Gender health gap continues to affect working women: Sun Life

Know the factors that hinder their career growth

Gender health gap continues to affect working women: Sun Life
Gender health gap remains a pressing issue among working women, says new study of Sun Life Canada

A new study published by Sun Life Canada revealed that the gender health gap remains a critical issue among working women and several health factors are affecting their career advancement.

According to the Sun Life Canada study, 60 per cent of working women said that issues around reproductive health, menstruation, and menopause could affect their career advancement abilities. Some of the respondents even say that without the proper health support, they have to “step back, step down, and step away” from their careers.

Menopause and mental health issues take center stage

The study also revealed that four out of 10 (40 per cent) working women have already made some career-limiting decisions due to health issues or to take care of their families. Meanwhile, 10 per cent of working women have left or planning to leave their jobs because of menopausal symptoms

The Sun Life Canada study also showed that more than 40 per cent of the disability claims for women are for mental disorders – 10 per cent more than their male counterparts. Among the reasons that women use in filing for disability claims is stress due to reproductive health issues.

What is saddening, the report revealed that 29 per cent of working women felt the need to lie to their managers about why they were taking sick days for women's health issues.

Employers have a “crucial role” to play in addressing the issue

Sun Life Canada’s senior vice president for group benefits Marie-Chantal Côté said, that employers have a critical play to play in addressing the burgeoning issue of gender health gap among working women as it also affects the economy and society as a whole.

“While we've seen progress breaking through the glass ceiling, support for women's health issues continues to be lacking. We need more awareness and open dialogue. Talking about women's health should be as comfortable as discussing back pain,” she said. “The gender health gap affects not only women but their workplaces and society at large. Prioritizing women's health should be table stakes.”

However, the study revealed that only 37 per cent of the respondents said that their employers have provided them with adequate resources and support for their health needs. Moreover, only 42 per cent of working women said there was an open culture for talking about women's health at work.

The Sun Life study noted that employers can better support women by removing the stigma and creating an inclusive work environment for discussing women's health.

The study also suggests that another vital step to address the gender health gap issue is providing women with the right tools and resources that address their health challenges, including benefits like contraceptives, mental health support, physiotherapists and pelvic floor specialists, fertility procedures, and hormone therapy.

Meanwhile, employers that do offer tools and resources to support women's health must ensure that their employees are aware of what's already available.

Sun Life Canada’s executive vice president and Chief People and Culture Officer Helena Pagano said, there has been an overwhelming response, even among men, about women's health issues during their consultations. 

"We started hosting employee awareness sessions about women's health and the response has been tremendous. What I hear from everyone, including men, is how illuminating it is to learn about the challenges the women in their lives face," she said.