Research has shown women in male-dominated working environments face stress-inducing situations such as social isolation and sexual harassment
Research has shown women in male-dominated working environments face stress-inducing situations such as social isolation and sexual harassment

Stress at work: How working in a male-dominated environment can impact women's health

Survey shows women working in majority male environments have less healthy stress patterns than those in jobs with a better gender balance

Alexander Sehmer
Wednesday 26 August 2015 23:22

Women working in heavily male-dominated workplaces may suffer levels of stress that could harm their health, according to new research.

A survey of women in male-dominated occupations found they had less healthy stress profiles than women in workplaces that had a better gender balance.

Previous research has shown that women in male-dominated working environments face situations that can be stree inducing, such as social isolation, sexual harassment, and low-levels of support from their co-workers.

The new study, by researchers from Indiana University Bloomington, measured levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in women working in environments where they make up 15 per cent or less of the workforce.

Cortisol levels fluctuate naturally during the day, but the patterns were observably different for women in male-dominated environments.

"We find that women in male-dominated occupations have less healthy, or 'dysregulated,' patterns of cortisol throughout the day," Bianca Manago, one of the study's researchers, said.

Cate Taylor, an assistant professor of sociology and gender studies, and Manago's co-author on the study, said: "Our findings are especially important because dysregulated cortisol profiles are associated with negative health outcomes.

"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."

The research was presented at the 110th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.

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