Women’s health – We need to do more
Gender diverse businesses are 25% more likely to financially outperform their counterparts. Businesses, however, continue to unknowingly and knowingly work against women by overlooking women’s health in the workplace. Danny Clarke, Founder of Simply-People, explores what businesses can do to best support their female employees.
Mental health, endometriosis, menopause, prenatal depression, postnatal depression, peri-menopausal anxiety, and fertility issues all fall under the bracket of women’s health, and subsequently, are all swept under the rug.
More than two thirds of women aged 16-64 are employed, yet most of the common conditions impacting women in the workplace (and their performance) are still not discussed in the workplace.
It’s understandable that women don’t want to broach the topic themselves – after all, we’ve all seen how uncomfortable men get at the mere mention of menstruation.
However, if businesses truly wish to evolve into diverse, inclusive spaces, the discussion needs to be had.
What is women’s health?
Women’s health may be seen as a rather small subsection of general health, yet many of the issues and conditions facing women are far more common than we assume.
Given this is a mere fraction of women’s health, the picture can become very clear – women’s health needs to become a priority in the workplace.
Many areas of women’s health aren’t discussed in the workplace but are instead merely assigned to a long-lost page of a HR document or policy document.
There’s a main culprit here – communication.
Show, don’t just tell
Talking about women’s health for some inexplicable reason makes people uncomfortable.
It’s a simple concept – not talking about women’s health perpetuates the idea that it shouldn’t be spoken about, meaning that women don’t wish to speak about it or seek help.
It isn’t just about overcoming the awkwardness of speaking about women’s health, it’s about showing a commitment to making it a priority.
For example, instead of just telling female employees that you acknowledge the discomfort they may have when dealing with menopause, make sure that they are aware of flexible working opportunities.
This alleviates the discomfort women might have if they tried to ask about flexible working and had to specify why, as the stigma attached isn’t necessarily something that they want to disclose.
Don’t tell employees that you recognise the importance of women’s health in the workplace by commemorating it with a poster and calling it a day.
Make a commitment by backing up what you say with what you will do – this applies to diversity and inclusion, mental health, and wellbeing initiatives.
Why does it matter?
A senior leader in a business might read this, shake their head, and wonder exactly why it matters in the grand scheme of things.
Women’s health isn’t just about women.
It’s about creating a culture that is open to discussing issues that affect a large number of people in the workplace, and reducing the stigma attached to them.
The knock-on effect on productivity and innovation naturally follows, as if more women feel comfortable in the workplace, then it has the chance to increase the diversity of the workplace, which positively impacts how a workplace can function.
For businesses that are becoming stagnant in a world of over-connectivity and heightened, 24/7 competition, embracing women’s health and other issues in the workplace is a competitive edge and good practice generally.
A workplace that stigmatises women’s health will inevitably suffer from a high turnover rate, which can incur significant costs to resolve, and it isn’t just exclusive to women in the negative impact. The detrimental nature of the environment can permeate all aspects of the work.
It has wider implications
In this day and age, job seekers are researching and reviewing a business as much as a business is researching and reviewing them.
A workplace that continues to operate under outdated practices is unlikely to come out of this process unscathed – understanding (and meeting) workforce expectations is crucial to business success and innovation.
According to a study published in Harvard Business Review:
- 88% of workers say that when searching for a new position, they look for one with complete flexibility
- 76% of workers believe that employees will be more likely to prioritise lifestyle (family and personal interests) over proximity to work, and will pursue jobs where they can focus on both
- 86% of employees and 66% of HR directors assert that a diverse workforce will become even more important as roles, skills, and company requirements change over time
- These results are significant because they show that the workforce is already moving towards the values that encompass women’s health, such as flexible working and good work/life balance.
Whether employers want to acknowledge it or not, employees are already driving change and demanding it.
Making a commitment to women’s health isn’t just beneficial to female employees, it’s beneficial to the entire workplace and workforce at large.
For more Women in Health & Safety content, explore our WIHS interview series.
For information about SHP’s Women in Health and Safety network, see our hub page here.
To learn more about the Women in Health & Safety Network workstreams and mailing list, click here.
Safety & Health Podcast: Listen now
Exclusive interviews, the very latest news and reports from the health and safety frontline and in-depth examinations of the biggest issues facing the profession today. You'll find all that and more in the Safety & Health Podcast from SHP.
Find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts, subscribe and join the conversation today.