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The Inadvertent Climate of Workplace Insecurity Among Females


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Men around the world have more self-esteem than women, according to a study of age and gender differences in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study cited two previous reports that established, generally, that men have higher self-esteem than women and that self-esteem increases from late adolescence to middle adulthood for both men and women.

However, this Journal of Personality and Social Psychology study expanded this beyond the earlier, very Western-centric samples to take a cross-cultural look at the issue, finding the same trend.

Self-esteem was measured using a self-reporting scale called the Single-Item Self-Esteem scale in which participants rated the item “I see myself as someone who has high self-esteem” on a five-point scale.

The study notes some insights into cultural differences in the magnitude of the self-esteem gap among different cultures. In other words, while globally men showed higher levels of self-esteem than women and self-esteem increased with age worldwide among the sample, some countries had a smaller gap than others.

The study noted that significant factors in the size of the gap were gross domestic product (GDP), Human Development Index and age at marriage. Not surprisingly, the greater a country’s wealth and level of development, the greater the self-esteem of both men and women; however, it’s interesting the way this gap narrows as people become better off.

This study has interesting implications and raises some intriguing cause and effect questions as they relate to the business world.

For instance, does the self-esteem gap contribute to, or result from:

  • The wage disparity between men and women?
  • The higher proportion of men reaching top executive positions?
  • The number of same-gender role models within organizations?

This particular study doesn’t attempt to answer these questions, but they’re questions worth pondering, particularly given the apparent narrowing of the gap among those who are better off and those at lower levels of the socioeconomic ladder.

Consider the implications in your workplace. If most of the members of your entry level ranks are women (the banking industry may be a good example of this), based on the implications of this study, it may be less likely that they will rise up through the ranks of the organization to fill leadership positions. And, in fact, the banking industry is led predominantly by men.

Are you inadvertently creating a climate of insecurity among female members of your workforce? Be inclusive!

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