Women make up close to 40% of the world’s workforce. In the global oil and gas industry, that figure is a more modest 22%, however, with more than 2.1million people being employed by the world’s 10 largest oil and gas companies alone, the number of women involved is certainly significant.
With gender equality featuring so high on the public agenda, our industry, along with all others, needs to ensure there is full recognition that an increasingly diverse talent pool comes with a broader spectrum of responsibilities regarding their health.
Understanding diversity isn’t about claiming that we are all the same. Rather, it is about understanding that we are all very different and we have different needs.
Female workers do not have the same health needs as their male counterparts. Progressive companies will be well aware of this.
For example, every year breast cancer kills more than 500,000 women around the world. Cervical cancer is taking the lives of 260,000 women annually and heart disease is one of the leading causes of female death.
The number one cause of female death in the UK is dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Women are more likely than men to experience depression and suffer from migraine headaches and they have a greater tendency to develop rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
About half of women of a reproductive age are impacted by the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Indeed, sexual and reproductive health problems are responsible for one third of health issues for women between the ages of 15 and 44 years. And one in three women over the age of 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, versus one in five men.
So what needs to be done to ensure the health needs of women are being met in the workplace? In the first instance, they must be addressed in a Health Promotion Policy that identifies the risks to women’s health and the opportunities to improve them. Of course, words are meaningless without action and therefore it is equally vital to support these needs in practice.
Not all health risks are life-threatening but they do have this in common: they all have the potential for effective treatment with regular screenings and early medical intervention.
Data suggests women are less likely than men to skip preventative health screenings and delay receiving vital medical treatment; this is good news for companies supporting women’s health, and it should undoubtedly be taken into consideration when setting out a health and wellbeing strategy that caters to a gender diverse workforce.
The benefits of a healthy workforce are well documented: productive staff contribute to organisational performance and profitability, employee engagement and staff morale.
At the same time, a healthy workforce can help reduce absenteeism, work-related ill health and reduce sick pay and recruitment costs.
It is now generally accepted that being in work is good for people’s health and wellbeing, but it’s increasingly being recognised that a healthy workforce is beneficial to employers too.
Dr Louise Slaney is medical director, Iqarus