easier when your kids are grown, said Alyson Breathed, 60, a
marketing director with a staff of 10. But even after decades
of being in management — first in hospitality, now for a
public garden — being a woman in authority is stressful, she
still the ones juggling most of the family responsibilities,
plus working," said Breathed, a Fallbrook, Calif., mother
of two children and two stepchildren. "After my kids grew
up, my mother needed help. Family and work are both
inequality and the scarcity of women at the top, and it’s no
wonder women’s mental health suffers, said Tetyana Pudrovska,
sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin and
co-author of "Gender, Job Authority and Depression"
in the December 2014 Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
study said women in authority have more "depressive
symptoms" than do men in authority and many more than do
women down the ladder. For men, though, the higher the ladder
rungs, the fewer depressive symptoms, according to the
"authority" included hiring, firing and influencing
pay, Pudrovska said. On the Center for Epidemiologic Studies
Depression Scale, "depressive symptoms" included
feeling tired, lonely, distracted or unable to shake the
on 1,302 male and 1,507 female participants are from the
Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which began in 1957. All
graduated from Wisconsin high schools, but many have moved out
of state since.
women have higher incomes and better jobs, they should enjoy
better mental health," Pudrovska said. "Instead,
there’s a psychological cost of their authority."
Authority can cause stress, which can trigger depressive
studies, according to Pudrovska, overlooked the "gender
dimension." "Male leadership is considered
legitimate and expected," she said. "But when women
are leaders, they face resistance and are exposed to overt and
subtle gender discrimination and harassment."
caveat," noted Deborah Belle, an associate professor of
psychology at Boston University. "The study measured
symptoms that mostly affect women," she said.
"Stressed-out men are more likely to get agitated, drink
too much or have physical health problems."
participants’ age, now 75, meant they were more likely to be
in traditionally female fields including education and health
care. Younger women have entered male-dominated fields such as
finance and law. But Pudrovska’s subsequent research shows
"gender stereotypes remain," she said.
women outnumber men at many colleges, "society still
expects women to take charge of the home and family,"
said Dr. Carol Bernstein, associate professor of psychiatry at
New York University School of Medicine. "And women still
have to have the babies."
were the glass-ceiling-breakthrough generation," Breathed
said. "But then, just when we hit our stride, we had to
decide whether or not to have kids. To a person, every woman I
know who did have kids had to make work sacrifices."
stereotypes start young, the experts said.
of honing leadership skills like risk-taking, young women
undermine their own success by questioning and diminishing
themselves, wrote Rachel Simmons in "The Curse of the
Good Girl." The result is a "psychological glass
of "feminine" and "masculine" must change,
Pudrovska said. "When women in authority are assertive,
dominant, powerful and confident, they’re viewed as
unfeminine," she said. "Men don’t have this
conflict; these are ‘masculine’ traits."
excel at compassion and empathy, which complicates their
leadership roles, Breathed said. "When men get to
positions of authority, they’re like the chest-beating
silverback gorillas; they’ve made it!" she said.
"But women say, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve got to fire a woman
with two kids.’"
women dial back the stress-o-meter?
Choose a female-friendly employer, said Harriet Greenberg, a
partner at Friedman LLP, an accounting firm in New York City.
Its open-door policy and flex-time option help women cope. If
a woman stays home for a few years to chase kids, "she’s
welcomed back," she said.
like-minded women, Bernstein advised. Create a network
"of other women who are juggling, too."
Subscribe to the philosophy of wabi sabi. "Imperfection
is part of life," Breathed said. "It’s OK if the
bed isn’t made."
your job is killing you, jump ship. Breathed left a
60-hour-a-week inflexible job for a 35-hour flexible one that
allowed her to be her kids’ Scout leader and soccer coach.
Teach your daughters to resolve conflicts, take risks, tout
their strengths and "check your good girl at the
door," Simmons said.
Support efforts like the national Thirty Percent Solution,
which vows to get more women on boards of directors, where
policy decisions are made. "As more women join these old
boys’ networks, they’ll become inclusive, not
exclusive," said its spokeswoman, Solange Charas.
has come a long way since the 1956 "Why Can’t a Woman
Be More Like a Man?" song, Pudrovska said. "But we
still need a cultural shift. Awareness is a first step."
rather we see men being more like women, who are considered
‘caring’ and ‘thoughtful,’" Belle said.
"Women have to work on traits like confidence, but we don’t
want to lose the ‘feminine’ traits."
Breathed said, Millennial women are heading to the C-suite
with different expectations than their mothers had. Said
Breathed of her daughters: "I feel sorry for the men who
try to harass them."
lonely at the top, women in the University of Texas study
said. Joining a sisterhood helps.
my safe haven," Daphne Mallory said of W2W, her Twin
Falls, Idaho, group, which includes a college professor,
beauty pageant organizer and shop owner. Instead of venting,
they role-play conflict resolution and preview others’
presentations. "It’s not tea and crumpets," she
professional women’s groups have specific demographics, like
the national Women in Toys (womenintoys.com) and the
Dallas-based Women of Color Leadership Initiative for
African-American leaders of nonprofits.
host activities tailored to members’ lifestyles, like the
"walk-and-talks" hosted by the CLUB in the Silicon
groups, including Lean In (leanin.org) and American Business
Women’s Association (abwa.org), teach through webinars and
seminars, while linking women locally.