Unveiling Layers of Women's Health Inequalities: A Call to Action in the Workplace

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UK health system is "designed by men for men"

At Halcyon we help women on a spectrum from positively thriving to being at the end of their tether. Those struggling often feel unheard and frustrated at the injustice of how women’s health issues have dealt them an unfair deck, especially in the workplace.

In the Women’s Health Strategy, the UK government admit that the health system has been “designed by men for men”; women's needs and issues are neglected from research and trials through to treatments and policies. And, sadly, this is mirrored in the workplace. According to the government's own research, 84% of women have been ignored by health professionals and 65% of women were uncomfortable addressing their health symptoms at work.

It is no surprise then that so many women exit the workplace all together, often because ultimately their health is more important than their wealth.

In the intricate tapestry of workplace inequalities, one glaring thread stands out to me but is rarely discussed: women's health inequalities as mentioned in a British Medical Association report and a House Of Lords Library article. Despite significant progress in healthcare, women continue to face unique challenges and disparities in accessing quality care and achieving optimal health outcomes.

These women’s health disparities stem from a complex mix of socio-economic, cultural and systemic factors, casting a shadow over the well-being of half of the world's population. This has to stop!

It's time to unravel these women’s health inequalities in the workplace. HR leaders, together we can shed light on women’s health inequality implications, and shine the way for a fairer future in women's healthcare.

Understanding the Workplace Women’s Health Landscape

Women's health inequalities show up in various forms, from disparities in access to reproductive healthcare to differences in treatment and outcomes for chronic conditions. Factors such as race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, geographic location, and gender identity cross to create unique experiences and outcomes for different groups of women. For example, women of colour often face compounded barriers due to systemic racism and discrimination, resulting in higher rates of maternal mortality, limited access to contraception, and lower screening rates for diseases like breast and cervical cancer. The situation is complex and needs awareness from the top down in all workplace organisations. We’ve found that women who work in organisations where their health needs are openly discussed and supported are more likely to seek help for their symptoms. They feel heard and empowered to go back to GPs or look for alternatives to mitigate the impact of the pain, fatigue or other issues they’re feeling.

Barriers to Accessing Women’s Health for Employees

Access to healthcare is crucial to health outcomes, yet many women encounter barriers that prevent them from seeking or receiving timely and appropriate care. Transportation issues and childcare responsibilities are just a couple of the obstacles that disproportionately affect women. Add in to this equation the complexities of career progression and worm commitments then looking after their own health becomes very far down on personal agendas – we see so many women just ‘pushing on through’ because of all the demands on their time.

Being afraid to admit there is a perceived embarrassing issue to employers can also mean that health care gets pushed down the to-do list which is not beneficial to the employee or the employer. Stigma surrounding women's health issues, such as menstruation, menopause and reproductive health, can stop women from seeking the care they need, making the problem worse. Working in an environment where they are able to take time to get to the doctor or easily access information or support to vindicate what they are feeling can really help address these barriers.

Reproductive Health Inequalities

Reproductive health is a cornerstone of women's well-being, yet it remains a battleground for many women at work. Fear around the impact of pregnancy on careers; as well as the fear around the impact of talking about trying to conceive on careers; anxiety about taking time off for fertility appointments; the stress of minimising the impact of hormonal treatment at work; and then the worry of it all “failing” and the emotional and physical impact of a pregnancy that ends prematurely. Wouldn’t it be better for human resource planning if more open discussions around reproductive health were encouraged rather than ignored? Halcyon can help you with that.

Chronic Women’s Health Conditions

Women are disproportionately affected by chronic conditions such as autoimmune diseases, mental health disorders, and certain cancers. However, research and healthcare practices have historically centred around male bodies, leading to misdiagnosis, inadequate treatment, and poorer outcomes for women. Moreover, societal norms and gender roles can influence how women experience and express symptoms, leading to under-recognition and dismissal of their health concerns by healthcare providers. Providing a working environment where it’s easy to talk about the stresses or chronic illness and not worry about the impact of juggling these still-prevalent gender roles benefits not only the employees but also the business. Let’s not forget that women who are struggling with these issues have partners, children, friends and teams who rely on them and care about them; the impact of their illness and symptoms hits much wider than just the individual.

How To Close The Women Health Inequality Gap

Addressing women's health inequalities requires a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of inequalities while ensuring equal access to comprehensive healthcare. This includes dismantling systemic barriers such as discriminatory policies at work. This is something Halcyon can help you with so just pick up the phone to find out more.

Fostering an inclusive healthcare environment where women feel empowered to advocate for their health and participate in decision-making processes is crucial for driving meaningful change. And it isn’t as difficult as it may sound!

How Halcyon Can Help Create a Healthy and Productive Workplace

Women's health inequalities are not just a matter of biology but of social injustice and systemic neglect. By recognising and addressing the complex factors that contribute to these inequalities, we can pave the way for a future where all women have the opportunity to thrive and achieve their full health and career potential.

Halcyon specialise in dealing positively with women’s health issues in your workplace which will have a dramatic positive impact on your business. Don’t worry, we have probably heard it all before and we approach every business in a confidential and commercially sensitive way.

We offer a tailored approach with a holistic tool kit including workshops for managers, workshops for employees, workplace documentation, women’s health audits, policy formation updates and self-treatment programmes for staff.

The first consultation is free of charge so you have nothing to lose but a lot of knowledge to gain.
About Sarah, Owner of Halcyon Therapies
Sarah Darwen is passionate about women’s health. She was diagnosed with endometriosis in her mid 20s and, having undergone treatment under the NHS unsuccessfully was faced with the heart-breaking news that a hysterectomy was the next (and only) step. She refused to accept that this was necessary and looked for alternatives to help her manage her condition. She’s been managing her endometriosis successfully for those last 20 years - most of those in remission, with only 2 flare-ups in that time.

She now offers training on reproductive, hormonal and menstrual health to managers and staff, as well as effective treatment and self-management techniques to people struggling with their symptoms.

If you would like to chat to Sarah about how your organisation can easily and effectively support the needs of the women in your workplace, please book a free Discovery Call here