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Championing Female Health
in the Workplace

By Caitriona Foley, Wellbeing Consultant

 

Lady Sleeping

In recent years, the conversation surrounding workplace wellbeing has gained momentum, shining a spotlight on the unique challenges faced by employees. In particular we have seen an increased call for awareness of the unique challenges faced by women in professional settings. Findings from the 2023 Health of the Nation survey discovered that just 66% of females felt well informed about their health, with younger women in particular feeling much less informed. Female health issues like menopause, infertility, and mental health had an impact on their day-to-day activities and work. Women are also more consistently worried about their financial wellbeing compared to men (Irish Life Wellbeing, 2023).

There are a number of key areas that employers can focus on to support women in the workplace, with a range of initiatives that can help to foster a health work environment.
 

Maternal Health and Workplace Policies

Maternal health is a critical aspect of female wellbeing, and workplace policies can play a pivotal role in supporting women during pregnancy and post-partum. Strides have been made here in Ireland to enhance maternity and parental leave policies, ensuring women can balance their professional and personal lives more effectively. However, ongoing efforts are still needed to address workplace issues like breastfeeding breaks, maternity appointments, pregnancy loss, and supporting those returning from leave. Improving awareness for managers and HR professionals in these areas will lead to a more supportive workplace for women.

Mental Health

Mental health is a universal concern, and women in the workplace are not exempt from the challenges it presents. Striking a balance between work and personal life can be tricky, leading to stress and burnout. Employers are increasingly recognising the importance of mental health initiatives, such as employee assistance programmes and mental health training, to provide women with the support they need.

Menstrual Wellbeing

This is an often-overlooked aspect of female health in the workplace. While strides have been made globally to address the stigma associated with menstrual health, employers in Ireland are also taking steps to foster an environment where women feel comfortable addressing their menstrual needs at work. Initiatives such as providing free menstrual products in the workplace and promoting open dialogue are contributing to a more inclusive and supportive atmosphere.

Menopause and Perimenopause

While menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45-55, symptoms of perimenopause can begin much earlier. Menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce in the UK (Brewis et al., 2017), and research in Ireland found that over 80% of women said that symptoms affected their work in some way. 40% of those surveyed even said they had considered leaving their job due to their symptoms (Dignam, 2023). Encouraging open communication is key. Employers who support women experiencing perimenopause and menopause can help to create a more supportive working environment, improve wellbeing, and maintain productivity.

Flexible Working

Flexibility in work arrangements is a key factor in supporting female employees. Promoting flexible work options, including hybrid or remote work and flexi-time opportunities, acknowledges the diverse needs of employees, particularly those with caregiving responsibilities. This flexibility is offering women the chance to maintain a healthier work-life balance.

Gender Equality

Gender equality initiatives are crucial for addressing systemic challenges that women face in the workplace. Irish employers have been actively promoting gender diversity, aiming for equal representation at all levels of the workforce, however there is still much work to be done. The gender pay gap between men and women is shrinking, but there is still progress to be made. The average pay gap in Ireland in 2023 was 11.2%, with wide variances across different industries (Citris, 2024). Encouraging women to pursue leadership roles, closing the gender pay gap, and fostering a culture of inclusivity all contribute to a healthier and more supportive work environment for female employees.

As we continue to evolve our approach to workplace wellbeing, addressing the unique health challenges faced by women remains a priority. Creating and maintaining up-to-date workplace policies, offering flexible working options, and fostering a more inclusive environment can pave the way for a more equitable and healthier professional landscape for women.

References

Brewis, J., Matheson, J., Davies, A., & Beck, V. 2017. Menopause transition: Effects on women’s economic participation. GOV.UK. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/menopause-transition-effects-on-womens-economic-participation
Dignam, L. 2023. Annual menopause survey results 2023 - what women want. The Menopause Hub. https://www.themenopausehub.ie/menopause-blog/2023/11/7/annual-menopause-survey-results-2023-what-women-want
Gallacher, A. 2024. 2023 gender pay gap ireland: Insights report. Citris. https://www.citris.ie/insights/blog-post-three-nazhs-ed9at-plp92-pflcs-hah4d-jakyd
Irish Life Wellbeing. 2023. Health of the Nation 2023. Irish Life Wellbeing. https://www.irishlife.ie/blog/health-of-the-nation-2023/

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