November 27, 2023

Employer Support for Women’s Health Will Advance Equity in the Health of Women

SWHR President and CEO Katie Schubert speaks at Swell’s New Pause Symposium in October 2023. 

By Katie Schubert, President and CEO of the Society for Women’s Health Research  

The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) is on a mission to make women’s health mainstream. This means ensuring that we, as a society, are doing everything we can to advance equity in the health of women across the health span. 

This includes supporting women at work. Employers have a unique opportunity to drive advancements in women’s health, and employee benefits are an important piece of this puzzle. 

Fortunately, workplace conversations surrounding employees’ health are increasing, and many workplaces now offer additional coverage and access to treatments and services, such as for those who are seeking treatment for infertility, are pregnant, are caring for an elderly parent or child, or are managing their mental health. Now we are seeing what I like to call a “menopause moment” as a part of workplace wellness, with employers proactively thinking about how to better support women who are experiencing a transition into menopause.  

However, the need for these benefits goes far beyond gender pay equity and more flexible work schedules. A 2022 Mercer study noted a gap between benefits for men and women especially when it comes to reproductive health issues and health conditions that disproportionately or solely affect women.  

A recent Deloitte report titled, “Hiding in plain sight: The health care gender tollshared staggering information about how inequal health care continues to be. Even without maternity care claims, the average out-of-pocket medical spend is higher for women than men. “Overall, women pay $15.4 billion more than men in annual out-of-pocket health care expenses, not including premium costs,” the report states. It noted that closing the benefit gap could help drive health equity. 

With one-third of our lives spent at work, there are myriad opportunities for employers and employee health benefit plans to contribute to advancing the health of women.  

I had the pleasure of attending a variety of conferences this year focused on the health of women in the workplace, and the energy surrounding this issue is palpable. Some of these events included the Economic Alliance for Michigan’s Women’s Health in the Workplace National Symposium, the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions’ National Alliance Leadership Summit and Annual Forum, and Swell’s New Pause Symposium 

Strategies raised during these events that could benefit women in the workplace include: 

Ultimately, supporting women in the workplace can help improve company culture and its bottom line. Employee health benefits decisionmakers and those who create and maintain employee benefits generally have a great opportunity to create female-friendly workplaces and lead the way in advancing equity in the health of women. The time to make these changes is now. 

SWHR is committed to supporting this work. Several of SWHR’s resources offer workplace tips (check out the Narcolepsy Toolkit and the Migraine Toolkit), and we are excited to release additional menopause in the workplace resources in the next few months, including the release of our menopause in the workplace survey results. We look forward to continuing this important discussion and watching the workplace wellness landscape improve – for women and for everyone.