A study of 190 women working in male-dominated environments showed that organisational and interpersonal sexism were associated with a lesser sense of belonging in the industry, which was in turn associated with poorer mental health.
Examples of sexism cited in the study include: “Women receiving unwelcome sexual advances, being touched inappropriately, receiving inappropriate comments about their body or appearance, being exposed to sexist jokes and comments, and being exposed to pornography.”
The researchers predicted that a sense of belonging could increase job satisfaction and mental health, but that workplace sexism would decrease women’s sense of belonging because it represents a form of bullying, rejection, and ostracism by men against their female co-workers.
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, showed this to be the case.
“Strategies that integrate women more thoroughly into male-dominated industries and give them a better sense of belonging may help to increase their mental health and job satisfaction,” said lead researcher Mark Rubin, an associated professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia.
He continued: “However, we also need better strategies to reduce sexism in the workplace if we are to tackle this problem at its root.”
The results of the research are particularly worrying as workplace sexism remains rife. According to figures from a ComRes poll commissioned by the BBC in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, half of British women had been sexually harassed at work or place of study.
Of those who have experienced sexual harassment, 63 per cent did not report it to anyone.
The Mental Health Foundation estimates that in England women are more likely than men to have a common mental health problems, and are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders.
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