Are There Gender Differences When It Comes To Mental Health?
When businesses consider wellbeing policies and practices in the workplace it is often with a gender-neutral approach. However research tells us that there are gender differences in mental health, the underlying causes of stress at work, and the individual experience of stress. In our next few blogs we will explore what these differences are and how we should refine our approach to workplace wellbeing. This week our focus will be on women.
Mental Health Risks for Women
Although mental health problems affect men and women in equal number, the World Health Organisation reports that depression and anxiety are twice as common in women than in men. More specifically, the HSE says the highest risk group are women ages 35-44 who are 67% more likely to suffer anxiety or stress at work than men of the same age due to balancing their careers and acting as caregivers in the home.
Women’s Experience of Stress at Work
The Mental Health Foundation suggests that for some, stress may result from a lack of financial security, as women often earn lower salaries on average than their male colleagues and perceive themselves to have low levels of job security. Women are also more likely to be in subordinate roles where they have a lack of control over the demands of their role. For women in senior roles, although they may be balancing career and home caregiver roles, women are often judged more harshly when they ask for flexibility and may be perceived as less committed.
How Can Businesses Help?
Giving women flexibility to balance the demands of their work and home lives is a major way to reduce work stress for women. This could be in offering part-time work or the option of flexitime. Support is key for women in dealing with stress. This could be offered in the form of mentorship opportunities that allow women to grow in their roles, or by training for managers in the best ways to support women in flexible working. It might be about changing line managers’ perceptions of flexibility and encouraging flexibility in their own management style. Lastly, by consulting women when a wellbeing programme or policy is set up, rather than adopting a gender-neutral approach, businesses can capture the specific issues that face women within their business and plan an appropriate strategy.