many issues women face in the workplace today.

Now a new study has highlighted the impact working in a male-dominated environment has on women, and it doesn't sound good.

The research, from a team at Indiana University, has shown that ‘token women’ - women who worked in a field where 85% or more of their coworkers were male - experienced higher levels of stress, which not only isn't the most fun to have during a working day, but can actually have an impact on health in the long term as it leaves the body more vulnerable to disease.

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Prolonged stress can cause health problems

Bianca Manago, a doctoral student in sociology, and Cate Taylor, an assistant professor in sociology and gender studies, analysed the levels of stress hormone cortisol in 443 women throughout the day, some of whom worked in a 50-50 gendered environment, and some in workplaces with mostly men.

Manago said they found that women working in sex-segregated fields “are more likely to experience exposure to high levels of interpersonal, workplace stressors,” which, if prolonged, causes dysregulation of the body's stress response, leading to such health issues as heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes and depression, among other things.

“Everyone is exposed to social stressors and your cortisol can jump throughout the course of the day,” Taylor told Medical Daily“What happens, though, is that if someone is exposed to a lot of stress for a long period of time, their natural cortisol dysregulates [and] over time their stress response becomes dulled.”

She added in a press release: “Thus, our project provides 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.”

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‘Token women’ experience more stressors than women in 50/50 offices

The report pointed out that previous research has shown women in male-dominated occupations commonly face a variety of issues, such as social isolation, performance pressure, sexual harassment, obstacles to promotion, moments of both high visibility and invisibility, coworkers doubting their competence and low workplace social support.

However, Taylor emphasised that women should not be put off sectors that are seen as typically male.

“I definitely think women should go into these occupations especially if they are interested in them,” Taylor said. “Male-dominated occupations are, in many ways better; they pay better, they have higher average salary and are associated with higher social status [...] The issue is not with fixing women, but with fixing this environment.”

Words: Amy Swales / Images: Rex Features

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