News ID: 126835
Published: 0235 GMT September 13, 2015

Male-dominated environment causes vulnerability for women

Male-dominated environment causes vulnerability for women

Working in a 'male-dominated' field or organization is stressful for women, says a research study from Indiana University. Researchers examined stress hormones (cortisol) in over 440 women who work in places where men are 85 percent of the workforce (so their subjects were 'token women'). They looked at fields including engineering and construction.

One of the researchers noted, "Our findings are especially important because dysregulated cortisol profiles are associated with negative health outcomes. The negative workplace social climates encountered by women in male-dominated occupations may be linked to later negative health outcomes for these women," reported.

The study reviewed earlier research that showed the challenges of women working in male-dominated occupations: "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 new research concluded, "Chronic exposure to these types of social stressors is known to cause vulnerability to disease and mortality through dysregulation of the human body's stress response."

Stanford School of Business published a 2011 study showing that, "women who are aggressive, assertive, and confident but who can turn these traits on and off, depending on the social circumstances, get more promotions than either men or other women," i.e., these masculine traits help women succeed if balanced by more feminine behaviors.

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