Embracing All Facets Of Womanhood In Pursuit Of Equity In The Workplace – A Health Perspective
International Women’s Day is a day celebrated all over the world every year on March 8th. It represents a call to action for women’s equality whilst also celebrating the vast achievements of women in the political, social, economic and cultural spheres of life.
We are encouraged this year to fully embrace equity in every aspect of society. While equality refers to providing individuals or a group of people with equal opportunities and resources, equity recognizes the different circumstances each individual faces and provide required resources to address the imbalance and reach an equal outcome. Equity in the workplace therefore means that every employee is provided with fair and same opportunities based on their individual needs.
Common Health Hazards in the workplace
In the working environment, the challenges faced by men are different from the ones faced by women especially relating to health. Some of the common health issues women face at work include:
Female Reproductive Health Issues
There are a number of reproductive health issues that can affect a woman’s productivity at work. A large percentage of women are of reproductive age so these issues can impair how well they function at work. A very common example is dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps). Actual menstrual periods can reduce productivity because some lose a lot of blood – usually a lot of iron – and this can result to reduced energy due to anaemia. This coupled with menstrual cramps can affect focus at work and reduce productivity in the workplace. Spain just became the first country in Europe to pass a law allowing menstrual leave joining five other countries – Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and Zambia – who already have this policy.
Another reproductive issue affecting women is menopause. Symptoms including but not limited to hot flushes, anxiety, osteoporosis, depression, and mood swings can influence productivity adversely. Furthermore, it can be difficult areas to address because of the shame and notion that women in this stage of life are beyond their best years.
In areas where there is no paid maternity leave or reduced number of months, this can also reduce work efficiency and the baby may also be affected by work-exposures. Post-natal depression can also have a substantial impact on daily activities and it is not addressed enough.
Work Related Stress
It is not news that women are often expected to balance the rigors of work with taking care of a family as most women are primary caregivers in a home. This is an additional burden and can take a significant toll on physical and mental health leading to depression, hypertension, etc.
What Can We Do?
Many women face a lot of workplace challenges especially due to health. What can we do to reduce this and embrace equity in the workplace?
Normalise the Conversation
Some women find it difficult to talk about their periods or menopause because of the societal disapproval, embarrassment or it’s seen as unhealthy. We should normalise the conversation around female health so help can be sought when needed and it would have a significant impact on productivity at work.
Improving Workplace Culture
Women and men would always have varying needs at work due to the difference in physiology. Therefore, little changes like flexible arrangements during periods, work breaks, separate rooms where they can take a time-out when overwhelmed, breast feeding rooms for post-natal women will go a long way.
All the aforementioned solutions would not work if there is still a gap in knowledge. It is therefore necessary to be well informed and educated to be able to address the challenges that comes with the female health. Furthermore, offering resources and sharing routine health-related facts to female employees and the whole staff at large will help in the health education. Also workshops or team meetings with speakers – preferably women – speaking on relevant topics promoting female health is another avenue to inform and educate.
Regular health checks for employees and including gender specific tests would encourage employees to know more about their health status and seek help where necessary.
Finally, imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity. It starts with you.