Why Are People So Afraid of Women’s Health?
Women’s health might be hotly debated in the media as of late, but is it so enthusiastically discussed in the workplace?
Having written a fair few posts on LinkedIn about women’s health, our Founder Danny Clarke is no stranger to the can of worms that these discussions can open in ‘professional’ circles.
From those who believe that you have to have lived experience to speak on a subject to those who have learned and grown through opening unlikely discussions around women’s health, there’s no shortage of opinions on how we should discuss women’s health…
But why aren’t we doing more about it?
(These are direct quotes from comments on Danny’s LinkedIn posts.)
‘You’re welcome to have an opinion, but maybe that’s a good place to stop.’
If there’s any way to shut down a productive discussion, it’s through segregating it.
Whilst it’s understandable that communities that have experienced stigma and prejudice might stare at those who haven’t experienced the same things and wonder why they feel so comfortable participating in the discussion, it’s also worth noting that allyship exists.
Now, before we move any further into the discussion (and put on our flameproof trousers to avoid being set alight by the mob), it’s worth making a distinction:
There is a significant difference between engaging in discussions and promoting awareness around a subject and taking ownership of that which you haven’t experienced and weaponizing it against a community that has.
If we want to avoid stigma around women’s health, open discussions are integral in raising awareness.
More importantly, broadening the discussion brings it to the people that don’t have the awareness from lived experience.
‘They will be told that their opinions don’t count and they don’t know what they are talking about.’
Sometimes (a lot of the time) we don’t know what we’re talking about.
We’re commenting on posts or joining conversations as a relative novice.
But how else are we expected to learn and grow?
In most conversations we’ll have in life we can have anything from a vague understanding to strong expertise, yet we won’t exclude ourselves from the conversation immediately based on ‘not knowing’.
From endometriosis to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) to menopause, many conditions relating to women’s health are still vastly under-researched and also under-diagnosed.
The taboo around women’s health and the issues women face is already significant in a medical, work and personal sense.
If we want those who are outside of the lived experience of women’s health to understand it and give our point of view to better their understanding, then a discussion has to occur.
In other words – we can’t have positive progress if we prevent the discussions required to make change from occurring.
‘For me it is a matter of not believing I have anything to add to the conversation…, what can a straight white male add to a conversation when I am not directly impacted?’
Feeling as though we don’t have anything to add to the conversation can usually narrow down to a lack of confidence around the topic or fear or concern of conflict when giving our opinion.
When it comes to raising awareness around women’s health, though, a little understanding can go a long way.
Even small contributions to discussions to reaffirm, validate, or raise awareness can go a long way in making conversations more accessible and normalised.
Research conducted by the Department of Health & Social Care found that 1 in 3 women feel comfortable talking about health issues in their workplace, though it was also found that out of those who said a health condition or disability had impacted their experience in the workplace:
– 26% said it impacted their earnings
– 25% said it affected their opportunities for a promotion
– 22% said it meant they stopped work earlier than they had planned
This is significant – women are actively trying to make a case for women’s health in the workplace and are facing multiple barriers.
The sooner more people engage in discussions and call out the barriers that women face, the more likely it is that they will be addressed properly.
‘Menstruation is something we should all get comfortable talking about as it can be debilitating for many.’
The more we avoid a discussion, the more we teach people that it is taboo and that it should be kept behind closed doors.
I’m sure we can all agree that the last thing we want to do is to perpetuate a narrative of ‘soldiering on’.
Suffering in silence isn’t good for anyone, particularly when these conditions can be so detrimental to the way women and non-binary individuals can carry out their day-to-day work and personal lives.
If we make a collective effort to normalise women’s health and bring issues to the forefront, then nobody will feel as though they’re alone in their feelings or struggles.
For example, male managers can begin to better understand how to acknowledge the issues women are facing at work and advocate for better support from the company.
Awareness can lead to action which can truly change the way that women’s health is addressed in the workplace and wider society.
Let’s stop being afraid to talk and start taking steps to make positive, impactful change.