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Women’s Health at Work: Breaking the Silence

On 18th October Hanson Search hosted a panel event chaired by Amy Hayer, Global Head of Healthcare Communications at Hanson Search, to discuss Women’s Health in the Workplace.

For many years health concerns specific to women have been overlooked by employers. However, as attracting and retaining female talent becomes a priority for employers, it’s time for companies to understand and support key issues that affect women at work.

During the webinar our panel of experts discussed the challenges women face within the workforce and how companies can support women in the workplace.  

Our panel included:

  • Melinda Nicci - Founder and CEO Baby2body
  • Zoe Healey - Associate Partner at Dot I/O Health
  • Priya Lakhani-Quiling - Director of Communications & Policy UK&ENI at Organon

 

What does the current landscape look like?

  • We know that women’s healthcare issues are holding women back from bringing their best selves to the workplace, not just because of a lack of awareness but also because of systemic issues. Also, as women are much more likely to be remote or part time employees, they have far less access to support for their health in the workplace.
  • There are a couple of steps in a woman's career where we see greater disparities opening up between women and men: both at the managerial stage, which is often a time when people are building families, and then at a more senior stage when women are heading towards C suite positions. We know that women are leaving work at this later stage because of issues that they're suffering in connection to the menopause.
  • Many women don’t feel that they have a voice and/or a platform for communicating health issues at work and because of this don’t always feel that they can raise issues that they’re experiencing, be that brain fog, hot flushes – or one of the other 67 validated symptoms of the menopause and perimenopause. Historical negativity around the menopause and women’s health in general has resulted in women lacking the confidence to be open and honest.

What are the challenges to making changes in this space?

  • Things need to start with the health and wellbeing of employees. The introduction of workplace policies for healthcare issues including the menopause and pregnancy loss can make a real difference and create a safe space where women feel supported.
  • It’s difficult for both employees and employers, as many women’s health issues are complex and have can be both medical and psychosocial aspects. While there is plenty of focus on awareness, the amount of work that needs to be done to genuinely improve the situation will take much longer. It involves introducing policies and training, which isn’t always simple or straight forward.
  • Women need to be the biggest advocates for their own health and wellness – if women speak up things will start to change. Young women coming into the workforce also need to be empowered to feel that they can discuss their needs, which starts with normalising conversations around women’s health.
  • Making data and science available to women means they can understand their experiences which in turn gives them the confidence and empowerment to have more open conversations.

How do we navigate conversations about women’s health with men?

  • We need to empower and educate men, as well as women, to ensure that they’re part of the conversation to support the women in their lives. Creating a space where men can be educated, voice their concerns, and ask questions, is key to making progress.
  • Combining specific topic-led policies (for the menopause or childcare loss, for example) with more general inclusive opportunities (shared parental leave, access to mental health resources) that will benefit everyone will help to move the conversation on.

What can companies do to help support female employees’ health in the workplace?

  • Leveraging technology which is scalable and accessible (for example, the MBody, Baby2Body, or Stella app) and making it available for female employees to access at a time and in a way in which they feel comfortable is hugely empowering.
  • The onus should be on corporations and organisations to proactively offer solutions to their workforce. They could consider engaging a qualified professional to support their company and employees. It’s not just about culture, or perks, or policies – the question is how you make conversations about women’s health the default.

What can employees do themselves?

  • Employees can seek out information from resources like Body Collective that will help them to frame conversations and understand their specific needs. Access to information is important in normalising the conversation and helping people to support their colleagues.
  • Managing lifestyle, nutrition, and mental health and having a healthy work/life balance can also help women to navigate their own health challenges. Businesses can support this with meeting free policies (meeting free lunch hours or meeting free Fridays) and workplace wellbeing classes, for example.

What should a business do when an employee is suffering from symptoms of the menopause and it’s affecting them and their team?

  • Resources including the Body Collective app, Society for Occupational Medicine or the Find the Practitioner tool can help businesses to connect employees with the right professionals who can support them.
  • Employees who feel able to speak up and talk about what they’re going through will help their colleagues to understand their experiences and as a result provide support.

How can employees build their confidence to bring conversations about women’s health to the table?

  • Employers need to offer employees the opportunity to provide feedback – both via open conversations and anonymously. Regular check-ins and opportunities for employees to feed back without fear of discrimination or recrimination are essential.
  • Educating colleagues and team members about life transitions – returning from maternity leave, going through divorce, experiencing the menopause, caring for elderly relatives – is integral to helping offer support that is needed.

Posted on 03.11.2022

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