• Women Leaders are Changing the World

    But what are the challenges women face in the workplace, in terms of stress and wellness?

    Surely you recognize the names Megan Fox, Jessica Alba and Scarlet Johansen. Probably even Serena Williams, Danica Patrick and Ali Krieger. But what about powerful CEOs Ginni Rometty, Ellen Kullman, Irene Rosenfeld, Andrea Jung, Indra Nooyi, and Angela Braly? Currently, women make up 46.6 percent of the work force, yet take up just four percent of CEO spots at Fortune 500 companies. And, women hold less than 20 percent of corporate board seats.

    But we’re getting there. In 1949, Georgia Nesse Clark became the first woman treasurer of the United States. In 1967, Muriel Siebert debuted as the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman to run for Vice-President on a major ticket party.

     

    Marsha Cohen earned her status as the first woman CFO at a “big four” accounting firm in 1997. Rice, Pelosi, and Comerford and Clinton all took “first women” government positions inside of three years. And now look at Marissa Mayer, swooping in at seven months pregnant to salvage declining sales and plummeting stock at Yahoo.

     

    Through the decades, we have lifted our chins, squared our shoulders, and raised our hands. We liberated. We lobbied. We climbed ladders and shattered ceilings. But as Napolean Hill notes, “Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.” That said, some are still wondering can elite women have it all. Let there be no mistake; there is no single prescription, but the answer is YES!

     

    But the truth is stress IS inevitable. However stress is not an event. Stress does not just happen. Stress is a process. It can leave little time to be healthy. You are too overwhelmed to deal with stress. Which makes you sick; depressed, unhealthy food choices, not enough sleep, which leads to of course more stress. No one can afford the cost of letting success sabotage personal or organizational health. This is where I come in. For years I spent my time saving lives as an ER doctor. Now through the Scott Institute for Optimal Stress, I specialize in supporting women leaders learn how to flourish; live better and longer without the harmful effects of stress.

     

    A 2004 study of nearly 1000 senior-level men and women, over 700 of whom were women, found that in order to succeed in high-powered positions, corporate females worked harder than their male counterparts in eleven of eighteen areas. These included: exceeding performance expectations, taking high-visibility assignments, changing companies or moving to different functional areas, and being willing to work long hours and weekends.

     

    Studies suggest, corporate women also tended to curtail their personal interests in an attempt to create balance. And while most companies tout work flexibility benefits, less than a quarter of women believed they could use them without jeopardizing their positions. More than half of the women studied stated they found it “difficult to balance the demands of [their] work and family/personal life.” No small undertaking, indeed. While husbands and male partners are picking up the kids and laundry, women still carry the load.

    Underlying gender biases remain prevalent in some organizations, creating additional stress. Distinct and different stressors face women in high-powered positions.

     

    Discrimination, gender stereotyping, sexual harassment, work overload, organizational politics and work-home conflict, to name a few. In a 2006 study of more than forty American and European women executives, women reported feeling isolated because they did not feel they fit in to the dominant male culture.

     

    A lack of organizational buy-in can also tax women in leadership. Middle managers, focused on competitions and short-term gains remain most challenged to see the long-term benefits of gender diversity in organizations. That’s right. While you already know it, women bring with them improved sales, performance and profits, and stellar company oversight.

     

    In sum, Stevenson and Wolfer’s extensive study on gender and happiness revealed that, while objective measures of success for women have risen exponentially in the past few decades, women’s subjective levels of happiness have declined substantially.

     

     

    In grasping for it all, have we lost everything?

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    WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE HAVE EXPERIENCED SEXUAL HARASSMENT

    75%

    OF WOMEN HAVE EXPERIENCED RETALIATION AFTER REPORTING SEXUAL HARRASSMENT

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    WOMEN STATE THAT STRESS LEVELS HAVE INCREASED IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS

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    WOMEN STATE THAT STRESS LEVELS HAVE INCREASED IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS

    1 in 2

    WOMEN STATE THAT STRESS LEVELS HAVE INCREASED IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS

    1 in 2

    WOMEN STATE THAT STRESS LEVELS HAVE INCREASED IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS

  • Women, Stress and Health

    Contrary to traditional Western medicine practices and beliefs, the body doesn’t sever at the neck. Mind and body remain quite interconnected, and their processes intertwine. Stress, often caused by distorted thoughts or faulty automated thoughts and beliefs, creates real physiological stress symptoms in the body, and vice versa. A study published in 2012 of more than 7,000 women noted that job stress, especially when women felt as though they had no control over their jobs, doubles the risk of diabetes. Researchers postulate that disruptions of hormones and the immune system, and increased cortisol and stimulatory hormones are the culprits. Researchers also suggest that women cope differently with stress, often turning to food for solace, which may compound the problem.

    A recent longitudinal study of over 17,000 women with demanding jobs illustrated that they were 40 percent more likely to suffer from heart problems, including heart attacks, strokes or blocked arteries. While many women susceptible identified themselves as feeling as though they had little control on the job, research from the Scott Institute for Optimal Stress suggests a paradox exists for the most elite high achieving women. In women who often appear to have ultimate ‘control’ ,the subtle signs of strain and impending heart disease often go unnoticed. The ‘demand/control’ model which is used to study work related stress does not always fit for these high achieving women. In fact, the drive that propels elitie women through the glass ceiling can ultimately lead to a crash landing on what i call the ‘glass gurney’ –the invisible place waiting for you on the bed in my emergency department.

     

    Stress can hurt the heart. It’s no secret that stress gets the heart pumping and the blood moving, which taxes the body if stress is prolonged. And it’s not a coincidence that cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death among women and men in the US. Stress is a major contributor. As significant as smoking, high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure. Think of it this way; the elevated blood pressure from adrenaline pumping to keep you going to complete a last minute report works for you short term–but stress hormones work against you, literally can kill you, when you are constantly stressed; juggling roles, tasks and enduring sleepless nights.

    And gender matters. The burden of cardiovascular disease is much greater on women than men. Here is why. First women often have very different signs and symptoms when they go to the doctor or the emergency room. As Rosie O’Donnell recently reported when she suffered a heart attack. Women may just have fatigue or dizziness- not crushing left chest pain. And there are other differences; actually women have a lower occurrence of heart attacks, but more severe congestive heart failure, more severe angina, less coronary artery disease seen at cardiac catherization. Then AFTER heart attacks or heart surgery women under age 65 years have 2X mortality rate compared with men of the same age. 38% of women die within the firs year following heart attack compared with 25% of men–and finally women post heart attack have higher rates of depression and physical disability. And, yes, stress and depression correlate. In 2009, researchers studied more than 800 women.

     

    Their conclusion? Major depressive episodes were “significantly associated” with chronic and acute stress. A national publication on women and depression list “stress” as a primary cause of depression, stating that evidence suggests that women respond differently than men to stressful life events, often prolonging their feelings of stress and making them more prone to depression.

     

    Stress affects hormones too, leading to missed menstrual periods, difficulty getting pregnant and possibly even miscarriages. When stressed, our adrenal glands pump out cortisol and adrenaline. Your adrenal glands need progesterone to do so, leaving little progesterone to support body processes (like nourishing your uterine lining) that lead to pregnancy, and successful egg implantation and sustenance.

  • References

    Marchione, M. (2010). Women with high job stress face heart risks. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40182278/ns/health-womens_health/t/women-stressful-jobs- have-percent-higher-heart-risks/

    Job stress doubles diabetes risk in women: Same is not true for men. (2012, August 23). NY daily news. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/job-stress-doubles-diabetes-risk- women-true-men-article-1.1142868

    Men are from mars: Neuroscientists find that men and women respond differently to stress [Web]. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2008/0403- men_are_from_mars.htm

    Stevenson, B., & Wolfers, J. (2009). The paradox of declining female happiness. Retrieved from http://www.nber.org/papers/w14969.pdf?new_window=1

    Sunil, K., & Rooprai, K. Y. (n.d.). Role of emotional intelligence in managing stress and anxiety in workplace. Manuscript submitted for publication, School of Management, Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida, India. Retrieved from http://asbbs.org/files/2009/PDF/R/Rooprai.pdf

    Symonds, M. (2012, August 08). 10 traits of women business leaders: The’yre not what you think. Forbes, Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/mattsymonds/2012/08/08/10-traits-of-women-business-leaders-its-not-what-you-think/

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Health. (2009). Women and depression: Discovering hope (09 4779). Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health website: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/women-and-depression-discovering- hope/depression-what-every-woman-should-know.pdf

    U.S. women in business. (2012, July). Retrieved from http://catalyst.org/publication/132/us-women-in- business

    Women and men in u.s. corporate leadership: Same workplace, different realities?. (2004). Retrieved from http://catalyst.org/file/74/women and men in u.s. corporate leadership same workplace, different realities.pdf