Women form nearly half of the entire US workforce, yet are disproportionately impacted by workplace health and safety issues. This is immediately obvious in healthcare, where 70% of healthcare workers globally are women, according to the International Labor Organization. In the modern workplace, it’s more important than ever to hone in on the problems women face in the workplace and ensure that they are addressed in order to preserve their health and safety while they safeguard the health of the public.
A discriminatory factor?
Rights and protections for women in the workplace have improved, but it is arguable that gender-based harassment and discrimination remains endemic. A study conducted by BioMed Central Nursing in 2020 was particularly damning in its conclusions, finding that 43.15% of female nurses had experienced sexual harassment at work. The impact of traumatic workplace harassment is severe enough without considering the mental and physical after-effects that can create medical problems further down the line. This can and should be a concern for employers: legal experts at JJS outline how employers can be held liable for all medical concerns developed in the workplace, and how that liability can be enhanced when discriminatory factors are involved.
It follows that discrimination is a key issue that impacts a significant part of the workforce and that human cost has a huge impact on businesses. Statistics analyzed by Unilever reveal the scale of the problem, with up to $2 billion lost every year around the world to problems that disproportionately impact women in the workplace. It falls on employers, then, to do everything they can to minimize issues like harassment, both ethically and from a business standpoint, as these issues can have a real impact on the ability of women to complete their work safely and effectively. In the healthcare industry, this harassment can come internally and from patients.
There is a framework to prevent this sort of harm in the workplace. Business.com report that 75 countries have legal frameworks to deal with harassment in the workplace, but these vary wildly. The UK has potentially unlimited fines for workplace environments that allow harm, whereas there is no such rigorous law in place in India. For both employers and employees, learning where liability rests and adapting as such will be important to safeguarding women in the workplace.
Protecting women in the workplace should be a focus for employers. With so many women now relied on for making up the bulk of workforces, it stands to reason that this would benefit both the employer and the employee. Nowhere is this more important than in the ever-important healthcare industry.