Workforce Solutions
January 26, 2023

Wellness At Work: How Employers In The US Can Champion Women's Health

Cogent Infotech
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January 26, 2023

According to the World Bank, around 50% of women globally participate in the workforce, while the rate for men is 80%. Women often have fewer formal job opportunities and limited chances for business or career growth. Furthermore, women typically earn less than their male counterparts.

While there has been a significant shift in the composition of American workplaces in the last decade, increasing women's participation brings about a wealth of talent, skills, and perspectives that enrich the nation's workforce. However, the same cannot be said for the employer's actions towards women's health. Beneath the rising participation lies a complex tapestry of experiences, challenges, and health-related disparities that affect women in the workplace.

The importance of women's health at work extends far beyond the individual. It reverberates throughout the corporate world and society at large. When women are empowered to prioritize their health and well-being, they are better positioned to excel in their careers, drive innovation, and contribute to their communities. It's a win-win situation where the benefits are reaped by employees, employers, and the nation as a whole.

Current Landscape of Women's Health in the Workplace

Women in the United States register the highest number of cases of pregnancy-related mortality, preventable fatalities, chronic health ailments, and demand for mental health care. As compared to other high-income nations, this is an area that needs drastic improvement. Some may find it shocking that the average maternal mortality rate for all high-income countries in 2020 stood at 12 deaths per 100,000 live births. The figure in the United States was close to 24. To add to the misery, the recent overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court is likely to further increase the already high rates of pregnancy-related fatalities.

Even more striking are the disparities: The pregnancy and death rate of African women is three times higher compared to white women, irrespective of their educational or income levels. The healthcare expenses are also very high. It causes women to postpone seeking medical attention due to financial concerns and pushes them into financial distress, even when they have private health insurance.

While women's increasing presence in the workforce is an encouraging sign of progress, gender disparities persist in healthcare access and outcomes. Women are more likely to face challenges in accessing healthcare. Financial constraints, lack of insurance, and social determinants of health contribute to these barriers. These result in women being more likely to delay or forgo necessary medical care due to the financial burden it may pose.

These disparities are particularly evident in preventive care and screenings. These disparities in access to screenings and preventive care can have serious consequences on women's health, leading to delayed diagnoses and poorer outcomes.

The American workplace is a source of considerable stress for many, and women are not exempted from this challenge. Research consistently reveals that women report higher levels of stress and stress-related symptoms compared to men. This disparity is a complex issue with multifaceted origins.

One of the contributing factors is the heavy juggling act many women undertake, balancing professional responsibilities, societal expectations, and family life. As primary caregivers in many households, women often bear the burden of domestic duties in addition to their professional roles. The result is a delicate balancing act that can take a toll on their mental and emotional well-being.

Women's experiences in the workplace can also be influenced by factors such as discrimination, bias, and the gender pay gap. The stress arising from these challenges can lead to a range of health issues, including anxiety, depression, and burnout. These stressors can have a profound impact on women's health and overall job satisfaction.

Understanding the Unique Health Needs of Women

The pursuit of gender equality and the recognition of the unique health needs of women are inextricably linked. These linkages can be explained as follows:

Reproductive Health and Family Planning

Women's reproductive health is a fundamental aspect of their well-being. Understanding and addressing the same is critical for women's health and empowerment.

Maternal Health

Maternal health plays a pivotal role in women's overall well-being. Complications related to pregnancy and childbirth are still one of the leading causes of death among women globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every 120 seconds, a woman loses her life during pregnancy or while giving birth. Access to quality maternal care and family planning services is a critical element in reducing maternal mortality rates.

Access to Contraception

Family planning and access to contraception are integral components of reproductive health. Providing women with the freedom to choose when and if they want to have children is essential for their overall well-being. The United Nations Population Fund reports that almost 50% of all pregnancies worldwide, accounting for 121 million annually, are not planned or unintended, highlighting the importance of accessible contraception.

Cervical and Breast Health

Regular screenings for cervical and breast cancer are essential components of women's health. Early detection through Pap smears and mammograms can be life-saving. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2023, there will be about 13,960 new cases of invasive cervical cancer and around 297,790 new cases of invasive breast cancer in the United States.

Mental Health and Emotional Well-being

Mental health and emotional well-being are integral parts of women's overall health. Addressing these aspects is essential for promoting women's holistic well-being.

Higher Prevalence of Mental Health Conditions

Women are more likely to experience mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America reports that the likelihood of developing depression is 2-3 times higher in women compared to men.

Life Transitions

Women go through unique life transitions, such as pregnancy, postpartum, menopause, and aging, which can significantly impact their mental health. It is vital to recognize these transitions and provide support and resources to help women go through these phases successfully.

Workplace Stress

The workplace can be a significant source of stress for women due to a range of factors, including workplace discrimination, unequal pay, and the dual responsibilities of work and caregiving. These stressors can take a toll on mental health and well-being.

Preventive Care and Screenings

Preventive care and regular screenings are essential components of women's health and are key to early detection and treatment of health issues.

Wellness Exams

Regular wellness exams are vital for maintaining women's health. These exams encompass a range of health assessments, including blood pressure checks, cholesterol tests, and evaluations of overall health.

Cancer Screenings

Women should undergo regular screenings for various types of cancer, such as cervical, breast, and ovarian cancer. Early detection through screenings significantly improves the chances of successful treatment.

Bone Health

Women are more prone to osteoporosis, and preventive measures such as bone density tests are crucial for early intervention and maintaining bone health.

Chronic Conditions and Long-term Health

Chronic conditions are a significant concern in women's health and require ongoing management and care.

Autoimmune Diseases

Many autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, disproportionately affect women. These conditions require long-term management and comprehensive care.

Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Understanding the unique risk factors and symptoms for women is essential for early intervention and prevention.

Endocrine Disorders

Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and menopause-related hormonal changes necessitate specialized care and attention.

Age-related Health Concerns

As women age, they face a range of age-related health concerns, including menopause, bone health, and cognitive health. Understanding these issues and providing appropriate care is crucial for women's long-term well-being.

Benefits of Promoting Women's Health at Work

A holistic approach to women's health not only ensures a healthier, happier female workforce but also leads to a plethora of tangible benefits for both employees and employers. Here are the multifaceted advantages of promoting women's health at work:

Improved Employee Morale and Engagement

Employees who feel supported in their well-being are more likely to be motivated, satisfied, and engaged in their roles. According to a report, better employee engagement leads to decreased turnover, enhanced productivity, improved customer retention, reinforced financial stability, and, above all, increased employee satisfaction. Therefore, when employers take an active interest in the health of their workforce, it fosters a sense of value and inclusivity.

A study conducted by Harvard Business Review further highlights the positive correlation between well-being initiatives and employee engagement. Companies with comprehensive wellness programs reported higher levels of engagement among their employees. For women, this translates into a workplace where they feel not only respected but genuinely cared for, resulting in greater job satisfaction and overall well-being.

Increased Productivity and Retention Rates

The benefits of promoting women's health extend to productivity and employee retention rates. A healthy and engaged workforce is a more productive one. Effective wellness programs can play a pivotal role in retaining top talent. High employee turnover is a substantial cost for employers, both in terms of recruitment and training expenses.

The link between employee wellness and retention is further supported by research from the Wellable Labs. Their 2022 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report reveals that 76% of companies are increasing their investments in stress management and resilience tools for their employees. These resources are designed to benefit employees in both their professional and personal lives. When women are valued and supported in their health and well-being, they are more likely to stay with their employers, resulting in a stable, experienced workforce.

Reduced Healthcare Costs

Addressing women's health in the workplace can lead to substantial cost savings for both employers and employees. Wellness programs are not just about improving health; they are also about reducing healthcare expenses. For every dollar invested in wellness programs, employers can expect a return on investment of up to $4.70. This substantial return is due to reduced healthcare costs, which stem from healthier employees.

When women have access to wellness programs that address their specific health needs, they are more likely to engage in preventive care. Preventive care can detect health issues at an earlier, more manageable stage, reducing the need for expensive treatments and hospitalizations. Several studies show that effective wellness programs are associated with significant reductions in medical costs.

For employees, wellness programs can mean financial savings through lower out-of-

pocket healthcare expenses and insurance premiums. It reduces the financial burden and promotes a sense of financial well-being and security.

Creating a Supportive Environment

By addressing the unique needs and challenges faced by female employees, organizations can create a workplace that promotes health, well-being, and overall job satisfaction. Here are the five crucial strategies that employers can employ to build a positive ecosystem for women's health:

Enhancing Health Insurance Benefits

One of the primary ways that employers can create a supportive environment for women's health is by providing better health insurance coverage. Health insurance is not only a perk but a fundamental need, and addressing the specific healthcare requirements of women can be a game-changer. Women often have unique health concerns, particularly related to reproductive health, and an insurance plan that recognizes and accommodates these needs is invaluable.

Employers should consider health insurance plans that cover essential services such as preventive screenings, contraception, and maternity care. Furthermore, offering access to a diverse network of healthcare providers, including specialists in women's health, can be immensely beneficial. By providing comprehensive, women-centric insurance coverage, employers demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of female employees.

For instance, IBM has a history of providing extensive healthcare benefits for women. They offer comprehensive maternity care, fertility treatments, and a range of wellness programs. The company also prioritizes mental health and work-life balance, acknowledging the significance of these aspects in women's overall well-being.

Providing Paid Parental Leave

The need for paid parental leave has garnered considerable attention in recent years and for good reason. The United States is one of the few developed countries that does not mandate paid maternity leave, and many women are forced to return to work shortly after giving birth, which impacts their health and the health of their newborns.

Employers can champion women's health by offering generous paid parental leave policies that provide new mothers the time and support they need for recovery and bonding with their infants. Moreover, providing paternity leave enables fathers to actively participate in caregiving, reducing the burden on mothers and promoting a healthier work-family balance. By offering paid parental leave, employers not only support the physical and mental health of their female employees but also enhance overall family well-being.

Companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Netflix, Google, Adobe, Salesforce, IBEF, American Express, etc, offer paid paternal leave to new mothers and fathers. It allows new parents the flexibility to take time off as needed during the first year after a child's birth or adoption.

Redesigning the Workplace to Support Women

The physical and cultural design of the workplace can have a significant impact on women's health. Employers should be attentive to the unique needs of female employees and strive to create an environment that supports their well-being.

Ergonomic Workspaces

Ensuring that workstations are ergonomically designed can help prevent musculoskeletal issues and discomfort often experienced by women. This includes adjustable chairs, proper lighting, and equipment that accommodates different body sizes and shapes.

Nursing and Childcare Facilities

For women who are new mothers, access to private nursing areas and on-site childcare facilities can be invaluable. These amenities not only promote women's health but also enable them to balance their professional and family responsibilities better.

Flexibility and Remote Work Options

Offering flexible work arrangements and remote work options can ease the burden on women who juggle multiple roles, such as caregivers or parents. The ability to work from home, adjust hours, or take advantage of compressed workweeks can significantly enhance work-life balance.

Gender-neutral Facilities

Creating gender-neutral facilities and restrooms is an inclusive approach that demonstrates sensitivity to the diverse needs and identities of all employees.

For instance, Accenture has implemented various initiatives to support women in the workplace, such as mentoring and sponsorship programs. They have also established an Inclusion and Diversity Council that focuses on gender diversity and have set a goal to achieve a 50/50 gender-balanced workforce by 2025.

Building a Supportive Workplace Culture

The culture of an organization plays a pivotal role in shaping the work environment for women. Employers should actively work toward building a supportive workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion, prioritizes well-being, and actively addresses issues that affect women's health.

Equal Opportunity and Inclusivity

Employers should commit to providing equal opportunities for women in all aspects of employment, including hiring, promotion, and compensation. Recognizing and addressing gender bias and disparities is crucial for fostering a culture of inclusivity.

Mental Health Awareness

Mental health is a critical component of overall well-being, and employers should destigmatize discussions about mental health issues. Creating an environment where employees feel comfortable seeking support and resources for mental health is vital.

Work-life Balance

Promoting a healthy work-life balance is essential for women's health. Encouraging employees to use their paid time off, avoid excessive overtime, and take advantage of flexible work arrangements helps mitigate stress and burnout.

Open Communication

Employers should encourage open and honest communication between management and employees. Providing a platform for employees to voice their concerns, offer feedback, and seek support is essential for creating a supportive workplace culture.

Mentorship and Career Development

Offering mentorship programs and opportunities for career development can be particularly valuable for women in the workplace. Mentorship not only provides guidance but also helps women navigate their career paths and overcome obstacles.

Deloitte's commitment to diversity and inclusion is evident through various programs, including the Deloitte University Leadership Center for Inclusion and its Women's Initiative (WIN). The WIN program focuses on the advancement of women in leadership roles.

Implementing Wellness Programs for Women

Wellness programs tailored to the specific needs of women can be a cornerstone of creating a positive ecosystem for women's health in the workplace. These programs address a range of physical, mental, and emotional health needs and can significantly improve the overall well-being of female employees.

Women's Health Screenings

Providing access to regular women's health screenings, such as mammograms, pap smears, and bone density tests, ensures that female employees can proactively manage their health and detect potential issues early.

Maternity and Parenting Support

Wellness programs should include support for expectant and new mothers. This support may encompass prenatal care, breastfeeding resources, and parenting workshops to help women transition into motherhood with confidence.

Stress Management

Workplace wellness programs can offer resources and tools for managing stress effectively. Stress management workshops, mindfulness training, and employee assistance programs (EAPs) can be instrumental in addressing work-related stressors.

Mental Health Services

Access to mental health services, including counseling and therapy, is crucial for women's emotional well-being. Employers should ensure that employees have the resources they need to maintain their mental health.

Nutritional Education

Wellness programs can include nutritional education and support for maintaining a healthy diet. This can be particularly beneficial for women who have specific dietary needs, such as those related to pregnancy or menopause.

Physical Activity and Fitness

Encouraging physical activity and fitness through exercise programs or gym access promotes overall health and wellness. For women, regular exercise can help manage weight, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and improve mental health.

For instance, Coca-Cola has implemented wellness programs aimed at promoting women's health, offering resources for physical fitness, mental well-being, and nutritional guidance. Similarly, companies like Cisco, Pfizer, Proctor & Gamble, KPMG, Bank of America, General Electric, etc, have set up dedicated wellness programs to achieve better women's health in the workforce.

Summing up

The journey toward promoting women's health at work is not just a matter of compassion; it's an investment in a healthier, more equitable future. As we look ahead, companies that invest in these changes are not only enhancing the lives of their female workforce but also reaping the benefits of a more diverse, innovative, and prosperous workplace.

In the future, the focus will shift towards intersectionality and inclusivity, recognizing the diverse experiences of women from different backgrounds, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and abilities. Inclusivity will be at the forefront, ensuring that women from all walks of life have their unique needs acknowledged and addressed.

With each step taken to champion women's health, we should create a future where women can not only excel professionally but also enjoy the support they need to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. The journey is far from over, but the progress made to date is a beacon of hope, signaling a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

Cogent Infotech can help you build a future-ready workforce. Do visit our website and read more such insightful blogs.

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