The significance of women’s health is increasingly acknowledged in the modern workplace

addressing the disparities in women's health could dramatically reduce this statistic, enhancing the lives of billions globallyWomen, on average, outlive men but, as reported by the World Economic Forum (WEF, 2024), spend approximately 25 percent of their lives in poor health. According to the WEF, addressing the disparities in women’s health could dramatically reduce this statistic, enhancing the lives of billions globally. Notably, strategic improvements in women’s healthcare could add an average of seven days of healthy living per year for each woman, cumulatively offering more than 500 additional healthy days over a lifetime. This progression not only promises to elevate the quality of life for women but also holds the potential to boost the global economy by at least $1 trillion annually by 2040.

FemTech and FemCare are pivotal to advancing women’s health. These sectors focus on addressing key issues such as:

  • Maternal Health: Despite advancements in healthcare, over 800 women die daily from pregnancy-related complications. The U.S. has seen a doubling of maternal mortality rates from 2002 to 2018, with a significant racial disparity affecting Black women.
  • Endometriosis: Affecting one in ten women of reproductive age, endometriosis is a condition marked by severe pain and infertility, with an average diagnosis taking up to 10 years to confirm.
  • Menopause: Over a third of a woman’s life is spent in peri- or post-menopause, affecting 1.2 billion women worldwide by 2030. Despite the prevalence, only a fraction receive treatment for symptoms that significantly impact their quality of life.

Achieving health equity for women transcends addressing women-specific conditions. A question that often comes up is whether employers need to support women’s health and what role they should play. Advancing women’s health requires a concerted effort from employers, considering the broader implications on employee retention, mental health costs, and the overarching message an organization sends about its values. Here is why:

Recent data reveals a concerning trend of discrimination against women aged 35-50 in the workplace (source: HBR, 2022). Issues such as the “maternity penalty” and a lack of support for women’s health issues contribute to a gap in pay, promotion, and overall workplace equality. Research shows that absenteeism due to a woman’s periods is substantial, with over 26,000 people reporting decreased productivity on an average of 23.2 days per year (BMJ, 2012). This not only impacts the individuals directly affected but also influences the broader organizational culture and employee morale.

Every organisation has its own culture and level of openness when it comes to supporting women’s health. This is why a “one size fits all” is the wrong approach. We need to tailor support and activities in each organization to adjust some of the best practices. Our research and work with companies globally suggest various strategies:


Supportive HR policies

Implement policies that support employees in terms of sexual reproductive health (SRH), such as maternity and paternity leave, flexible work arrangements for parents, and fertility treatment coverage.

For example, Amazon’s fertility and family-building benefit is available to all benefits-eligible employees regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, or relationship status. Nearly 30,000 US-based Amazon employees have benefited from family-building support so far. More recently, Amazon made free virtual access to board-certified OB-GYNs, reproductive endocrinologists, and coaches available to employees in 50 countries to support them on their fertility and family-building journey.

Overall, organizations are becoming more active when it comes to supporting employees in SRH. For example, in France, Carrefour will grant 12 days of additional leave per year to women who suffer from endometriosis, 3 days of authorized medical absence following a miscarriage, and an additional one for women undergoing an embryo transfer procedure. L’Oréal has also introduced miscarriage and endometriosis leave. While there is positive momentum, there is also more work to do. For example, a recent survey of companies in the UK found that 47 percent have no supportive policies for employees struggling with fertility (FertilityFamily, 2023).

Fertility challenges affect not just an employee’s personal life but also their work life. Infertility is not just a medical condition but a human experience with emotional, financial and often physical implications, all of which could ultimately affect productivity and engagement at work. Addressing specific women’s health issues can lead to fewer sick days, increased focus, and better overall performance. Offering tailored support and well-being services can go a long way in improving productivity and decreasing absenteeism at work. In addition to health support, organizations that offer flexible or remote working opportunities can help with reducing the number of sick days taken.


Educational initiatives

Provide educational resources and workshops on sexual and reproductive health topics. This will help employees better understand these issues, promote open discussions, and encourage ongoing education about SRH.

Some companies launch awareness campaigns about SRH, using posters, emails, and internal communication platforms to share information and resources. This helps raise awareness around the issues of women’s health and its impact. For example, many companies have signed on to the Parental Challenge, which requires businesses to commit to 12 actions to support SRH. These actions include more extensive parental leave times (such as maternity, adoption, second parent, and general parental leave) or offering a 3-day paid bereavement leave for miscarriage, for both biological and second parents.


Financial wellbeing support

Firms should tackle pay transparency and the gender pay gap head-on by regularly reporting their steps to support women’s financial success. Firms should also provide salary sacrifice schemes to help women set aside pre-tax salary to support their health and wellbeing. Shared parental leave is also a must.

With all of these strategies, confidentiality regarding SRH is paramount. Organizations must ensure a culturally sensitive approach, taking into account the diverse backgrounds and beliefs of their workforce. Feedback mechanisms and executive leadership support are crucial in normalizing conversations around women’s health and ensuring continuous improvement.

By proactively addressing women’s health, companies can enhance employee loyalty, reduce turnover, and mitigate the significant costs associated with neglecting these issues. Moreover, aligning workplace policies with broader objectives like the UK Equality Act 2010 underscores a commitment to fairness and equality.

The journey towards improving women’s health in the workplace is multifaceted, requiring a blend of policy support, cultural sensitivity, and targeted health initiatives. As organizations become more attuned to the unique needs of their female workforce, they not only enhance the well-being of their employees but also contribute to a more equitable and productive society. The commitment to women’s health reflects a broader dedication to creating inclusive workplaces where everyone can thrive, marking a critical step toward organizational excellence and societal progress.