HomeEmployee ExperienceCultureWhy HR leaders must spearhead a cultural revolution in female health

Why HR leaders must spearhead a cultural revolution in female health

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Why HR should lead the charge for better support of female health at work. Fostering education, life cycle approach and inclusivity are key.

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Did you know 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?

We’ve already seen the corporate world make great strides forward in workplace inclusivity, implementing a more equitable mindset toward issues like flexible working arrangements, parental leave, neurodiversity, and gender equality. The next critical area demanding immediate attention is the corporate world’s attitude towards female health, and HR leaders hold the keys to driving significant cultural change.

The urgent focus on female health

Research by Benenden Health indicates that female employees are absent for approximately nine days annually due to health-related issues, a statistic significantly impacted by the lack of supportive healthcare measures tailored towards women.

Clearly, this not only affects personal wellbeing but also corporate efficiency and employee morale. With the UK Government ramping up scrutiny over how employers are engaging with female health issues, the smartest companies are the ones that will stay ahead of the curve, addressing these issues proactively to avoid forced compliance and potential reputational damage.

Employers need to change the way they engage with female health issues today by removing the bias and stigma associated with women’s health. HR leaders need to spearhead this change in workplace culture – here are our three strategic imperatives for HR leaders to lead this revolution.

1. Educational empowerment

According to Bupa, a significant proportion of women lack awareness about their menopausal status, with one in 10 having no idea they were experiencing menopause. Many women feel uncomfortable discussing their symptoms with healthcare providers and employers.

Employers have so far engaged with female health issues like the menopause by introducing policies. The problem with policy implementation without continuous education is that employees are often confused and lack understanding of the policy and benefits available to them. Employees tend to seek information only when faced with a health crisis. When there is urgency, employees and employers no longer have the luxury to plan ahead, which can impact team workflow, productivity, well-being and morale.

HR leaders need to foster a preventive mindset, promoting regular educational programs that encompass all aspects of female health. This not only better prepares employees for experiences like menopause but also normalises such discussions, thus removing any existing stigma.

2. Adopting a life cycle approach

Rather than viewing female health as a series of discrete, episodic events, HR leaders should advocate for understanding it as a continuous cycle that impacts various stages of a woman’s life. They can enable this change by providing solutions to help women manage their health at work in a holistic way.

This life cycle approach encourages both employees and employers to adopt preventative health measures rather than reactive ones. And, if employees are happy and looked after, the company will receive the benefits of improved productivity and employee commitment.

For example, understanding the potential health issues related to menopause while still in the earlier phases of an employee’s career could lead her towards better personal health decisions and planning, promoting longevity and sustained productivity in the workplace.

If everyone gains a better understanding of their own health lifecycle, they are much more likely to take preventive measures, as opposed to needing treatment – an outcome that all employers will find preferable.

3. Fostering gender inclusivity

Education on female health must transcend gender boundaries, encouraging all employees to engage in this crucial dialogue. By broadening the discussion to include all genders, workplaces can dismantle long-standing stigmas and cultural barriers, thereby fostering a more open, supportive, and inclusive culture.

After all, understanding female health issues is not only beneficial for female employees but also for their male colleagues, who interact with many women in both professional and personal spheres. A cis man may not experience menstruation or menopause, but someone in his life will – at work or at home – so it is important that he understands how it affects them.

It is also beneficial for individuals to understand their fertility regardless of whether or not they plan on having a family. Understanding fertility helps people to understand their hormones and reproductive organs, important for vitality and longevity.

Innovative practices and case studies

Workplaces should give some thought to how they might wish to implement innovative practices that address the three strategic imperatives outlined above. For example, you might look at launching a series of workshops that not only educate employees about female health but also provide platforms for open discussions among employees of all genders. At Girl You Need To Know This, we also help elevate the policies that are currently in place to connect with the good work that the HR team has already implemented. Initiatives like these can provide a marked increase in employee engagement and a decrease in health-related absences.

You may also decide to introduce flexible working hours and telemedicine services tailored specifically for the needs of women at different life stages. Such policies allow companies to not only retain talent but also improve overall job satisfaction and productivity.

Empathy and understanding

But perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that leadership in HR is not just about enforcing policies; it’s about cultivating an environment where sensitive topics related to health are addressed with empathy and understanding. CEOs and HR professionals must work together to integrate female health into the broader agenda of workplace health and inclusivity.

As we move forward, it is crucial for HR leaders to champion these changes, ensuring that female health becomes an integral part of the organisational culture, not just for compliance but for fostering a truly inclusive, productive, and healthy workplace.

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