Supporting female health challenges in the workplace drives an inclusive culture

Progressive companies realise that they need to take proactive steps to create a family-friendly and inclusive culture to attract and retain the best talent.

One of the ways to do this is by supporting female health challenges in the workplace.

Women are the fastest-growing workplace demographic.  Yet women face their own set of personal health challenges which span the very start to the very end of their careers.  With this in mind, our campaign for the Autumn will be around understanding the impact of 5 key challenges that most women juggle simultaneously with career progression:

  1. Periods
  2. Fertility
  3. Pregnancy
  4. Menopause
  5. Ageism on approach to retirement

HR Review recently reported on research by BetterUp that 59% women have taken time off due to these female health issues.

Supporting periods at work

HR Zone published an article earlier this year called It’s time to address menstruation in the workplace – period.  The following statistics from a DPG survey highlighted that:

  • 75% women experience PMS, which can have a serious impact on mood and emotions
  • 80% women feel less productive due to period symptoms
  • Almost 25% women have taken time off in the last 6 months for period-related issues but more than one third have lied about the reason for time off due to fear of judgement and embarrassment

Fertility challenges

Fertility Matters at Work’s research has found that:

  • 72% said their workplace didn’t have a fertility policy in place
  • 68% felt their fertility treatment had a significant impact on their mental and emotional wellbeing
  • 70% took sick leave during their treatment


  • Even in 2022, Metro reported that 25% expectant mothers fear maternity discrimination.  Fear of negativity and seeing changes in behaviour of managers and colleagues means that many women begin to worry about the impact of their impending maternity on their long-term career
  • Forbes reported in 2020 that pregnancy discrimination at work can impact both the mother’s and the baby’s health – highlighting the long-term consequences of a non-supportive working culture


  • 1 in 10 women have left their job due to menopause symptoms
  • A recent survey reported by People Management highlighted that 48% women felt uncomfortable talking about the menopause at work and 88% wish their workplace offered better support

Ageism on approach to retirement

  • Forbes published an article and reported on survey results last year, which revealed how Gendered Ageism affects Women’s Job Security and Financial Viability: 80% of those surveyed had encountered gendered ageism
  • 77% said their company’s D&I agenda didn’t include gendered ageism

What is the potential impact of these health issues on career?

Grappling with health challenges whilst trying to manage a career can be physically and emotionally draining.  Over time, if unsupported, this can lead to lower confidence levels around future potential and promotions may pass them by. 

Unsupportive managers may write off a team member because they are taking more time off than usual – often without understanding the reasons why.  For example, a senior female who has years of knowledge and experience may not be considered for the next big project because she has taken more time off recently to cope with challenging menopause symptoms. 

Women need to feel comfortable about sharing what they are experiencing at work.  They need to be able to talk openly and honestly to their managers or someone in HR about ways in which potential symptoms can be managed.  Women also need to be able to bring their whole selves to work – not feeling comfortable about themselves and feeling forced to lie or cover up issues which they feel guilty about has a negative impact on self-worth, confidence, mental and physical health.

86% women in the BetterUp survey said they would be more likely to choose an employer who was supportive of female health issues.  So, if employers become known for their family-friendly and supportive cultures, they will ultimately attract and retain diverse talent.

What needs to be done to support female health at work?

Potential solutions need to start with raising awareness and breaking the taboo on female health subjects:

  • Providing a dedicated webpage for tips, information and further resources about all 5 of the key health challenges/life stages
  • Having a policy in place with days off for period leave, appointments with specialists etc
  • Hosting regular drop-ins for informal chats and networking – whether this be face-to-face or virtually – this really reduces the taboo-nature of some of these health issues
  • Manager awareness – educating managers to look out for the signs that a female member of staff is struggling with managing symptoms.  We can help managers see that a potential change in behaviour or productivity is something which may well be addressed through a supportive conversation

At P&P we are hosting a roundtable breakfast discussion and networking event this month to discuss how these challenges affected by lack of support for female health can impact careers.  We will brainstorm what can be done to improve the situation.  If you’d like to receive the whitepaper report which will summarise our discussion, please email

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