Workplace stress: When are women most affected?

  • IANS, New York
  • Updated: Aug 25, 2015 16:11 IST
Chronic exposure to social stressors is known to cause vulnerability to disease and mortality. (Shutterstock photo)

Are women in male- dominating occupations more prone to poor health? A recent study says that most women working in such environment suffer from high levels of stress.

Negative workplace social climates encountered by women in male-dominated occupations may be linked to later negative health outcomes for these women, the researchers from Indiana University noticed.

"We find that women are more likely to experience exposure to high levels of interpersonal, workplace stressors," said Bianca Manago, doctoral student in sociology.

Chronic exposure to social stressors is known to cause vulnerability to disease and mortality through dysregulation of the human body's stress response.

Manago and Cate Taylor, assistant professor of sociology and gender studies, analysed the levels of stress hormone called cortisol in women in occupations that were made up of 85 percent or more men.

Cortisol levels naturally fluctuates through the day but people with high levels of interpersonal stress exposure have different patterns of fluctuation than people exposed to more average levels of stress.

"We find that women in male-dominated occupations have less healthy, or 'dysregulated,' patterns of cortisol throughout the day," Manago noted.

Previous research has shown that women working in male-dominated occupations face particular challenges.

They encounter social isolation, performance pressures, sexual harassment, obstacles to mobility, moments of both high visibility and invisibility, co-workers' doubts about their competence, and low levels of workplace social support.

The findings are important because "dysregulated" cortisol profiles are associated with negative health outcomes, the authors concluded.

The team was set to present research findings at the 110th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Chicago this week.

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