Gender-Based Analyses of Stress

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Gender-Based Analyses of Stress Among
Professional Managers: An Exploratory
Qualitative Study
Yoshi Iwasaki, Kelly J. MacKay, and Janice Ristock
University of Manitoba

The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of stress among both female and male managers, using a series of single-sex and mixed focus groups. In addition to substantial similarities between female and male participants’ descriptions about their experiences of stress (e.g., negative and positive aspects of stress, different levels of stress, lack of sleep, pressure, financial stressors, being a manager), a number of important gender differences emerged from their descriptions. These differences can be explained by the way in which gender continues to be socially constructed in society; specifically, there are differing gender role expectations and responsibilities for women and men. Female managers experienced “emotional stress,” primarily because of the pressure to meet expectations of being responsible and caring for people both inside and outside of their home. In contrast, male managers tended to focus on themselves and regard other things as beyond their control or responsibility.

KEY WORDS: gender; stress; managers; profession

Many people in contemporary society feel stressed in their lives. People experience stress in almost every domain of their lives: work, family, community, and even leisure, where “juggling” diverse demands and multitasks in these domains can be stressful (Aneshensel, 1986; Greenhaus & Parasuraman, 1999; Hochschild, 1989). The prevalence of stress in peo-

Yoshi Iwasaki and Kelly J. MacKay, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation Studies, Health, Leisure & Human Performance Research Institute, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; Janice Ristock, Department of Women’s Studies, University of Manitoba.

This research was supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Yoshi Iwasaki, 102 Frank Kennedy Centre, Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation Studies, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2, Canada. E-mail: iwasakiy@ms.umanitoba.ca

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International Journal of Stress Management
2004, Vol. 11, No. 1, 56–79

Copyright 2004 by the Educational Publishing Foundation
1072-5245/04/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/1072-5245.11.1.56

Gender-Based Analyses of Stress

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ple’s lives and its role as a key determinant of health, well-being, and quality of life reinforce the theoretical and practical importance of stress research. An examination of stress factors in people’s lives helps to advance understanding of the nature, causes or sources, and consequences of stress. In addition, knowledge about these aspects of stress helps in the development of health-related policies and programs to prevent stressinduced illnesses, reduce health service costs, and promote health of the population.

Despite the growth of stress research, gender-based analyses of stress have not been extensively carried out. For example, Greenglass (1995) argued that stress research has focused primarily on men. Consequently, the conceptualization of stress has been based mostly on male normative perspectives, and the measures of stress developed have been criticized as male-oriented, that is, insufficient to assess the content of stress relevant to women’s lives (e.g., Bell & Lee, 2002; Zalaquett & Wood, 1997, 1998). For example, as has frequently been used in a life-event approach to the assessment of stress, the original life event checklist, the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS; Holmes & Rahe, 1967) and second-generation scales such as the Life Events Survey and the PERI Life Events Scale, have been criticized for their gender and cultural bias (see Sarafino, 1998) because “most were developed decades ago with all-male samples in particular occupational groups such as the US Navy and US college...
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