Double standards: Women in leadership at risk of depression

Research has shown that women in leadership positions are more inclined to suffer depressive symptoms than their male counterparts.

Double standards: Women in leadership at risk of depression
A new study in the US has shown that women are more prone to depression than their male counterparts when in a position of authority at work.
In fact, the study shows that authority is likely to decrease depression in men.

The study was published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, and researched the behaviour of 2800 men and women.

Researchers at the University of Texas interviewed participants over the phone in 1993 and 2004, when they were aged around 54 and 64.

They were asked about their job roles and the number of days in the past week that they had felt symptoms of depression.

Women in positions which included hiring, firing and determining remuneration displayed a 9% higher rate of depressive symptoms than women without authority.

However, the study’s results showed that in men, authoritative roles led to a 10% decreased rate of symptoms.

Researchers said that the study controlled aspects of job roles that could contribute towards depression, such as hours worked and flexibility.

According to the study, men are more likely to decide when to start and finish work than women, and are monitored less frequently by their superiors.

One researcher also attributed the results to women being criticised for being “unfeminine” in male dominated managerial positions.

“These women have more education, higher incomes, more prestigious occupations, and higher levels of job satisfaction and autonomy than women without job authority,” said Tetyana Pudrovska, the study’s lead researcher. “Yet they have worse mental health than lower status women.”

Pudrovska suggested that this is caused by double standards imposed upon women in leadership.

“Women in authority positions are evaluated more stringently compared to women without job authority and male co-workers,” she said. “Higher-status women are often exposed to overt and subtle gender discrimination and harassment. This contributes to chronic stress.”

She added that this could be due to female leaders disrupting the “expected status hierarchy.”

“Men in positions of authority are consistent with the expected status beliefs, and male leadership is accepted as normative and legitimate,” Pudrovska suggested. “This increases men's power and effectiveness as leaders and diminishes interpersonal conflict.”

Pudrovska concluded that the study’s findings prove that the gender gap continues to be an issue which needs acknowledging.

“We need to address gender discrimination, hostility and prejudice against women leaders to reduce the psychological costs and increase the psychological rewards of higher-status jobs for women,” she said.

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