If you employ more than ten women in your business, one of them probably suffers from Endometriosis. And yet over half of us don’t know what it is. Isn’t it time we talked about it?
Endometriosis has long been an under-the-radar condition, with over half of the UK being unaware of what it is. And yet, one in ten women suffer chronically from it – causing them to have time off work, or leave their roles entirely.
As we enter Endometriosis Awareness Month this March, we ask whether or not it’s time to really lift the lid on this under-funded and under-supported condition, to finally give women in the workplace the help they deserve.
What is Endometriosis?
Despite the fact that this debilitating condition affects so many women, the vast majority of us know very little about it.
Endometriosis is a painful and debilitating disorder where tissue (similar to the lining of the womb) grows in other places, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Symptoms include extreme pain, vomiting, cold sweats and dizziness. In some cases, Endometriosis can lead to infertility.
A report commissioned by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG 2020 Report) showed how Endometriosis is having a major impact on women in the workplace. The data demonstrates that:
- 18% have “very often” had to change or leave their job, with 10% saying this has “often” happened to them.
- 29% said they “often” had to take time off work.
- 15% state they believe that they have missed out on promotion.
Charity Endometriosis UK offers a support network for those affected by the condition, but also provides webinars and an online community to help raise awareness for employers.
Organisations can also research recent progress in Parliament, in which an Endometriosis Friendly Employer scheme was introduced.
CNC (Civil Nuclear Constabulary) signed up to this scheme, helping the force move towards a more inclusive workplace.
Assistant Chief Constable Duncan Worsell said: “As a predominantly armed police force, we ask a lot of our Authorised Firearms Officers, both physically and mentally. Suffering with a chronic condition such as endometriosis is hard enough, so having a supportive employer is vital to ensure the condition is managed.”
A more inclusive workplace
WISE CEO Kay Hussain said: “Employers must educate themselves about Endometriosis if they are to effectively support women in the workplace.
“This is a common and debilitating condition which affects one in ten women. Most large organisations will likely have some female employees with Endometriosis – but how many of them know about it?
“We should be creating a work environment in which women feel comfortable to come forward and be open about the condition. That support must first start with self education as an employer.”
How to support your employees
Though this is a chronic condition, women are not always comfortable opening up about it. It’s not registered as a disability, and because it’s incredibly hard to get an official diagnosis, many women are living with the symptoms without getting the medical help they so desperately need.
With these things in mind, your organisation can support employees by:
Offering flexible working
Women with Endometriosis may not get much of a warning before a flare up. And they may find themselves unable to work at short notice. Offering flexible working allows them to take time when it’s needed – but it also demonstrates that you are taking action to support them as an employer.
Signposting appropriate support
Not all women know how to get help, and that’s because it’s not always easy to access it. Being able to direct them and signpost appropriate services will go a long way.
Being educated (and compassionate)
It’s worth taking the time to learn about the symptoms and effects of Endometriosis. Even if you don’t have / don’t know that you have an employee with the condition. The chances are very high that if you don’t have one now, you will at some point in your organisation. Compassion and understanding can come only after a basic understanding is in place.
WISE: Supporting gender diversity in STEM
WISE is the leading UK organisation dedicated to delivering women-centred equality, diversity and inclusion solutions for STEM. Organisations choose WISE to improve opportunities for women and enhance D&I in the workplace.
Discover more about WISE membership here.