Tackling the other Gender Gap

PB Account Manager Natasha Silkin writes…

Natasha Silkin

Natasha Silkin

In the week that would have marked Virginia Woolf’s 136thbirthday I have been reflecting her now famous words: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Despite several years passing, this remains true today. Equal pay continues to be an important battleground for gender equality and even 100 years after women were granted the right to vote, the pay gap between the sexes has not closed, with the UK’s 15 million working women missing out on £138 billion (£137,682,320,000) each year.

Whilst unequal pay often catches the headlines – and rightly so – there are other crucial battles women must also fight, particularly equal outcomes in healthcare.

A recent report by the British Heart Foundationfound that fewer women would die from heart attacks if they were given the same treatments as men. Researchers at the University of Leeds and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden analysed data from Sweden’s cardiac registry to assess the health of patients who suffered a heart attack during a 10 year period. What they found is that women are up to three times more likely than their male counter parts to die in the year following a heart attack. Despite women being more likely to suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure, they were less likely to receive the recommended treatments after a heart attack.

Sadly this inequality in terms of treatment options and outcomes for women is not just limited to heart attacks. Women are less likely than men to get CPRfrom bystanders and more likely to receive worse medical treatment for dementiathen men.  This is despite the fact women are more likely to report ill healththan men. So why are we getting a worse deal and what can be done about?

One explanation is that women are not forthcoming enough with their medical professionals and are more likely to want to “not cause a fuss.” So when we’re told “it’s all in your head” we believe it, instead of demanding a second opinion. Another explanation is that medical professionals do not adequately listen to what women have to say. Throw into the mix an underfunded and over stretched NHS and inadequate women’s health education in schools and you begin to get a broader understanding of the challenges women face.

If we want to tackle these inexcusable health equalities we need to start with a very frank conversation. Openly talking about women’s health is the first step in ensuring women receive fair, appropriate treatment. It is for this reason that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Health will host the first ever Women’s Health Parliamentary Conference in the month of International Women’s Day. On March 22nd2018 the WHAPPG will bring together women’s health champions to discuss health education, access to healthcare and how we can work together to ensure women are treated with respect and dignity at all stages of healthcare provision.

I hope this conference helps push women’s health further up the political agenda and helps to drive forward the change needed to ensure we received equal treatment options and health outcomes as men. Oh, and equal pay.