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Is Anxiety Holding Back Women's Careers?

Can anxiety impede women's careers? A new study out of Michigan State University indicates that it might. Researchers asked college students, some of whom had anxiety problems, to complete several tasks while wearing an electrode cap, and found that men and women perform differently on difficult tasks, especially when anxiety is a factor.

It turns out that the women with anxiety had higher brain activity on both simple and difficult tasks than high-anxiety men. What's more, women with anxiety problems did worse on the harder tasks than the men despite this increase in brain activity. Anxious men, the researchers discovered, are better test-takers than anxious women. How might this phenomenon manifest itself in the classroom and workplace?

"Anxious girls' brains have to work harder to perform tasks because they have distracting thoughts and worries. As a result, their brains are being kind of burned out by thinking so much, which might set them up for difficulties in school," wrote Jason Moser, the study leader, in a news release. "We already know that anxious kids -- and especially anxious girls -- have a harder time in some academic subjects such as math."

The link between anxiety and performance in women could help explain the dearth of ladies in fields like technology, science, mathematics and engineering, or the relatively low percentages of women holding C-suite positions in business. The Jane Dough points out that girls' confidence drops dramatically between the 6th and 10th grades in subjects like math and science, which could shape how they perceive those fields as young adults.

Ladies, do you suffer from anxiety? If so, do you think it's affected your career direction?

More From Payscale

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(Photo credit: Constantine Gerontis/Flickr)

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