“There is more that connects us than we know”: dismantling the silence and stigma around reproductive health at work.
About two months ago when I started undertaking research into reproductive health and why it is a workplace issue, I had no idea of the response I would receive from colleagues.
I wanted to highlight the extent of how many people will go through miscarriage, abortion, fertility treatments among other health issues, and why organisations cannot continue to overlook the inevitable barriers this creates for increasing numbers of women at work. While curating these insights into what would eventually form an infographic to help organisations acknowledge the extent of these experiences,I shared my focus and intent among colleagues’. I was overwhelmed by the openness and connectedness between us as they came forward to share their experiences around reproductive health. “There is more that connects us than we know”, our solutions director said to me.
In the UK, one in eight women will experience a miscarriage. Several of my colleagues, or their partners, told me that they were one of them. One in three women in the UK will have an abortion, and I am one of those women. Colleagues going through the menopause have told me of their workplace challenges, and how ‘you just carry on’. A close colleague shared that she was undergoing IVF, and Caitlin Kinsella, our Global Director of Employee Engagement & Inclusion at Capita Group, shared her experience of fertility treatment and why Capita has developed a new life leave policy in this article.
Thankfully, awareness and similar supportive policies are growing. The Government has just launched a new fund for VCSE organisations who support women experiencing reproductive issues to remain in or return to the workplace and outlined in the Women’s Health Strategy for England their ambition for women experiencing women’s health issues such as period problems, endometriosis, fertility treatment, miscarriage and menopause, to feel well supported in their workplaces.
In discussing the future of abortion rights Professor Khiara Bridges made the crucial point that reproductive health is also not solely a women’s issue. While cis women may represent most people with the potential for pregnancy, trans men and non-binary individuals are equally capable of pregnancy and should not be overlooked.
So, why should this matter for organisations?
We operate in a world where purpose and values are increasingly as important as (and linked to) success in profit. If organisations want to attract and support the best talent doing their best work, we need to create an environment which nurtures and includes everyone – and that means breaking down the barriers to talk about things that were previously considered taboo in the workplace - like reproductive health.
Our work therefore sets out to highlight the context and urgency for considering reproductive health as a workplace issue, and the importance of ensuring that all individuals no longer feel overlooked in the workplace.
See the infographic