New Indeed survey data uncovers a wellbeing gap for women at work. Meeting these needs could help win the war for talent and make work better for all.

Key Takeaways

  • A new Indeed global research report reveals that, while a majority of women feel well-supported on both a workplace and national level when it comes to pregnancy, far fewer feel the same way about other health and wellbeing issues.
  • There is far less support for women going through menopause, requiring fertility healthcare or experiencing painful periods or endometriosis, as well as for queer women, same-sex partners and those gender transitioning, according to the survey.
  • To make work better for more women, employers should make their company benefits and policies more comprehensive and inclusive and create a safe space for women to share their challenges.

As co-chair of Indeed’s Women at Indeed Inclusion Business Resource Group (IBRG), Caroline Coffey often engages in dialogue about women’s reproductive health. But recently, a female employee raised a question she’d never before encountered: Were there any resources or accommodations for debilitating period symptoms?

The answer was no (at least, not yet). But that’s because no one was talking about it. 

This is only one example of women’s health and wellbeing needs that are often unspoken — and unsupported — at work.

“Many of these conversations are still taboo in the workplace,” says Coffey, a Director of Inside Sales at Indeed. “It's this invisible war we go through. Since these symptoms can't be seen by the naked eye, asking for accommodations requires a level of trust and understanding that sometimes isn't there.” 

In a new Indeed global research report, Beyond Empowerment: Promoting Women for Better Work, more than half of the women surveyed say they believe their organization supports pregnant women (58%), working mothers (54%) and maternity leave (51%). In addition, half of women believe their country supports pregnant women. However, respondents felt other groups received much less support on a national level, including: 

  • Queer women, same-sex partners and those gender transitioning (26%)
  • People in need of medical fertility support (22%)
  • People in need of egg freezing/IVF support (19%)
  • Women with painful periods or endometriosis (18%)
  • Women going through menopause (18%)
Bar graph based on YouGov & Indeed survey, “Indeed: Future of Women in the Workplace,” Nov 2023, Base: Total (14,677), depicting how many women surveyed believe these groups are supported by their country: Pregnant women (50%), Maternity leave and financial support for leave (45%), Working mothers (36%), Women who are caregivers (31%), Women experiencing bereavement (27%), Queer women, same-sex partnerships, gender transitioning (26%), Employees with poor mental health (25%), People in need of medical fertility support (22%), Egg freezing/IVF support (19%), Women with painful periods or endometriosis (18%), Women going through menopause (18%). Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding and other factors.

“By removing some of the mental and physical burdens faced by women, employers will create an environment that is attractive to women job seekers and will help to retain them.,” says Misty Gaither, Executive Sponsor of Women at Indeed and Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB+). “Addressing these unmet needs will not only help break down barriers for those seeking better work, but also elevate your brand in a competitive talent marketplace.”

To learn what women really need to thrive in the workplace, we spoke with Coffey and other women at Indeed to hear their personal stories. Here’s what they had to say.

Look for Omissions and Bias in Company Benefits and Policies

For Daelynn Moyer, a software engineering manager and member of the iPride & Gender Identity IBRG, the culture at Indeed has been supportive and affirming of her gender transition — but not all workplaces have been. 

“I have left companies, at least in part, because of inadequate benefit support for my gender journey,” she says. “If that had been the only problem, I might have been willing to work around it. But what I find is that there tends to be a pretty strong correlation between a paucity of gender-affirming benefits and a work culture that is less tolerant, welcoming and embracing of difference.”

In the past, she has faced limitations in gender-affirming health benefits that include only hormone replacement therapy and genital surgery. Other considerations that play a pivotal role in a person’s ability to transition and feel comfortable as themselves in the workplace include top surgery, prosthetic wigs and hair removal.

“There are all kinds of things that go into how one experiences themselves at work that have nothing to do with their genitals,” says Moyer, “and 90% of the time those things are categorized as ‘cosmetic’ in relation to gender-affirming care, and therefore not covered by insurance.” 

To help remove obstacles like this for your workforce, you can evaluate your benefits and other policies for omissions, double standards and other signs of bias. Questions to ask include:

  • Do your employee benefits, company policies and resources address all aspects of reproductive health — not just care for people who can become pregnant but also preconception planning, fertility and IVF needs, postpartum care and miscarriage?
  • Are there double standards or hidden biases in your healthcare policy? For example, does your policy cover a prosthetic wig or breast augmentation for cisgender women with cancer but not for transgender women? 
  • What accommodations do you provide for women’s health issues that may impact their ability to participate fully in the workplace? Many women suffer in silence through the discomfort of painful periods, endometriosis, PMS or the hormonal side effects associated with feminizing hormone therapy. Consider offering the option to work from home or providing on-site wellness resources.
  • What benefits might boost equity for women while benefiting everyone in your organization? Open paid time off, flexible schedules and remote and hybrid work arrangements support greater work wellbeing overall but can be especially helpful for women navigating health issues — for example, those juggling hectic fertility treatment schedules.

Want more work wellbeing strategies? Download our Work Wellbeing Playbook for a comprehensive collection of research-based tactics.

Encourage Women to Share Their Struggles — And Amplify Their Voices

To make meaningful changes, decision-makers often require data that proves a need. However, in order to collect that data, women in the workplace must feel comfortable enough to share their stories and ask for what they need.

Truthfully, there are a lot of women suffering through things we don't know about because traditionally work has not been a safe space for them to share.

Stacy Peters, co-chair of the Women at Indeed IBRG

“Truthfully, there are a lot of women suffering through things we don't know about because traditionally work has not been a safe space for them to share,” says Stacy Peters, Senior Manager of Operations in HR and co-chair of the Women at Indeed IBRG. 

“For example, if we had data showing how many women are asking for some sort of sick leave due to debilitating period symptoms, that can help tell a profound story that can lead to a change in an organization,” says Peters. “But first we have to create a safe space for women to even want to come forward.”

One way to accomplish this is by establishing employee resource groups (ERGs), otherwise known as business resource groups (BRGs) or, as they’re referred to at Indeed, IBRGs. These groups help cultivate an inclusive workplace environment and amplify the voices of historically underserved communities. They provide a space where like-minded employees can speak freely about shared challenges, promote education and teach members to advocate for themselves.

Perhaps even more importantly, ERGs and BRGs can act as the “voice of the people” and advocate for their needs to company leaders. For example, the Parents and Caregivers IBRG at Indeed was pivotal in the decision to extend parental leave to 26 weeks in 2023. 

“When I first started at Indeed, we didn't even have maternity leave. We had short-term disability,” says Peters. “Nobody was fighting and demanding it, because it wasn't something the majority of people needed at the time. But when those large groups of people started to get to the point where the noise became louder, the policies had to change.”

Normalize Humanity in the Workplace

Ultimately, fostering a work culture that works for women is about making space for being human.

Empower managers to better support women’s unique needs, including all aspects of the gender journey, through education, training and regular meetings with ERG leaders. In addition, encourage company leaders to lead by example in making vulnerability the norm in the workplace, including being more open about their own personal challenges, “parenting out loud,” prioritizing their own health and wellbeing — and encouraging others to do the same.

“We have to begin establishing a culture where being complicated and messy is allowed,” says Moyer.

After all, she notes, creating space for that level of humanism in the workplace doesn’t just benefit women, including those who are trans or may be struggling in silence. It benefits everyone.

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