While Americans, in general, grapple with the role of picking their next president and navigate through uncertain economic terrain—women are, in particular, feeling the strain.
A recent survey by the American Psychological Association reports that women are more stressed about money, the economy, and job stability than men. Another recent study by Citigroup's Women & Co. found affluent women are talking more with their daughters about money than about politics, sex, or drugs. (The most discussed topic between the adult women and their own mothers was marriage, the study found.) The vast majority of the women surveyed—83 percent—are less confident in the economy than they were six months ago.
The burden of decision making: The credit crunch spreads as women increasingly have become the decision makers for their households. A recent survey from Pew Research finds that women report themselves as manager of household finances rather than their partner by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1. The same survey found that in 26 percent of couples, women have the final word in household decisions. Nearly half of couples said they shared the responsibility, and only 16 percent of couples said the man had the final word.
No surprise, then, that women feel more stress, says Carol Frohlinger, principal at Negotiating Women and coauthor of Her Place at the Table: A Woman's Guide to Negotiating Five Key Challenges to Leadership Success. "If you're the one who is managing the bills and you're the one worrying about the big picture around financial objectives," including kids' education and retirement, Frohlinger says, "you're the one paying attention, looking at the statements, and looking at the 401(k) going the wrong direction." Frohlinger notes, too, that women are often caregivers for older parents living on fixed incomes, which makes them particularly vulnerable to recent gyrations in the market.
Holding back from asking for more: For a variety of hotly debated reasons, women tend not to make a salary that is equivalent to men in corresponding positions. When it comes to negotiating for higher compensation, women are often accused of being less game for the negotiation, but a 2004 study found there is a backlash against women who challenge their offers. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard University studied both men's and women's responses to candidates for hypothetical jobs. The researchers found the study participants were considerably less interested in working with women who were said to have negotiated for higher salaries than women who had accepted an initial offer, or with men who had or had not negotiated.
When times are hard, women may be even less willing to advocate for a raise or bonus. "Women are particularly affected because we're socialized to be team players," Frohlinger says. "I'm not going in to ask my boss for a raise when I'm worried about whether the company is going to survive."
Get proactive: A sense of powerlessness causes stress, Frohlinger says. If you're operating without a good plan for household expenses and future financial objectives—it's time to invest the energy and make one. If your salary is not commensurate with your experience, your skills, what you're contributing to the company, and what people in similar jobs are making—then have a plan for increasing your income. When it comes to salary negotiation, these are certainly hard times for many companies, but Frohlinger cautions against selling yourself short. Pushback in negotiating comes in good times and bad. If you are turned down, she says, then you can politely communicate that you understand the situation, and you hope to have the conversation again when the business landscape improves.