Championing Women’s Wellbeing in the Workplace

by | Apr 9, 2024

The British workplace has made significant strides in promoting gender equality and fostering inclusive environments, yet challenges persist for many women in various professional settings. From navigating career advancement opportunities to balancing work and family responsibilities, women encounter unique obstacles that can impact their wellbeing at work and in life. 

As we explore the importance of women’s wellbeing in the workplace, it’s crucial to understand the challenges they face and how employers can support them effectively.

Understanding women’s wellbeing at work

Like with everyone, the wellbeing of female employees encompasses all seven dimensions, which are intrinsically linked to one-another:

1. Social:

This wellbeing dimension refers to the human need for community i.e. having a support network, interacting with others on a regular basis, maintaining healthy and fulfilling professional and personal relationships etc. As with every aspect of wellbeing, this dimension doesn’t just apply to women in the workplace, however, given the roles that women often fill outside of the workplace, it is paramount that female workers feel connected, supported and safe at work. An interesting study comparing the psychological wellbeing of working women and non-working women found that although working women tend to feel greater satisfaction in life, women in dual-earner families are at risk of lower psychological wellbeing if the quality of their work and home environments is poor.

2. Emotional:

Emotional wellbeing constitutes all aspects of the emotional welfare of an individual. This dimension relates to a person’s emotions, of which, the five basic emotions are joy, fear, sadness, disgust and anger. It seems a common misconception that women are more “emotional” than men. Research indicates that men and women do not differ in terms of emotional reactivity, but when it comes to emotional regulation, men seem to down-regulate negative experiences more effectively. Ensuring the right kind of emotional support is on offer for both male and female workers is an essential component of a thriving workforce. Especially as the aforementioned study goes on to highlight that women: 

  • are diagnosed with affective disorders up to twice as often as men (Gater et al., 1998; Kessler et al., 1993). 
  • are up to three times more likely to develop a major depressive disorder in response to a stressful event than men (Maciejewski, Prigerson, & Mazure, 2001)

    3. Physical:

    This dimension refers to the corporeal elements of a person’s wellbeing, which includes things like exercise, nutrition and hydration. Women’s health needs, including menstrual and menopausal health, are often overlooked in workplace policies and benefits. The absence of supportive measures such as menstrual leave or accommodations for menopause symptoms can impact productivity and wellbeing.

    4. Mental:

    Mental wellbeing is about an individual’s cognition. It refers to the cognitive processes like dealing with stress, building resilience and practising mindfulness, to name a few. Research demonstrates that the way we process information differs in relation to our biology: the two hemispheres in the female brain communicate with each other more than in the male brain, a woman’s hippocampus is larger than a man’s, yet the female amygdala is smaller than the male’s. These are some examples of how our brains differ physiologically, and of course, this has an impact on how we interpret and process our respective experiences, (i.e. women retain stronger and more vivid memories of emotional events than men do). Recognising that there are differences between male and female cognition is important when determining how to support their mental wellbeing at work.

    5. Professional:

    This refers to work-related health and wellbeing, like career development, work-life integration and job satisfaction. As women often assume traditionally female responsibilities like caregiving, juggling professional responsibilities with caregiving duties can be very challenging, particularly when others, like children or elderly family members are in need of care. The lack of flexible work arrangements or parental leave policies can exacerbate this struggle.

    6. Environmental:

    Environmental wellbeing refers to the environment in which a person finds themself. Stimulating and supportive workspaces might be well lit, have ergonomic work equipment, lots of plants and amenities to support other aspects of wellbeing, whilst promoting a sense of camaraderie and teamwork between workers. Women may experience harassment or discrimination based on their gender, leading to feelings of insecurity, stress, and diminished job satisfaction. Anti-harassment policies and a culture of accountability are essential for creating a safe and respectful work environment.

    7. Financial:

    This dimension refers to an individual’s capacity to experience financial security. This can include debt, salary, financial goals, dependencies etc. With regards to women at work, the gender pay gap may hinder the financial wellbeing of female employees. While the gap is slowly decreasing, it remains at 14.3% in the UK, 2023. 

    As we grow and develop as a society, we can hope to see employers prioritising the right infrastructure to support employee wellbeing, but in the meantime, female workers continue to face workplace issues. 

    Supporting women in the workplace

    To address these challenges and prioritise the wellbeing of female employees, employers can take proactive measures to support women in the workplace:

    Implement gender equality policies:

    Establish policies and practices that promote gender equality, including transparent hiring and promotion processes, pay equity reviews, and diversity training for all employees.

    Provide flexible work arrangements:

    Offer flexible work hours, telecommuting options, and parental leave policies to accommodate the diverse needs of women in the workforce. Flexible arrangements enable women to better balance their professional and personal obligations.

    Address menstrual and menopausal health needs:

    Introduce menopause and menstruation policies that support women’s reproductive health, such as providing access to menstrual hygiene products, offering menstrual leave options, and creating supportive environments for managing menopause symptoms.

    Why employers need to wake up to women’s health

    Employers must recognise the importance of prioritising women’s health and wellbeing in the workplace for several reasons:

    1. Retention and engagement:

    Supporting women’s wellbeing fosters a positive work environment where employees feel understood, valued and respected. This, in turn, enhances employee retention, boosts morale, and increases overall productivity.

    2. Legal and reputational risks:

    Failing to address gender disparities and healthcare needs can expose organisations to legal liabilities and damage their reputation. Favouring proactive measures to support women’s health demonstrates a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and compliance with anti-discrimination laws. Assess organisational wellbeing to see whether your company complies with its legal duty of care to employees. 

    3. Business performance:

    Research consistently shows that diverse and inclusive workplaces outperform their less diverse counterparts. By investing in women’s wellbeing and creating opportunities for their advancement, employers can drive innovation, attract top talent, and achieve sustainable business success. Contact us to find out how we can provide you with an in-depth analysis of your workplace wellbeing culture, so you can determine where to target your efforts. 

    Empower your female workers!

    Prioritising the wellbeing of female employees is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic business decision. By addressing the unique challenges women face, implementing supportive policies and practices, and fostering inclusive environments, employers can empower female employees to thrive professionally and personally. 

    It’s time for employers to wake up to the importance of women’s health and take meaningful action to create workplaces to improve employee engagement and satisfaction across the whole workforce. 

      Stay informed to unlock the benefits of improved workplace wellbeing.