We need a cultural revolution in the way we talk about women’s health

Recent advancements in workplace inclusivity, focused on flexible working arrangements, parental leave, neurodiversity, and gender equality, have set the stage for the next significant corporate challenge: improving attitudes towards women’s health in the workplaceRecent advancements in workplace inclusivity, focused on flexible working arrangements, parental leave, neurodiversity, and gender equality, have set the stage for the next significant corporate challenge: improving attitudes towards women’s health in the workplace. Human Resources leaders are pivotal in driving this necessary cultural shift. Consider the fact that about three-quarters of people, regardless of gender, believe menopause could impact career progression into senior roles. And that almost a quarter of women in tech experiencing menopausal symptoms have delayed or cancelled promotion plans. Clearly there’s some work to do here.

Research from Benenden Health shows that female employees miss approximately nine days per year due to health-related issues—a statistic that highlights the inadequate support for women’s healthcare in many workplaces. This not only impacts the well-being of individuals but also affects corporate efficiency and morale. With increased scrutiny from the UK Government on how companies address women’s health issues, proactive organisations will be best positioned to avoid punitive compliance measures and potential reputational damage.

HR leaders must spearhead changes in workplace culture by focusing on three key areas: 

  1. Empowerment through education

Bupa reports that a notable number of women are not aware of their menopausal status; indeed, one in ten are unaware that they are experiencing menopause. Additionally, a considerable amount of women are hesitant to discuss their menopausal symptoms with healthcare providers and employers.

Employers have addressed women’s health issues, such as menopause, by establishing specific policies. However, without ongoing education, the implementation of these policies often leads to confusion among employees, who may not fully understand the policies or the benefits they are entitled to. To address this, HR leaders should implement comprehensive educational programs that cover all aspects of women’s health, thereby normalising conversations and removing stigma.


  1. Adopting a lifecycle approach

Instead of perceiving women’s health as a sequence of isolated events, HR leaders should promote the concept of women’s health as an ongoing cycle that influences different stages of a woman’s life. By offering comprehensive health management solutions at work, HR leaders can facilitate this transformative perspective.

Adopting a lifecycle approach to health encourages both employees and employers to engage in preventive health practices rather than merely reactive ones. When employees are well-cared for and content, the organisation benefits from enhanced productivity and deeper employee engagement.

For instance, early recognition of potential health issues such as menopause could empower an employee to make informed health decisions early in her career, fostering long-term well-being and maintaining consistent productivity at work.

With a deeper understanding of their health lifecycle, individuals are more inclined to undertake preventive measures instead of resorting to treatments when issues arise—an outcome greatly preferred by all employers.


  1. Fostering gender inclusivity

Education about women’s health should extend beyond gender boundaries, drawing all employees into this essential conversation. Expanding this dialogue to all genders helps break down enduring stigmas and cultural barriers, cultivating a more open, supportive, and inclusive workplace environment.

Understanding women’s health concerns benefits not just female employees but also their male colleagues, who interact with women in both professional and personal settings. Although a cis man may not personally experience menstruation or menopause, it’s likely that someone close to him, whether at work or home, will. Thus, it’s crucial for him to understand how these conditions can impact their lives.

Moreover, it’s advantageous for everyone to have a grasp of their fertility, irrespective of their family planning intentions. A deeper understanding of fertility enhances knowledge about one’s hormones and reproductive organs, which are key to maintaining overall vitality and longevity.


Implementing innovative practices

Organisations should consider adopting innovative practices that address these strategic imperatives. This could include launching educational workshops that promote open discussions among all employees and integrating flexible working hours and telemedicine services tailored to women’s varying health needs throughout their lives. Such measures not only retain talent but also enhance overall job satisfaction and productivity.


The role of empathy and understanding

Leadership in HR involves more than the mere enforcement of policies; it requires cultivating an environment where sensitive health issues are approached with empathy and understanding. Collaboration between CEOs and HR professionals is essential to integrate women’s health into a comprehensive workplace health and inclusivity strategy.


Moving forward, it is vital for HR leaders to champion these changes, ensuring that women’s health becomes an integral and enduring part of organizational culture. This approach is not only about compliance but also about fostering a genuinely inclusive, productive, and healthy workplace.