Women make up 75.8% of the teaching workforce. It’s time we do more to support them.
Employers who back women through huge life events such as menopause and even infertility can increase staff retention and save a lot of money.
To support women’s health in the workplace businesses can:
- Educate staff
- Normalise conversations
- Introduce policies
- Provide external support
Introduce a women’s network to the workplace. These groups can be a safe space for those who are having a difficult time personally.
Not only this, but women’s groups can amplify women’s voices- educating colleagues via termly newsletters or CPD.
This network can then be broken down into subgroups, by creating for example a fertility network.
Consider bringing in external support to further promote awareness around women’s heath. To start with, menopause support, gender inclusion and reproductive health is a good place to begin when educating staff.
Menopause affects 100% of women. Symptoms consist of memory loss and anxiety- both of which can affect performance at work, which demonstrates why this is a women’s health issue that deserves to be taken seriously.
Fertility Issues in Teaching delivers training to schools and businesses tailored to HR, line managers, leaders, governors and the staff body.
Fertility and menopause are often viewed as taboo topics, with many women feeling uncomfortable discussing such personal subjects with employers.
The more we talk about the likes of infertility and menopause the more likely the stigma is to be broken. Staff will be more willing to come forward to disclose their personal challenges.
Women’s Ed are launching some excellent campaigns that support female teachers. These are: reducing the gender pay gap, flexible working practice, increase diversity in leadership, and menopause amongst others.
Normalising conversations in the workplace around wellness for women, with topics such as endometriosis, is a brave move. Doing it will allow both women and men to feel more comfortable engaging in discusses around taboo subjects.
Ways to normalise conversations:
- launch a staff women’s health event and invite speakers to talk to employees
- posters up in staff areas that raise awareness and signpost to advice and support within the school
- share up-to-date relevant information in newsletters and on noticeboards
- create time and space to ask questions and really listen to the answers that women are giving
- include information around the work that is being done to raise awareness and educate staff on female health in the recruitment and induction process
- partner with an organisation like Fertility Issues in Teaching to access fertility education resources and training for line managers, HR and leaders
The policies female teachers told us they would like to see covered are:
- Fertility treatment
- Mental health (for all staff)
- Endometriosis and PCOS
- Gender equality
In a recent poll, only 35.1% of female teachers said they would ask a potential employer whether they recognise women’s reproductive health in workplace policy.
In response to the poll, one teacher said ‘I’ve found that in my 30’s I will ask any pertinent question without fear of it being ‘cringe’. I hate the fine lines starting to appear, but I love the fearlessness that comes with getting older. Do it ladies, ask the questions unapologetically.’
Policies are necessary for female staff to know they can approach their employer.
If done correctly, equitable and inclusive policies- like a fertility treatment policy, are a white flag in the workplace.
They imply that intervention will be provided.
Provide external support
Putting provisions in place for colleagues where it is needed will lessen the likelihood of staff going off on longterm sick.
Possible provisions include:
- Employee assistance programme
- Fertility coaching
Bretta Townend-Jowitt @headspiration is a former headteacher. She now works as a coach and an education and wellbeing consultant. Bretta put the following in place in her school to better support women:
- Created a female health policy and guidelines
- Made reasonable adjustments for women during the perimenopause e.g. provision of fans, space to change, cover for class for bathroom visits, ensuring ventilation of classrooms, senior leader open door policy, provision of safe space to discuss needs openly
- Displayed posters, information and signposting of menopause and peri menopause symptoms for everyone not just peri-menopausal women
- Supported paid leave for female staff to attend standard medical appointments related to female health such as cervical and breast screening (rathe than having to wait until the school holidays)
- Sanctioned paid leave for non-standard medical appointments such as fertility treatment
- Created a safe space for mums returning from maternity leave for expressing milk
- Treated everyone with dignity and respect and was open and flexible to the needs and adjustments required
- Ensured the workplace didn’t make symptoms of perimenopause, pregnancy, menstruation etc worse
Bretta said that the staff and governors commented positively to the proactive nature of the policy and guidelines:
- One staff member needed a space for breastfeeding during her interview and was pleased that school could provide this facility and be flexible with the timings of the day.
- Two TAs utilised the paid leave option for their cervical and breast screening.
The posters were interpreted as controversial by some younger members of staff who displayed banter about the topic of menopause and peri menopause. This, Bretta said, demonstrated the need for more education around women’s heath.
A great example of raising awareness around women’s issues in the workplace.
For more information and ideas of how to create a more inclusive workplace for your staff visit the blog. You can book fertility education training for your team here