Every year 8th March marks International Women's Day; a celebration of all women! But it also raises awareness to the continuing inequality of gender across the world. Here, we have looked at the inequalities regarding healthcare. Women are subjected to more violence in terms of domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, and under-representation across the healthcare industry. We also, research the employment rates and their effect on women's healthcare; not only does the gender pay gap pose a risk to health, but medications and drugs for women have less vigorous testing...
A survey published late last year had some damning statistics in terms of gender inequality in the UK. Whilst many EU countries have taken strides in the last 15 years, seeing improvements in the workplace, education, income, politics and health, the UK has made zero to limited improvements since 2005. This stagnation has filtered its way into the health sector.
Inequality in health can manifest in a number of ways. From a misdiagnosis to funding invested in female issues. For example, the Women's Equality Party piece in The Guardian states that just "0.4% of medical research funding is invested in obstetrics and gynaecological conditions".
This can be seen on a very basic level in terms of medical testing and research. This is also engineered towards men with the vast majority of tests performed on male lab rats, and this is associated with male symptoms rather than symptoms experienced by women.
Men employed within the health sector dominant with 66% of men versus 33% of women in the science and technology sector. It is also far more likely for men to sit on the boards of healthcare companies, whilst the women hold the positions underneath. For example, in the UK, women account for approximately 23% of presidents, chief executives and board chairs of all companies compared to 77% of men.
With limited research of gynaecological conditions, testing of men conditions on male lab rats and the bias towards male employees in the healthcare sector, it's no surprise that women are vastly underrepresented.
As well as tests being associated with male symptoms of conditions often affecting both genders, our wellbeing can also be confined into gender stereotyping therefore affecting our health. One simple example is the changes in calories both men and women are recommended per day, which directly affects the food we eat. This has a knock-on effect with the exercise we do and sleep we get. These are often out-dated concepts that do not take into account the diversity of the population, but instead pigeonhole us into just two categories; male and female.
We can see the difference in everyday society. The funding, attention and popularity of men in sports compared to women is huge. Often women aren't encouraged to exercise nearly as much as men, and many female athletes hold down multiple jobs.
Despite women living longer than men, this doesn't mean the level of health throughout these years is higher. In fact, according to the New Scientist women may live longer but they suffer more years of poor health.
Ill health could potentially be connected to daily workload, not only through employment but family care. The Gender Equality Index published in 2017 stated that nearly 50% of women spend more than an hour each day caring for family members compared with a third of men.
Back in the early 1982s, 85-year-old men and women were expected to experience on average a further 2 and a half years of active living based on that age. A recent figure of this has shown that men's activity has now doubled to 4 years but this has remained the same for women. Combined this with a shorter time in employment and lower wages means the chances of experiencing hardship and even poverty as an elderly woman is higher.
Inequality in health stems from all aspects of life. From the social conditioning of not exercising as much as men to the research and funding given to female-orientated conditions, health inequality in the UK is present and needs to be combated.