One might be the loneliest number, but it’s a regular fact when you’re a woman working in a male-dominated field. What’s more, recent studies that women in such fields (where 85 percent of their colleagues are men) show increased signs of social stress.
(Photo Credit: Peter Burge/Flickr)
What’s so bad about a little stress? Time recently examined a University of Indiana study focused on cortisol, the stress hormone that we all secrete throughout the day. When we’re subject to a high but consistent level of social stress, we secrete cortisol in an irregular pattern. Researchers had already found that for the “token” women in workplaces, they often felt socially isolated, unsupported and even sexually harassed in their work environment.
As if that wasn’t enough, if you add high cortisol levels to the mix, you also can see physical problems as well. High stress can lead to everything from anxiety, depression, digestive problems, and heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. Chronic stress can also lead to poor performance at work, with an increase in short-term memory loss and a drop in mental clarity or decision-making skills.
So, what’s to be done? Besides finding some groovy ways to reduce stress (yoga, meditation, sleep, and tea are often touted), there has to be more. The long-term solution seems simple: get more women into current male-dominated fields. Here are some ideas:
Inspire Girls to Go for STEM Careers
We’re talking Science, Tech, Engineering and Math — places where women are often in the minority. There’s been some push in the recent years, largely revolving around inspiring girls to stick with STEM subjects that are often male-dominated in high school, or younger. If you work in a STEM field, what’s being done to reach out to local schools to demystify your job?
Be a Mentor and Be a Mentee
Since women often need a social outlet for stress, what better way than to have a mentor/mentee channel at work? Successful women often talk about how being or having a mentor helped them achieve their career goals at work. Not sure where to start? There are lots of organizations that help pair up mentors and mentees. You can also talk to your HR department as many corporations already have a program in place to match workers up with potential mentors.
Hire Women (Duh)
Evening out the disparity might just be the easiest way out of this dilemma. Instead of having a workplace full of isolation and harassment (and physically debilitating stress) you’re left with a bunch of smart people focusing on doing good work.
Tell Us What You Think
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