The Indian Women’s Health Report 2021 surveying 1,000 working women aged between 25 and 55 across seven cities has revealed that around half of them are not comfortable talking about one or more health issues due to the prevalent societal taboo and stigmas associated with them.
The study has been conducted by Emcure Pharmaceuticals in association with Ipsos Research Private Limited (Ipsos India) to gain insights on the social, cultural and medical outlook for working women and eventually find solutions involving various stakeholders.
Through this survey, women working in white-collar jobs shared details of stigmas they face related to health, and how it leads to social pressures and professional issues. Among the key findings are that 90 per cent of working women face a conflict of interest while balancing familial, personal and professional obligations. 86 per cent of working women have observed their colleagues, relatives or friends drop out of the workforce, 59 per cent of whom cited health issues as the main reason.
Another finding was that 84 per cent of working women have faced stereotypes or judgements around periods such as being told not to go near sacred places of worship or kitchen or to hide their sanitary napkins.
While 66 per cent of working women think society considers women suffering from endometriosis as unsuitable for marriage, 67% say that talking about health issues is still considered to be taboo in society.
The findings highlight that commonly occurring issues such as PCOS, breast cancer and endometriosis are still subject to taboo and stereotypes.
Namita Thapar, executive director, Emcure Pharmaceuticals, told media during the virtual launch of the report, “When we launched our YouTube talk show ‘Uncondition Yourself’ this January around women’s health, we realised that getting women to come on the show and talk about their health was a big challenge. This prompted us to conduct a study and ramp up our initiatives around awareness and diagnosis. Despite the progress we have made in the corporate sector for involving women in the workforce, issues related to women’s health are still associated with irrational taboos. The findings of our study reveal the persistence of misconceptions and illogical societal taboos related to women’s health issues affecting even India’s white-collar women across sectors.”
“The study indicates that besides health issues, there are multiple professional and societal stereotypes women are exposed to, which can lead to stigmatisation, affecting their professional performance,” Thapar said.
The study has found that even though nearly half the working women surveyed are either diagnosed with or know someone else diagnosed with issues such as infertility, breast cancer and PCOS, they are still hesitant to discuss these health issues. 75 per cent of the working women said that their employers were taking initiatives to help address health issues, the study also found that over 80 per cent of them felt that their male colleagues lacked sensitivity when it came to women’s health-related concerns.