Sector News

Female bosses who can hire and fire more likely to suffer depression

November 20, 2014
Diversity & Inclusion
Female bosses with the authority to hire and fire are more likely to suffer depression than other women, according to a new study.
 
However, researchers found that male bosses with the same powers are less prone to depression than other men.
Study lead author Doctor Tetyana Pudrovska, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas in the US, said: “Women with job authority – the ability to hire, fire, and influence pay – have significantly more symptoms of depression than women without this power.
 
“In contrast, men with job authority have fewer symptoms of depression than men without such power.”
 
The study, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, involved more than 1,300 middle-aged men and 1,500 middle-aged women, who graduated from high schools in Wisconsin.
 
Dr Pudrovska, who co-authored the study with Doctor Amelia Karraker, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University, said women without job authority exhibit slightly more symptoms of depression on average than men without job authority.
 
However, among people with the ability to hire, fire, and influence pay, women typically exhibit many more symptoms of depression than men.
 
Dr Pudrovska said: “What’s striking is that women with job authority in our study are advantaged in terms of most characteristics that are strong predictors of positive mental health.
 
“These women have more education, higher incomes, more prestigious occupations, and higher levels of job satisfaction and autonomy than women without job authority. Yet, they have worse mental health than lower-status women.”
 
She added: “Years of social science research suggests that women in authority positions deal with interpersonal tension, negative social interactions, negative stereotypes, prejudice, social isolation, as well as resistance from subordinates, colleagues, and superiors.
 
“Women in authority positions are viewed as lacking the assertiveness and confidence of strong leaders. But when these women display such characteristics, they are judged negatively for being unfeminine. This contributes to chronic stress.”
 
However, Dr Pudrovska said men in authority positions generally deal with fewer stressors because they do not have to overcome the resistance and negative stereotypes that women often face.
 
She added: “Men in positions of authority are consistent with the expected status beliefs, and male leadership is accepted as normative and legitimate.
 
“This increases men’s power and effectiveness as leaders and diminishes interpersonal conflict.”
In terms of the study’s policy implications, Dr Pudrovska said the findings indicate that “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.”
 

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