Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Health versus Career: The unsolved dilemma women face at work

Publication Date: Tuesday, 8 March 2022
This article originally appeared in Dynamic Business

Despite laws intended to end workplace discrimination against women, menstrual and pregnancy bias is sadly common around the world. 

Discrimination can be blatant or subtle, and the structures and frameworks put in place to help women often fall short. In addition to the harm done to their professional lives, this can have far-reaching psychological and financial consequences.

We asked female entrepreneurs to share their thoughts on menstruation and pregnancy-related workplace bias.

Kristy Chong, CEO and Founder of Modibodi

“In an effort to break taboos and address bias in the workplace for women, last year weintroduced paid menstrual, menopause and miscarriage leave to all Modibodi staff. The policy allows employees to have the option to take paid leave days for either menstruation, menopause or miscarriage. Modibodi’s vision is to break the bias around women’s health topics, period. 

“Over half the population has periods and will experience menopause at some stage of their life, and it is reported that 1 in 5 women 1 trying to fall pregnant will experience a miscarriage. 

“We’re acknowledging that every individual’s experience is different, and we believe having a specific policy further helps break down stigma, taboos and bias. Feedback from employees has been extremely positive. Staff have revealed that the policy has helped them feel less guilty, ashamed, and more comfortable because they could actually rest and recover, without worrying about work, or what colleagues may think.

“By offering our employees the support they require when they require it, we have seen that staff feels empowered to speak up about their health concerns.”

Natalie Sheehan – Head Of Distribution at Brighten Home Loans

“When it comes to addressing pregnancy bias, or really, any type of gender bias in the workplace the saying “if you can’t see it – you can’t be it”, springs to mind.

For this reason, businesses should be proactive in making female role models and female mentors more visible. 

“Role models play a critical role in overcoming bias and the overarching sentiment that career progression and success is more difficult for women to combine with having a family.  Encouraging women leaders to share their own stories provide relatable and empowering advice that cement that success is just as achievable for women.

“Brighten was recently named an Inclusive Employer 2021-2022 by the Diversity Council Australia. Through this journey we also learnt that creating a supportive culture that values families, and allows for a more positive work-life balance, has a positive flow-on effect to both the women and men in the workplace.”

Yasinta Widjojo, Marketing Manager, Pin Payments

“It’s quite incredible to think that pregnancy, which marks the start of human existence, is still a workplace challenge for women. All too often women leave work for maternity leave, only to find that there is no pathway in which to come back. The widespread attitude towards female employees leaving to give birth is archaic and simply discriminative. While there are some workplaces that offer additional support and leave pathways to ensure employees can transition back to work, many see pregnancy as a business hindrance. 

“Today’s post-pandemic world provides women and employees with more flexibility than ever before. Consequently, employers need to ensure they are providing as much support as possible to expecting and new parents. 

“Having a policy in place which protects women when they leave for maternity leave and ensures a role is only temporarily filled, is integral to ensure women aren’t negatively impacted. In 2022, it’s time for women to receive the respect and support they deserve with regard to gender-related issues.” 

Kate Furey, Career Insights Specialist, Indeed

“Recent research conducted by Indeed showed that one of the biggest predicaments facing Australian job seekers and employers during the recruitment process was around when to reveal a pregnancy. While one in four job seekers say they’d never reveal their pregnancy to a potential employer, 78 per cent of male and 65 per cent of female employers said they’d always like this disclosed.

“While choosing to reveal a pregnancy is a deeply personal decision – there’s no legal requirement to do so unless working in a high-risk environment – you may prefer to be upfront, revealing your authentic true self during the interview. Accompanying your news with assurances and a well thought out plan for how you will work in the lead up to and after your delivery will highlight your honesty and your commitment to the role.

“The unfortunate reality is that some employers may be biased. But how the news of a pregnancy is received by a potential employer may give you greater insight into the broader workplace culture and help you to decide if it’s going to be the right workplace for you.  

“And, if you are facing pregnancy bias while already in the workplace, there are a number of laws in Australia that protect pregnant employees from discrimination, such as the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the Fair Work Act 2009. These laws say you can’t be treated unfairly because you’re pregnant, which includes being dismissed, made to work fewer hours, given less important work or overlooked for promotion or training.”

Alison Long – Head of People and Talent, Till Payments 

“There has long been a stigma in the workplace surrounding pregnancy, pregnancy loss, childbirth, and parental leave. When we devalue and dismiss these life events predominantly as ‘women’s issues’, primary carers of both genders are disproportionately affected.

“To tackle this bias head-on, Till Payments is championing gender-inclusive pregnancy loss and parental leave policies. This ensures that caregivers – no matter their gender – feel supported and valued by the business. More broadly, it also helps to rewrite outdated and harmful stereotypes that assume raising a family, childcare and the loss of pregnancy are ‘women’s issues. 

“We have partnered with Kin Fertility on the #WeNeedMoreLeave campaign to call for better support for parents experiencing a miscarriage. To further break down the bias, in our offices, Till has made a range of menstrual products readily available to staff and on-site visitors, in order to help combat the stigma in the workplace faced by people who menstruate.”

Myra Beal, Chief of Staff and General Counsel at Metigy

“A large number of women (easily more than one in ten, including myself) suffer from debilitating period pain or serious medical conditions such as endometriosis or ovarian cysts. For these women exhausting their sick leave entitlements is not uncommon, putting them in a difficult position in the workplace and unfairly facing the stigma of absenteeism due to a lack of awareness of these conditions. 

“In fact, a recent Sydney Law Review article argued that women who menstruate are not even necessarily “ill” or “injured” for the purpose of accessing sick leave under Australia’s Fair Work Act. This is unfortunately another example of how the legislative framework was not set up with working women in mind and that more can be done.

‘It’s important that businesses are cognisant of the potential for menstrual-related biases. At Metigy, our focus with our employees is on trust, autonomy and flexibility – our employees are in control of where they work and their working hours. Importantly for women, this means they are not stuck in the dichotomy of taking sick leave or trying to come into the office while unwell.”

Rohini Sharma, Industry Lead, monday.com 

“A significant gap still remains in the corporate world when it comes to understanding the greater journey of pregnancy and childbirth. Discussing topics like IVF in the workplace remains somewhat taboo. 

“With 1 in 20 babies born each year via in vitro, there must be compassion for parents in the middle of an emotionally draining journey. Starting a family is also a risk, with the odds of experiencing a miscarriage in Australia currently 1 in 4.

“Pain, cramps and exhaustion coupled with the stigma of carrying necessary items around “that time of the month” is still a very real ordeal for working women. Employees should be encouraged and empowered to place their mental health and physical wellbeing ahead of a workday or lying on a sick leave request. This will only occur through a considered, company-wide effort to destigmatise real topics that affect half their workforce.”

“Some may choose to have a fair amount of time off after having a child, and others may choose to come back to work quickly. In both cases, I feel women are resilient and knowledgeable enough to make the decision for themselves and understand what bearing that might have on their career. The traditional model of women being the primary caregiver is a thing of the past, and we are becoming more adept at using formal and informal support networks to support the family unit.”

Irene Georgakopoulos, Director of Talent Acquisition & Culture and co-founder, Physio Inq

“In saying that, some employers put pressure on women to decide if and when they are to return to the workforce, and this is where I see the pregnancy bias coming in. If a woman feels she needs to return to work otherwise she won’t have a job to go back to – this is an issue.”

“I think employers and workplaces that embrace women deciding what is right for themselves are best positioned to support a return to the workforce. There is no question that mums provide a huge amount of value to teams, and bring along with them a level of maturity and life experience that cannot be found any other way. The sooner businesses understand and embrace that as the new superpower, the better.”

“Providing flexible return to work options is also key. Covid in many ways had already started this mind shift with employers, as they have needed to quickly adapt or suffer mass resignations as work/life balance is more important than ever. So providing this to mums and dads seeking extended leave and flexible return to work

arrangements should not be any different to anyone else in a team.”

Myra Beal, Chief of Staff and General Counsel at Metigy

“A large number of women (easily more than one in ten, including myself) suffer from debilitating period pain or serious medical conditions such as endometriosis or ovarian cysts. For these women exhausting their sick leave entitlements is not uncommon, putting them in a difficult position in the workplace and unfairly facing the stigma of absenteeism due to a lack of awareness of these conditions.

“In fact, a recent Sydney Law Review article argued that women who menstruate are not even necessarily “ill” or “injured” for the purpose of accessing sick leave under Australia’s Fair Work Act. 

“This is unfortunately another example of how the legislative framework was not set up with working women in mind and that more can be done. It’s important that businesses are cognisant of the potential for menstrual-related biases. At Metigy, our focus with our employees is on trust, autonomy and flexibility – our employees are in control of where they work and their working hours. Importantly for women, this means they are not stuck in the dichotomy of taking sick leave or trying to come into the office while unwell.”

贷给您更美好的未来

免费预评估

贷款查询,欢迎致电 13 14 88