Women Suffering at Work

Women suffering

11 Feb Women Suffering at Work

Resilience Delivers Part Two

Read Part 1 here.

Forget the Glass Ceiling: Fix Resilience

Are women more resilient than men or are women suffering?  We see evidence of resilience in longevity, pregnancy, and capacity to change societal outcomes through education. Yet, our data, drawn from organisational life, shows women suffering at work. They are struggling with resilience issues much more than men.

We explore the differences, reflect on causes, and recommend action.

1. The Data Demonstrates

Based on Version 3.0 questions (even sample size), we see:

  • Male resilience ratios (2.31:1) are higher than female ratios (2.11:1)
  • Post training ratios improve more in men (0.61) than women (0.49)
  • Females have high liability scores – more distressed, withdrawn and vulnerable
  • Pre-training resilient women: correlated with vitality, sleep and nutrition
  • Pre-training resilient men: correlated with flow, situation agility and nutrition
  • Post training, female distress and depression scores improve markedly
  • Post training, female wellbeing and train mind scores improve markedly
  • Post-training resilient women: correlated with relaxation and focus
  • Post-training resilient men: correlated with focus, decisiveness and assertiveness

At a factor level, there are marked differences between male and female answers:

Liability factors by gender

Asset factors by gender

The lower resilience scores (and suffering) are driven by distress symptoms (headaches, gut, skin, muscles), self doubt and indecisiveness. Women also score lower on the key factors that underpin resiliency (bounce, fitness, impulse control and tactical calm).

On the positive side women are more engaged and positive, eat better and as expected score better on EQ factors (positivity, connection, empathy, insight).

When looking at age bands, younger and older women secure better ratio improvements (dominating men). Between 31 and 50 women secure less gains relative to men.

2. How Might we Explain this?

Whilst a sensitive subject, a relative deficit in female resilience must be understood and addressed.

Perhaps we can lay the blame squarely on men? First, they have little insight and second, they make the workplace hard for women. This explanation is naïve and unhelpful.

We could explain these differences by saying that women are prone to self doubt. Thus, women experience more anxiety and distress symptoms. Consequently, they fail to express themselves with adequate confidence and impact. Anxiety undermines action.

Yet, the tables above show that women believe they express EQ better, eat better, stay positive and are more engaged (less anhedonia, self absorption, attention loss and boredom). Actions counter anxiety.

We have examples of organisations where women have significantly higher resilience scores than the men. In these cases, the overall resilience ratio is generally higher (>2.25:1). Perhaps some organisational cultures support women better and let them thrive.

Woman speaking in group situation at work

3. Our Recommendations

First, please reflect on this data and ask the question: “Are our women suffering?” The key themes above have been consistent since 2011 over 26,099 assessments. If your women need resilience, you have a duty of care to pay attention and take action.

Second, begin the conversation and please measure the resilience of your people. If you know what is going on you can act with intelligence and precision. Support bounce, wellbeing and resilience and watch your productivity improve.

Third, consider whether safety, health and resilience training should be gender specific. Knowing the resilience factor scores of your male and female population can inform, direct and target your training.

Finally, resilience in women is strongly correlated with vitality, relaxation, sleep quality, nutrition and focus. We must support our women to secure these factors. However, it appears that women must address the distress and depression categories first. When they do, the improvement is marked. What women need is different to what men need!

Perhaps resilience will shatter that glass ceiling?


Dr Sven HansenDr Sven Hansen is the Founder of the Resilience Institute.

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