The CIPD commented on recent research which suggests that women are having to tolerate high levels of stress in the workplace. The research, from a global management consultancy, reveals that 70% of the female respondents ranked their stress levels at a level of five or higher out of 10.
For the CIPD, the issue is then whether corporate culture is doing as much as it should to support good mental health and wellbeing.
“This is not about men versus women in the workplace,” comments Melinda Beckett-Hughes of Ayuda, “but rather about how women, drawing on the same strength that enables them to perform so well at work, can better take care of themselves.
Balance and Progress
Women can face combined workplace pressures around issues of proving themselves while balancing work and family life.
“There is a constant pressure for women to look the part and adopt a persona to fit in,” Melinda observes. “They may also be having to care for children, and elderly parents. Because of this, the pressure can peak between the ages of 35 and 44, when many women face increased family responsibilities alongside demanding work roles.”
Melinda points out how there is often a lack of managerial support combined with a sense of job insecurity in many workplaces.
“Women often face an uphill struggle for career progression, even though the pressures they cope with indicate high levels of grit and determination”
In fact, as Melinda emphasises, the balancing act many women must accomplish is an indicator of extraordinary inner resources.
“As with the issue of empathy, women may gain by their gender, rather than lose, but they still face these conflicting demands which then lead to stress.”
Gender and Expectations
A major root cause of stressful workplaces is the stereotyping women can routinely be subject to.
“A woman might be aware of this stereotyping, even if it is unspoken. There may be an underlying expectation that she will perform poorly when compared to a man in negotiation or presentation, for example,” Melinda offers. “This stereotyping then adds extra pressure.”
High performing women may also have unrealistic expectations of themselves, which add to a sense of simmering stress.
“While there should be an onus on workplaces to change ingrained attitudes, and improve their culture for female employees, there are also things women can do to help themselves”
As Melinda sees it, women can draw on the same reserves of resourcefulness that they routinely display when at work, and when balancing their different demands and commitments.
“It is vital to develop coping strategies, to look after yourself mentally and physically, and to take the necessary time to reflect, rest and recover from stress.”
Ayuda offer a bespoke and confidential Life Turnaround Programme, which helps people tackle stress in the workplace and life’s issues. Discover more about it by calling Ayuda on 0800 612 2611 or visiting ayuda-group.com.
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