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Women’s health is still a barrier to workplace equality

Fiona Wylie - Brand Champions

New research looking at attitudes to female health has revealed that two-thirds of women (61%) say there is a lack of support and understanding surrounding women’s health issues in the workplace. More than half (52%) of respondents said women’s health issues had increased their stress levels at work and they did not feel supported in the workplace. Alarmingly, only 18% of respondents said their current workplace offered support on women’s health related concerns while 83% of respondents would like to see the topics of miscarriage, menstrual health and the menopause discussed more openly.

The research takes an in-depth look at how men and women feel talking about female health, at home, with their GP, and at work, and has exposed some distressing statistics.

We commissioned the research to understand attitudes to female health, whether there are differences in access to health care and whether there is any evidence of a gender health gap. The findings make alarming reading and will provide the basis of discussion for our first ‘Championing Women’s Health’ event this coming Thursday, which will be available to watch live online. Our hope is that we can make business leaders, HR Managers and decision-makers wake up to the importance of having women’s health policies in the workplace, and to make sure women feel listened to, supported and respected when talking about a health issue – no matter what the health issue is.

The research shows a devastating lack of support in many workplaces for employees with women’s health concerns. Over half of those who have experienced women’s health issues felt anxious and worried about how this might impact their quality of life and around a third were embarrassed. We believe by normalising the conversation around some of these taboo subjects, we can help ensure that fewer women experience these feelings and improve access to the support women need when they need it most.

Men and women can find discussing female health awkward or uncomfortable, whether that’s in the workplace or amongst friends and family. We know normalising conversations about topics such as painful periods, the menopause, endometriosis, gynaecological cancers, fertility and miscarriage, to name a few, will take time and many small steps, which is why our campaign mantra is ‘say something about women’s health’. We hope our events start the conversation and get the ball rolling towards cultural and policy-level change in the workplace.

The gender pay gap and the gender health gap stem from the same root, they exist because our working and healthcare worlds were built by men and without a female lens. This International Women’s Day, businesses will have pledged to take steps to close this gap and increase workforce diversity and reviewing company attitudes towards female health brings them closer to those goals. There are many ways in which simply ‘being a woman’ means it isn’t easy to fit the traditional working mould, but agile working and changing attitudes towards mental and physical health can help more women stay – and succeed – at work.

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