Top tips for… Managing Stress in a Male-Dominated Environment

There is a large difference in how men and women are likely to be responding to these stressful times. Functional magnetic resonance imaging of men and women showed neuroscientists how their brains differed in response to stressful situations. In men, increased blood flow to the left orbitofrontal cortex suggested activation of the “fight or flight” response. In women, stress activated the limbic system, which is associated with emotional responses.

If you don’t put in your ideas forward you are not considered well-behaved but rather as not having anything to contribute to the discussion.

If you are working in a largely male-dominated team and are wondering how to make it through the next few weeks with what seems unbearable uncertainty and an undying need to solve problems, here are some tips:

  • Focus on finding a solution: don’t over analyse, or spend long discussing the issues. Men secrete cortisol under stress and have a need to act: it de-stresses them. By contrast, which is what women prefer to do, talking at length with no action stresses them.
  • Speak up: avoid the urge to be considerate and let others speak when in a group setting. If you don’t put in your ideas forward you are not considered well-behaved but rather as not having anything to contribute to the discussion.
  • Get to the point: be decisive and succinct: avoid your natural instinct to be detailed and prescriptive. Confidently voice the issue and the solution in as few words as possible.
  • Use proactive, active-laden language: e.g. our aim is to, let’s focus, let’s do.
  • Consider working in small, short bursts: if you have come up with one potential solution, try it out immediately and then re-evaluate. Don’t wait to decide on all possible courses of action before proceeding. Your male colleagues are likely to have left you behind as they get irritable if they feel their work is postponed or distracted.
  • Don’t take it personally:
    if a male colleague becomes abrupt for something you can’t understand, let him cool down and don’t take notice of any of is comments. It is his hormones that are speaking!

These are challenging times all round. The best thing we can do as women is to wise up to the general behavioural differences between the genders, and smartly work with them. This will be our best survival guide to make it through unscathed.

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