Education And Debate

ABC of Work Related Disorders: WOMEN AT WORK

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: (Published 26 October 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:1073
  1. Laila H Kapadia

    More and more women seek paid employment outside the home, and, by the year 2000, they will make up 45% of the Western world's workforce. Almost half work part time. Women, whether working or not, still generally bear the greater share of housework, child care, and care of elderly people.

    Women in workforce in United Kingdom 1994

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    Reductions in sexual discrimination and the influence of the women's liberation movement now allow women to enter almost any occupation, however physically demanding or apparently unsuitable. In some countries, mainly developing ones, women are the mainstay of the agricultural working population. In others, such as those of the former Soviet Union, women predominate in medicine and engineering. Equal opportunities legislation in socially developed countries outlaws sexual discrimination and ensures job retention during and after pregnancy, allowing women to continue working throughout their reproductive span. Despite all this, in all societies women's work is less prestigious and less well paid.

    Full time and part time workers in United Kingdom 1994

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    Although women live longer than men (84 v 79 years in Britain) and are more interested in their health, they suffer greater morbidity, take more drugs, consult their general practitioners more often, are more frequently admitted to hospital, and take more time off work (though the reasons for this are not as clear as they may seem—see ABC chapter on absence from work, 5 October).

    Absence from work due to ill health in United Kingdom 1990

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    Medical advances for women at work

    Advances in medicine, not least a more holistic approach by gynaecologists, have helped women by controlling symptoms that were once common reasons for absence from work—dysmenorrhoea, menorrhagia, and perimenopausal symptoms. Intrauterine surgery, outpatient investigations, and day case treatments can expedite a return to work. On the other hand, fertility treatment can, because of its inflexible timing, mean periods away from work and can be attended by the side effects of drugs and tension and anxiety that may affect performance at work.

    Contraception has allowed women to …

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