3 honest health lessons from 20 inspirational women leaders
At &Me, our mission is to empower women with health by solving for her unique functional needs. Deeply understanding women and her distinct needs is an integral part of our existence.
While there is a lot of research on women’s shopping behavior and her role as the decision maker, it wasn’t straightforward for us to understand how women deal with personal health and what role it plays in their life journeys. Apart from a few articles on nutritional deficiencies, there is not much research available. Why? Maybe because of the taboo associated with the topic, maybe it isn’t significant, maybe women don’t like to talk about themselves, or maybe no one listened…
As part of our campaign #Unstoppable, last month we travelled to 5 cities across India to interview 20 successful women across various fields — corporates, entrepreneur, influencers, sports, media — to understand their incredible life journeys and, if at all, what role did health play in their careers?
What we learnt, summarized into 3 key messages below, is useful for anyone who is interested in their own health or managing health of people in their organizations:
1. Health plays an important constant role every woman’s life story.
There wasn’t any selection bias in the woman we spoke to. We made a list of women whose life stories we wanted to hear and just reached out. In the scheduled 30min — 45min we asked them free flowing questions about their life journeys and the role of health.
What we found, to a bit of our own surprise, was that we never had to cut down the health section of the questionnaire! From first periods stain during an important school event to period cramps during Olympics matches, from pregnancy during a career move to physical health changes during menopause, from PCOS to dysmenorrhea, it more common than we had read!
2. Accepting and understanding, helps deal with ‘it’
Our women knew the in and out of their respective fields, but there was a bias to not deal with “it”. Somewhere deep inside, acknowledging the uniqueness of menstrual health that came with being a woman got regarded as a sign of weakness. However, ‘keeping it in’ hindered their search for solutions and weakened their spirits.
“My PCOS went undiagnosed for 5 years. I would only share the experience with my mom; Sometimes the unbearable-unpredictable-out of my control pain dampened my ‘invincible’ spirit at work…”
“There were times when I had to change clothes in office, due to excessive period bleeding. I think my colleagues knew, but we never talked about it!…”
Those who had been successful talked about the need for understanding and accepting menstrual health as a regular body phenomenon, as much as feeling hungry. Understanding how hormones work, what changes happen in the body, what are the solutions, helped them take appropriate corrective actions.
“During periods, I go to meetings with a hot water pack and it is OK! I am now on an Ayurvedic diet that has been helping me with my period pains”
3. Sharing experiences has a multiplier effect in helping others
“There is still an unsaid taboo in talking about the topic. While people now feel comfortable liking menstrual posts on social media, they are still not comfortable talking about it!”
When our #Unstoppable women shared their stories, it reached out to 7 Lakh+ men and women. It struck a chord with many and revealed to them that they were not alone, giving them the confidence to reach out, ask questions and learn more.
Today, women’s health / hormonal health / menstrual health and hygiene doesn’t need to be hidden. We make it a problem by hiding something that affects 50% of the world’s population!
Let us, as individuals, leaders and companies do our bit in driving education and creating spaces where people feel comfortable being vulnerable asking questions and for support. Let us give our women the confidence that they do not need to be in pain. Let us push the world for better solutions.
A big THANK YOU to all the incredible women who shared their personal stories with us and became a part of our #Unstoppable campaign. Thank you Aparna Sharma (Serial author and former country head HR Lafarge India), Apoorva Jayarajan (fitness influencer), Archana Vohra (Director, Small and Medium business, Facebook India), Delnaaz Irani (TV actress, of Kal Ho na Ho fame), Medha Mukherjee (Founder, Feministaa), Mishti Khatri (Nike Run club pacer), Nabomita Mazumdar (Ambassador, Ministry of Women and Child development), Rani Rampal (Captain, Indian women’s hockey team), Ranjana Deopa (Ironman Finisher), Reema Sanghavi (Cofounder Pinkathon), Ritika Gupta (cofounder, Kalkifashion.com), Shubhra Chadha (Cofounder, Chumbak), Sairee Chahal (Founder, Sheroes), Suhani Mohan (Founder, Saral Designs), Tanvi Johri (Founder, Carmesi), Vineeta Singh (CEO, Sugar cosmetics), Zareen Siddique (Fitness influencer)