It is not exactly a secret that women’s healthcare and reproductive issues aren’t always met with compassion in the workplace.
As the world recognises International Day of Action for Women’s Health today, the Global Chamber of Business Leaders (GCBL) throws their support behind womenfolk, citing that in these modern times, more attention and focused solutions need to become woven into the fabric of workplace policies and guidelines regarding the subject.
Graciela De Oto, Senior Advisor – Human Rights and Co-Chair of the Business and Professional Women’s Committee of the GCBL, lent her voice to the global call.
When it comes to the seemingly slow progress of more compassion being expressed by and intentional steps being taken by managerial heads with respect to specific health issues regarding
women in the workplace, De Oto expounded on the problem. Said De Oto, “The realm of women’s reproductive and gynecological health often becomes shrouded in hushed conversations and vague references. These crucial matters are frequently dismissed as mere women’s issues, perpetuating a dismissive attitude. It is imperative that we challenge this perspective and strive to eliminate workplace taboos associated with female-specific conditions.”
She continued, “When employers fail to provide support, women with gynecological conditions may struggle to fulfil their professional potential, leading to detrimental effects on their mental well-being. Unfortunately, many women with those conditions feel reluctant to approach their employers and seek support, particularly if their manager is male. They fear a lack of understanding regarding the unique health needs specific to women. To overcome this barrier, it is crucial for working women to feel empowered to seek support. One way to achieve this is by choosing an employer who demonstrates a commitment to implementing comprehensive health-related policies and fostering open dialogue.”
“My ideal solution would be to promote awareness and education. By fostering a culture of understanding and empathy through training programs and workshops, managers can gain knowledge about women’s health issues and develop a supportive approach. Additionally, implementing policies that address the unique challenges faced by women, such as flexible work arrangements and adequate maternity leave, can further demonstrate a commitment to women’s well-being.”
On the question of if she’d recommend a specific policy or area of law reform for a change to occur in chosen areas of womens healthcare, she remarked, “Advocating for comprehensive coverage of reproductive health services, including contraception, family planning and maternal healthcare is a specific policy idea that can bring positive change in women’s healthcare. This recommendation aims to ensure that all women have affordable and accessible reproductive healthcare, regardless of their socio-economic status or insurance coverage. By addressing existing disparities and barriers, this policy promotes equal access to essential reproductive healthcare services.”
“Additionally, accommodations should be made for women experiencing reproductive health challenges. This can involve provisions for menstrual leave, reasonable adjustments for women with chronic reproductive diseases and support for menopausal symptoms. By recognising and addressing these specific needs, organisations can create an inclusive and supportive environment. These accommodations contribute to promoting gender equity and overall well-being.”
“By championing these policy ideas and advocating for their implementation, the GCBL Business and Professional Women’s Committee can play a vital role in driving positive change in women’s healthcare. These recommendations aim to enhance access, affordability and quality of reproductive health services, empowering women to make informed decisions about their bodies.”
Drawing from personal observations and conversations, De Oto underscored that, “Human Resource personnel and top male executives may lack understanding or awareness when it comes to procuring special policies for women related to feminine challenges or natural biological occurrences. This lack of understanding can result in a failure to recognise the significance of implementing supportive policies. It can stem from a combination of limited exposure to these issues, societal biases and a lack of empathy. These societal attitudes may create an environment where discussing or addressing feminine challenges becomes uncomfortable or deemed unnecessary.
Gender bias can also play a role in shaping the mindset of HR personnel and male executives. Unconscious biases or stereotypes about women’s abilities, commitment, or productivity during certain biological occurrences may influence decision-making regarding special policies.”
“This can lead to the perception that accommodating these challenges may negatively impact work performance. However, I have also witnessed positive instances where HR personnel and executives actively sought to understand and accommodate these concerns, leading to the development of more compassionate policies.
They understand that addressing feminine challenges and natural biological occurrences through special policies can enhance employee well-being, productivity and overall organisational success. It is worth noting that attitudes and mindsets can vary greatly among individuals and organisations can differ in their approaches. Increasing awareness, promoting diversity in leadership roles and fostering open dialogue about women’s health can contribute to changing mindsets and encouraging the procurement of special policies.”
What about the possibility of offering women Special Leave, which would be in addition to Vacation Leave, national Holidays, regular Sick Leave? Would it have the potential to negatively impact the general attendance of women and overall staff presence at any one time at an organisation? De Oto said, “The introduction of Special Leave for women affected by conditions such as PCOS, menopause, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other related health issues is a topic that involves various perspectives and considerations. While it is important to acknowledge the potential concerns, it is also crucial to evaluate the potential impact on attendance and overall staff presence. Implementing Special Leave for these health conditions can help foster a supportive and inclusive workplace culture.
It shows that the organisation understands and accommodates the specific needs of its female employees, promoting gender equality and overall employee morale. However, it is important to balance the needs of individual employees with the operational requirements of the organisation.”
“Policies and guidelines should be established to ensure that the provision of Special Leave is fair, transparent and does not result in abuse or negative impacts on overall staffing.
This can include clear eligibility criteria, proper documentation and appropriate communication channels. By considering these factors and implementing thoughtful policies, organisations can create an environment that supports the health and well-being of their female employees while also maintaining overall attendance and staff presence.”
“Support for women’s healthcare and well-being by organisations can empower female employees in various ways. Access to comprehensive healthcare services, including reproductive health, maternity support, mental health resources and preventative care ensures that women can prioritise their health and address any concerns. This, in turn, allows them to perform at their best and thrive in their professional roles.”
“By implementing policies that support work-life balance, such as flexible work arrangements, paid maternity leave, childcare assistance and family-friendly policies, organisations demonstrate a commitment to supporting women’s well-being. This empowers female employees to effectively manage their personal and professional responsibilities, reducing stress and enhancing job satisfaction. Organisations that promote gender equity and equal opportunities create an environment where women feel valued and respected. When women have an equal footing in the workplace, it encourages them to contribute their full potential. Furthermore, a supportive work culture free from discrimination, harassment and bias, empowers female employees to thrive. This involves encouraging open communication.”
“Overall, support for women’s healthcare and well-being by organisations goes beyond fulfilling legal obligations. It creates an empowering environment where female employees can flourish both personally and professionally and reap the benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce; increased employee retention can be achieved; and improved overall organisational performance can be accomplished.”