Why do women suffer more job stress than men?

Mimosa is the symbol for International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day on 8 March is an opportunity to celebrate and support women across the globe. But it’s also an annual opportunity for survey-makers to analyse the experience of women in the workplace.

This year, research shows that women feel they’re more stressed than their male colleagues. The 2013 Work and Wellbeing Survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) has found that while 86% of women say they have good mental health, more than a third (37%) say they feel tense or stressed out at work. This compares with 33% of men. Here are some of the factors making women feel stressed:

  • Women don’t feel there’s a level playing field at work. The APA survey found that 48% of women felt valued in their jobs, compared with 54% of men. And just 34% believe their employer gives them the resources to manage their stress.
  • Women have less job security than men. A report by PwC says that childcare costs and many women only able to work nine-to-five has harmed their career prospects. Its Women in Work Index  shows that the UK is ranked 18th out of 27 countries in terms of the opportunities it offers for women to advance in the workplace.
  • The pay gap isn’t cheering women up either. ‘Why is WonderWoman worth less than Superman?” asks the Chartered Management Institute, as it reflects on factors holding women back in the workplace.
  • There’s not enough ‘meaning’ in their jobs. Women aren’t always interested in power and money, says an Ernst & Young report. It’s ‘making a contribution’ that matters more. And the report advises women to seek our role models and mentors to help realise their ambitions.
  • Having no set goals can also make women feel stressed and lacking direction. That’s why the everywomanNetwork is encouraging women to invest an hour a week in their career ambitions.  Owning your dreams, and devising a plan to implement them, can make you feel more in control of your life.
  • Not having enough sleep can make the stresses of the day loom larger. You can feel irritated and overly sensitive if you’re sleep-deprived. Don’t be superwoman and think you can survive on four hours’ sleep a night like Margaret Thatcher. Get your eight hours in, where possible.
  • The inner critic can be a woman’s own worst enemy. Arianna Huffington, founder of Huff Post, is urging women to ‘stress less, live more‘. In an interview with CNN, she says women’s pressures are self-imposed, and they feel victims of the “critical voice that constantly judges us, according to which we are never good enough”.

In summary, more self-confidence, more sleep, more control over ambitions, and more encouragement seems to be the answer to alleviating women’s job stress. Not all achievable in one day, admittedly. But the most important thing is to turn down the volume on that critical voice in the head.

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