Guest Blog: “I Am Stressed out … It’s Not PMS”

When colleagues start seeing women as incompetent they think their opinions don’t matter. Just months ago, I experienced it myself. The glaring discrimination that exists in one of California’s coffee shops has been prodding me to quit my job as an assistant sales director. I have just finished presenting the quarterly evaluation of my department when one of our board officials asked me to explain a figure related to one of our problematic branches.

Working there for almost three years, I have taken cognizance of our branch’s limitations in terms of support services and manpower. I raised the issues in our meeting and I have also proposed how we could resolve the problems. However, as I have observed, every time I present my opinion I only get validation from a few directors.

But what is more discouraging is when my proposals would often get no reaction from them. However, if my co-director rewords the same proposals, he would instantly get their nods. So last week, I pointed this out and I and my male co-director got into a heated argument. Somebody cut us off and I immediately asked for an apology from the board. Soon after, I’ve heard some of my officemates saying that while I am good at doing my job, they should be aware of the instances to avoid me when I am “having my PMS.”

I was not too shocked by their comments. The road to ending gender discrimination is still a battle to be won as gender discrimination still hovers inside workplaces despite the successes of the women’s movement to push for equality among male and female workers. We do not see it as a failure of the women’s movement, but it is a failure of workplaces to adopt systems to ensure that women’s voices are heard consistently.

For instance, recent data from the Pew Research Center found that women who are working in workplaces dominated by male workers in terms of number, tend to experience higher rates of discrimination. Based on the survey conducted in 2017, there were four in ten women who said they have experienced discrimination at work based on their gender.

Study: Women in male-dominated workplaces seen as ‘incompetent’

Among the eight specific forms of discrimination experienced by women in the workplace is that they were treated as incompetent. Women reported about four times more as men to have experienced being looked down at work because of their gender. Twenty-three percent of female respondents reported being treated as incompetent, which is about four folds higher than six percent of men feeling the same.

Women seen as incompetent at work is not only morally degrading. It is dangerous as well. Just this year, a man named Nicholas Dagostino made it to the headlines for being involved in the two incidents of shooting female drivers he saw as incompetent.

Aside from being seen as incompetent, women are also earning less than man when doing the same job, with one in four female workers saying they were paid less than their male counterparts. Women also experience more chances of small slights at work, often repeated, than men.

I am not alone in receiving less support from my senior leaders as well. The 2017 survey of the Pew Research Center showed that 15 percent of women respondents got less support from their supervisors. There was also one in ten women who were passed over for the most important assignments because of their gender. This one is related to being seen as incompetent but should be highlighted as a glaring type of how women are missing opportunities for their careers just because they are women. Being isolated, experiencing sexual harassment, and not getting the job they applied for is also likely to happen to female workers.

It’s not PMS, it’s stress

But what male workers would need to understand is that women’s attitude in the workplace is not only related to her having PMS. It’s a common problem of stress taking its toll on workers – women and men alike. Work stress is real and is brought about by many factors including low wages, too much workload, lack of support, few opportunities for growth and vague standards of performance.

Unfortunately, women are more vulnerable to these factors especially because of the existing culture in the male-dominated workplaces. Stress also causes a hormonal imbalance among men and women.

Our bodies are kept working normally by hormones. But if there is hormonal imbalance, our mood is affected leading ultimately to low work performance. Work stress influences the levels of the body’s hormones such as the catecholamines, glucocorticoids, prolactin and growth hormone.

Holistic ways to deal with work stress

This is one reason why instead of castigating and discriminating women workers, workplaces should put in place programs that offer holistic ways to deal with stress. It may start with a flexible time offered to employees. With a more flexible time, workers can do things to manage their own stress by having time to do the things they enjoy doing such as reading, exercising, meditating, or traveling.

For women who might be reeling from work-related stress, brought partly by gender discrimination at work, always remember to prioritize your own wellness and nutrition despite it being a challenge. Take time to exercise regularly. Be mindful of what you are eating since too much of a certain food can affect your moods like trans-fats, carbs, and caffeine.  We should also try not to skimp on sleep as sleep quality greatly affects our physical and mental health.

These were included in my recent proposal to our company, which I hope will be recognized by our directors. A holistic approach to managing work stress is very beneficial to employees and is easily done so long as the employers can see the link between the workers’ welfare and their productivity – men and women alike. Most importantly, taking out discrimination in the workplace will bring in more benefits for women workers who are as competent as male workers.

~ Patrick Bailey

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Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoys writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

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