Women feel better with stress than men, once again
Although clearly united in difficulty, humans are still individuals with specific patterns of reaction to external pressure. Some differences naturally came from age, experience or lifestyle stage, while others seem to be also connected to personality, lifestyle typologies, cultural patterns and even gender norms.
While researching people’s reactions to the pandemic, one of the things that came through in distinctive patterns was that women and men seemed to react differently to the pressures and difficulties of lockdown.
Before diving into specific reactions in women and men, it is worth noting the cultural context itself. For instance, during the lockdown, 66% of those working from home were women, while women only represented 34% of those working outside the home. This could be due to the way Romanian jobs are distributed in the labor market, but could also reflect the need for child supervision (as schools were closed some days before the lockdown was announced).
Although already on a shifting trend with respect to increased gender partnership and equitable distribution of housework and child rearing responsibilities, the Romanian cultural context still favours mothers as the main caretakers – thus, the more stringent need for women to work from home.
Such differences in expected social roles might have also been a factor in determining each person’s reaction to the events that were unfolding. Generally, women were more worried about the crisis and the effects it will have, but one of the most specific differences was that women tended to worry more about the impact on their mental health (29% very worried, compared to 22% among men).
"I am into photography and hiking, and it was a challenge and a negative thing for me not to be able to take a trip to the mountains and into nature anymore! But I have adapted to this and tried to think that there can be something positive and challenging for me and I started taking pictures of things around the house in a creative way! 😊 I am rethinking my career and considering to start new projects! "(M, 35 y.o., Bucharest)
Emotional states also proved to be different, with men reporting a more relaxed state overall (31% of men said they feel calm vs. 27% among women) and some even feeling more energetic than usual (24% among men vs. 18% among women).
On the other hand, women seem to have had more tumultuous emotional response, with both negative and positive emotions. For instance, 37% of women said they felt very stressed (vs. 23% among men),but women were also hopeful to a much higher extent (50% vs. 40% in men) and even filled with gratitude for every positive aspect of their lives (68% vs.55% in men).
Behaviour also appeared to differ quite consistently - even though women tended to say they have less energy during the lockdown, they also seem to have pushed through their stress and anxiety beekeeping occupied. In April 2020, 60% of women declared they clean their homes more than before, with cleaner spaces perhaps contributing to also declutter their mental space. But their activities also expanded to other, less usual endeavors -38% of women said they were carrying out artistic activities much more than before (compared to only 28% of men), while 37% of women were using meditation to relax and keep their balance (compared to only 27% of men).
Overall, in all our qualitative research, we observed a higher inclination for women to be aware, in-touch and even accepting of their emotional life (both positive and negative emotions), while men tended to be more dismissive of their own emotions, perhaps due to cultural models of masculinity in Romania. Such differences in perceptions and emotional response may have amplified changes in certain areas of life. As the crisis generally caused an amplification of truth and authenticity, it also generated different responses in couple relationships, for instance.
Yes, couples with already underlying tensions may have hit some challenges, but for many couples the crisis was the igniter to a deeper connection, understanding and integration of differences between men an women. Under the threat of the pandemic, many couples actually strengthened their bond and even discovered each other in a much deeper and relevant way.
Just by having more time to spend together was certainly a factor in this increase of relationships quality, but the crisis also prompted people (men as well as women) to choose different priorities – for example moving towards higher awareness of the needs of the other in close relationships, to improve the bond, but also a generally increased availability to show emotions and communicate deep thoughts with close ones.
“Today I did a lot of work with my wife. We cooked together – soup, steak, cozonac and drob. We are starting to like the fact that we are spending so much time together.” (M,40 y.o.)
The lockdown period in Romania has shifted many perspectives and made people discover a lot about themselves. Only naturally, such epiphanies tend to have a strong effect on individuals and the way they perceive and choose brands.
When thinking about addressing mean women as specific targets, the global trend in the past years has consistently been leaning towards gender neutrality and inclusiveness, and thesis expected to continue to grow and develop.
Even more, as the 2020 spring crisis has made people rediscover themselves and others, it has also put gender equity and partnership on fast forward. While it is true that, statistically speaking, men an women might still react differently to certain stimuli, it is just as true that they increasingly perceive each other as the actors in a partnership of equal human beings.
For brands and companies, this period brought with it the need for rethinking and reshaping any outdated strategies that build on the men versus women paradigm. Women and men are increasingly working towards a fair partnership, and brands now have the great opportunity to capitalize on this evolution and continue to bridge the gender-gap – through brand communication, refreshing brand purpose and values or even(further) implementing fair practices and policies as employers.
“For example in my case it helped me rediscover my kids. It's a dream come true for me. Now we play more, we talk a lot... we do a lot of things together. I used to be tired coming from work and did not have time for us to really have fun. We used to spend more time together on weekends. Now we are more “united”, we even make lunch together😍. I admit... now when my wife gets home I leave them inhere hands” (M, 45 y.o.)