Women Still Face Bias at Work over Health Issues finds Study

Experts Column

Women's health is a direct reflection of the nation's overall health. Because of the declining quality of life, the idea of women's health has become a prominent concern in developing countries. The issues affecting women's health are multifaceted, and women's health is jeopardized at almost every stage of life. Adding to this, women are hesitant to speak out about their illnesses due to the social stigma.

According to a recent study conducted by Emcure Pharmaceuticals in collaboration with Ipsos Research, women professionals in white-collar roles in India are not comfortable talking about their health issues due to prevalent biases, stigmas, and misperceptions.

Emcure Pharmaceuticals conducted the study in collaboration with Ipsos Research Private Limited (Ipsos India) with the goal of gaining insights into the social, cultural, and medical outlook for working women and eventually finding solutions involving various stakeholders.

The Indian Women's Health Report 2021, which surveyed 1000 working women aged 25 to 55 across seven cities, discovered that nearly half of the women polled are uncomfortable discussing about women's health issues due to societal taboos and stigmas associated with them.

Through this survey, women in white-collar jobs shared details about health stigmas they face, as well as how it all leads to social pressures and professional issues.

Key Findings

According to Emcure Pharmaceuticals’ report The Indian Women’s Health Report 2021, 86% of working women have seen colleagues/relatives/friends leave the workforce, with 59% citing health issues as the primary reason.

Eighty percent of working women felt that their male colleagues were insensitive to women's health concerns and 67 percent working women say that talking about health issues is still considered taboo in society.

90% of working women face a conflict of interest while juggling personal and professional responsibilities.

84 percent of working women have experienced period stereotypes/judgments, such as being told not to go near sacred spaces like places of worship or kitchens, or even being told to hide their sanitary napkins.

66 percent of working women believe that women with endometriosis are unsuitable for marriage.

The findings show that common issues like PCOS, breast cancer, and endometriosis are still stigmatised and stereotyped. This portrays the current state of women's health in India in a negative light.

Ms. NamitaThapar, Executive Director, Emcure Pharmaceuticals, says, “When we launched our YouTube talk show, Uncondition Yourself this January around women’s health, we realised that getting women to come on the show and talk about their health was a big challenge. This prompted us to conduct a study and ramp up our initiatives around awareness and diagnosis. Despite the progress we have made in the corporate sector for involving women in the workforce, issues related to women’s health are still associated with irrational taboos. The findings of our study reveal the persistence of mis-perceptions and illogical societal taboos related to women’s health issues affecting even India’s white collar women across sectors.”

The study found that, in addition to health issues, women are subjected to several other professional and societal stereotypes, which can lead to stigmatization and impair their professional performance.  Ignorance, unawareness, and lack of acceptance will only make these issues more difficult to diagnose and resolve. It is critical for a responsible society to make these issues acceptable and mainstream. Women have powerful voices, and they must speak out more frequently on these critical issues.

According to the findings of the study, despite the fact that nearly half of the working women surveyed are either diagnosed with or know someone who is diagnosed with issues such as infertility, breast cancer, and PCOS, they are still hesitant to discuss these health issues.

While 75% of working women reported that their employers were taking initiatives to help address health issues, the study also discovered that more than 80% of them felt that their male colleagues lacked sensitivity when it came to women's health concerns.

Furthermore, 52 percent of working women find it difficult to balance work and health. Among the various sectors, the number for women working in retail was the highest at 67 percent.

What can be done?

Raising awareness of some of the health issues that women may face among employers and employees is an important first step.

Employers should consider women's concerns and issues when implementing or implementing sick leave and health and safety policies.

Acknowledging employers and male coworkers about gender-specific health conditions and the adjustments may be required to support women at work.

The enjoyment of the highest possible standard of health is a fundamental human right. It is critical that the woman be awakened in order to awaken the people. Once she is on the move with her family, village, and nation moves with her. Unless steps are taken to make people appreciate human rights issues related to women's sexual and reproductive system health, women will continue to face the societal taboos and stigmas.