According to the World Economic Forum, gender equality has suffered since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, so much that it will now take an estimated 135.6 years to close the worldwide gender gap—a growth of 36 years in a 12-month span—to achieve parity in economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political participation. Against that backdrop, International Women’s Day chose #BreakTheBias as the 2022 theme to serve as a call to action for equality and a celebration of women’s successes.
Here are three workplace wellness topics to consider on International Women’s Day and beyond.
1. Create a supportive work environment for women.
Support comes in many forms, big and small. Not every company will be able to offer child care or caregiving assistance—though both of those loads fall more on women than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic—but offering flexibility and leading with empathy are doable for most.
In a piece for Forbes, Jaimie Green, a human resources executive for Lulafit, shares her recommendations for supporting women and being an ally in the workplace.
- Learn about gender bias to better intervene and eradicate it.
- Support career growth opportunities with learning and development programming, mentorship and upskilling.
- Foster and champion an inclusive workplace by celebrating women’s accomplishments, encouraging sharing ideas and opinions, and addressing sexism if it happens.
2. Restructure the promotion process.
Dr. Sonia Kang, associate professor in the Department of Management at the University of Toronto Mississauga; Nicola Lacetera, professor in the Department of Management at the University of Toronto Mississauga; and Dr. Joyce He, associate professor at the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles collaborated on a study on the “opt-in vs. opt-out” choice as a solution for gender gaps when promoting internally.
In a Medium article, Kang says most promotions are “opt-in,” where an application is needed, compared to an “opt-out” process where all employees above a certain threshold are automatically considered. The study found that women were about 15% less likely to apply in an opt-in situation. Meanwhile, only 5% of women opted out under the alternative model.
“A lot of what we hear is that women just aren’t applying, which implies a need for self-promotion, or ‘opting in,’” Dr. Kang says. “Women are less likely to self-promote, so instead of telling [them] they just need to apply more, you can change how you structure the process.”
3. Women’s health is more than pregnancy.
While many companies are becoming more thoughtful and supportive of expanded maternity leave or paid family leave, many women are still uncomfortable addressing menstruation or menopause in the workplace. A study by Bupa revealed that 23% of women have taken time off work because of their period, and 36% of those weren’t honest about why they were unable to work.
When it comes to menopause, a survey by childcare service Koru Kids revealed 70% of women did not tell their employer they needed time off due to their symptoms. And 24% of women experiencing menopause symptoms said they are unhappy about the lack of workplace support.
Meanwhile, a report on the pandemic’s effects on working moms—a collaboration of Kuli Kuli, Sylvatex and Uncommon Cacao with researchers from four universities—found that fewer than 25% of women surveyed sleep the recommended seven to nine hours per night. Fifty-three percent reported getting less than six hours of sleep. This is worrisome, as Fast Company reports, because sleep deprivation not only fuels burnout but also can lead to other health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
Pregnancy is not the only women’s health issue that should be addressed or supported in workplaces. At a time when many missed or delayed preventative care or annual exams due to the pandemic, be sure to encourage female employees to schedule mammograms, Pap smears, skin checks and more.
Looking for related coverage? Read: Does your organization’s health insurance cover home births?