Studies About Female Bosses

In my Sunday paper I found two news shorts about studies having to do with female bosses.

One was originally in the Minneapolis Star Tribune as follows:

“Female managers are substantially more likely to be targets of sexual harassment than women who have no supervisory responsibilities, according to a study by sociologists at the University of Minnesota. Nearly half of the female managers covered in the study reported harassment in the workplace, compared with 30 percent of other female workers.

“The study’s authors said the findings indicate that sexual harassment is about control, rather than sexual desire. ‘Male co-workers, clients and supervisors seem to be using harassment as an equalizer against women in power, ‘ said Heather McLaughlin, a university sociologist and lead investigator in the study.

“McLaughlin and colleagues Christopher Uggen of the U of M and Amy Blackstone of the University of Maine also said that workers who are perceived to be ‘non-heterosexual’ were nearly twice as likely to experience harassment than others.”

My first reaction to this story was that so many women reported sexual harassment, managers and non-managers alike. 30-50 percent! Then I found a March 26, 2009 press release from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reporting that the Star Tribune settled a sexual harassment suit on the behalf of female workers for over $300,000.  Small change perhaps when you consider the number of women involved (any woman who worked in the mail room at the Heritage Production Facility between August 2005 and the present).

This is indicative of the disconnect that exists between public recognition and private perpetuation of the problem. The Star Tribune is happy to report on a study about the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace but conveniently neglects to admit to its own failure to provide a harassment-free work environment. (Not that I really expected it to.)

The second news short had to do with financial risk-taking. A new [unnamed] study suggests that “women with higher testosterone levels seem to be more like men in taking financial risks. Long associated with competitiveness, the hormone usually occurs at higher levels in men. The study examined more than 500 male and female MBA students and found that relative testosterone levels, rather than gender, seem to affect financial risk-taking.

“It also found that married people have less of the hormone than single people do.” [From unspecified wire reports.]

I love the throwaway observations at the end of both these news shorts: Non-heterosexual-seeming females are more likely to be sexually harassed and single people have higher levels of testosterone than do married people. These both seem to relate to homosexual behaviors. Might we then conclude that single women with high-testosterone levels are going to be perceived as non-feminine, and thus non-hetereosexual? If they are also in positions of power, that’s a double whammy. They might have what it takes to be managers and risk-takers, but they’re more likely to be single and seen as masculine, either in appearance or in behavior (or both).

I don’t think it’s the masculine appearance and behavior that bothers men in power, though. At least they can pigeonhole women who are more “like men.” They have more trouble with women who “act like women” but don’t fit traditional womanly roles. This drives men in power crazy. They don’t know how to fight women like that.

Except through sexual harassment?

Anti-Aging Hormones

It’s no secret that women are preoccupied with aging. We are willing to spend millions of dollars and subject ourselves to all kinds of treatments in our desperate attempts to stay young-looking. One treatment that has been in the news a lot lately has been the use of various hormones to retard or erase the effects of aging. The June 8, 2009 issue of Newsweek magazine had a cover story about the medical advice given on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and most of the article was about the controversy over the use of these hormones. [See story here.]

Suzanne Somers has been on “Oprah” more than once to share her anti-aging regime:

What's your verdict?
What's your verdict?

“Each morning, the 62-year-old actress and self-help author rubs a potent estrogen cream into the skin on her arm. She smears progesterone on her other arm two weeks a month. And once a day, she uses a syringe to inject estrogen directly into her vagina. The idea is to use these unregulated “bio-identical” hormones to restore her levels back to what they were when she was in her 30s, thus fooling her body into thinking she’s a younger woman.”

As you can see from the picture on the right, Somers is in great shape. (See more pictures on So when she says she’s found the fountain of youth, a lot of women are going to believe her. This concerns the American Medical Association, as we can see from the news story that came out today:

“The American Medical Association says there’s no scientific proof to back up claims for anti-aging hormones. At their annual meeting in Chicago on Monday, AMA delegates adopted a new policy on products such as HGH, DHEA and testosterone used as aging remedies. With HGH, or human growth hormone, the AMA says evidence suggests long-term use can present more risks than benefits. The risks include tissue swelling and diabetes.

“The AMA [also] says there’s no credible evidence that other hormones, so-called bio-identicals, are safer than traditional estrogen and progesterone products. The traditional hormones are only recommended for menopause symptoms at the lowest possible dose because of long-term health risks. The AMA says anti-aging hormone promoters need rigorous studies to prove, or disprove, their claims.” [Several sources carried the same story verbatim.]

The experts weigh in about biodentical hormone therapy in this WebMD article from January 15, 2009. One of the experts, Erika Schwartz, MD, a New York doctor who prescribes FDA-approved biodentical hormones and compounded bioidentical hormones, says there have been studies that support the safety of bioidentical hormones compared to other hormone therapy.

She asks, “If NAMS* or ACOG** says there are not enough studies, well, why haven’t you done the studies if you think you need more? If this had been men’s health, would we be having this conversation, or would we have answers?”

*NAMS (North American Menopause Society)
**ACOG (American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology)

Good point.