Health in the Workplace


Women have been trapped under the proverbial glass ceiling for as long as they have been in the workforce. Women’s rights have indeed been bettered in the past century, though mostly in developing countries. One area where there still needs to be some work is occupational health safety. Though we have come far since women began working factory jobs in WWII, there is still much to be accomplished. Clearly there is a problem, when women comprise 46% of the U.S. workforce but are responsible for 81% of injury and sickness claims on a per hour basis (1). There are myriad problems stemming from the gender bias that exists in health research. Not only is this a detriment to women’s health but it is also costing companies the time and money lost when workers take sick leave.

It has been well documented in scientific literature that the dangers women encounter in their work have been underestimated (1). When approximating acceptable doses of toxins in humans, health researchers base daily concentration allowances on the standard body: a 70 kg male. I am a 55 kg woman, so how do the government regulated “acceptable” doses relate to me? Males and females metabolize chemicals at different speeds and in different ways: “bone, fat, and immune system metabolism as well as cardiovascular and endocrine function are all known to differ by sex” (1).

Women are not the only one’s left out in occupational health research. Men’s reproductive health is sometimes overlooked in the workplace, as seen in the Johnson Controls case, where women were denied jobs in a factory working with lead because employers feared reproductive harm in the women. Health researchers and industry leaders need to take into account all types of bodies and sexes when making such decisions about who is safe and who is not.

Furthermore, sex can be left out of population descriptions in public health publication. The social sciences include sex in their studies, so why shouldn’t biomedical sciences? Studying the biological differences between men and women’s health and safety needs will not work against women’s plight for equality: achieving equal respect in regard to each sexes needs will bring this country closer to justice in the workplace.

1.) Karen Messing et al. “Be the Fairest of Them All: Challenges and Recommendations for the Treatment of Gender in Occupational Health Research.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 43:618-629 (2003)

  1. #1 by Driver Download on January 11, 2011 - 10:55 pm

    Studying the biological differences between men and women’s health and safety needs will not work against women’s plight for equality: achieving equal respect in regard to each sexes needs will bring this country closer to justice in the workplace.

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