Saturday, June 25, 2011

Stressed Out Women

Interesting article in the Taipei Times today, and it's regarding women's issues so I thought I'd give it a nod:

Study finds that women are more stressed than men

I'm not sure what commentary to add, but here's a bit of what I think. From the article:

Women experience more stress than men in the workplace and in life in general, and the sources of stress — such as concerns over sexual harassment at work — are the major difference between female and male employees, a study by the Council of Labor Affairs shows.


The survey found that regardless of gender, when it comes to work-related stress, employees are most stressed about “company insolvency,” which received an average of 5.86 points. This was followed by “company’s future prospects unclear” (5.83 points), “lay-offs or mandatory retirement” (5.67 points), “unpaid leave” (5.53 points) and “liability involved in company accidents” (5.00 points).

As to sources of stress at home, employees were overwhelmingly concerned with “decreased income,” which garnered an average of 6.35 points, the survey showed.

This was followed by “injury or illness in the family” (6.12 points), “sudden loss of a large amount of wealth or a large increase in living costs” (5.91 points) and “death of spouse, children or siblings” (5.77 points).

The survey also found that women in general were more stressed both at the workplace and at home.

I have to wonder where this is coming from. Could it be that women just worry more in general than men, or Taiwanese women worry more than their male counterparts? I have a hard time believing this, although I do believe that there are some general differences between the genders that are observable in large trends and groups (but absolutely not on an individual level, and part of the world's problem is taking observed trends in groups and applying them to individuals, a la "you're a woman so you must be like this").

I'd say instead that in terms of work and company culture and modern family life, that while the system has evolved to be more egalitarian regarding opportunities and lifestyle choices for women, that some attitudes have not changed and that while women have opportunities in the workplace and home life, that they're not always fully welcome on a more psychological level - where the attitudes people express and the prejudices and notions they more quietly hold and act on create some cognitive dissonance (I don't think I'm quite using the term correctly, but I hope you know what I mean). As in, "yeah, you can become a manager and work your way up the ladder and expect a household of more equal work-sharing, but culturally we're still going to undermine you in ways that are going to create stress for you, and you won't even be able to pinpoint why."

This can take the shape of longer hours that don't allow families to properly care for their children - something that stresses women out more seeing as women still bear the brunt of household duties (which I also don't like, but one topic at a time). It can take the form of a lack of flex-time and work-life balance, of employers and managers who quietly treat women differently or even hold discriminatory views, but whose actions are so subtle as to be hard to pick out and identify. It could be a lack of help with household duties at home, despite a modern culture that accepts that men should take on a more equal share of housework and child-rearing. It can take the form of employers that discourage taking full maternity leave.

Whatever the factors are, I don't think "women just stress out more than men" is one of them.

The source of work-related stress with the largest disparity between the two genders was “sexual harassment,” which ranked No. 28 on the list of most common sources of stress in the workplace.

Yeah, because women experience more sexual harassment by an exponential amount than men - something which is, of course, totally unacceptable but does, of course, still happen.

The study also showed a positive correlation between an employee’s education and work-related stress. The more educated an employee was, the more stress he or she felt at the workplace. Also, those with longer working hours felt more stressed at work.

The study also found a relationship between the type of employment and the level of work-related stress, with employees under contract or under temporary work experiencing more stress than regular employees or those with long-term employment.

This is all pretty obvious: if you have more education, you're probably working at a higher-level white collar type job and while they might not actually be more subject to the changing winds of the economy, it sure feels like they are. Of course longer hours create more stress, as you tire yourself out, you lack work-life balance and you devote an ever-larger chunk of yourself to work, which can stress you out quite a bit when the work you've devoted yourself to is problematic. As someone who has done contract work (and sort of still does), I can tell you that while it suits my personality beautifully, I can see why it would be very stressful for some, and during slow times of year it can cause small amounts of paycheck stress in me, as well.

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