The women’s rights movement have made great strides in paving the way for gender equality in the working environment. Most notably, there has been a growth in female representation across all job industries, even those that have been traditionally male-dominated. However, many women still face challenges in the workplace, particularly those pertaining to that of health.
Chronic conditions that affect reproductive and gynaecological health are often the bane of many women’s lives. One such example is endometriosis, which happens to be the second most common gynaecological condition. Aside from the absence of a cure, the symptoms only worsen with age. Many are hesitant to disclose their conditions due to a systemic lack of understanding, and the results of such a choice were found to be staggering. A 2011 study conducted across 10 countries found that women suffering from endometriosis experienced compromises in work productivity, losing an average of almost 11 hours each week.
Contrary to popular belief, making health and wellness at the workplace more inclusive doesn’t consist wholly of big, sweeping changes. Small adjustments to work arrangements, open dialogue among employers, employees, health professionals and policy makers, and a supportive attitude toward self-management can be a potent enough catalyst. Other measures include:
- Education – Raise awareness on how gender affects certain health conditions (e.g. heart attacks)
- Healthcare provisions/concessions – Provide time-off for health screenings (e.g. mammograms, HPV tests), fertility leave
- HR policies – Telecommuting options, private areas for breastfeeding and expressing milk, and time allowance for maternal antenatal care
On a larger scale, strategies need to be put into place to help manage the mobility, physical, psychological hazards that women face. It’s not just about optimising their productivity levels, but also their health and that of their families.
This year, let Women’s Health Week serve as a good reminder on how the various health conditions specific to women can be so easily dismissed as a non-issue. Equality in the workplace is definitely an ideal worth striving towards, but it’s only fair that it encompasses all aspects of it. That includes women’s healthcare as well!