Inspiring Inclusion in Healthcare

The importance of providing safe and inclusive health spaces for women

6 min | News

Celebrated on 8 March worldwide, 2024’s International Women’s Day theme ‘Inspiring Inclusion’ focuses on celebrating women’s achievements while also raising awareness of discrimination and gender disparity they experience. This day recognises the importance we all play as women, men, non-binary and gender diverse people in breaking down stereotypes and creating a world where everyone has equal rights and opportunities. 

In a nation-first gender bias survey – involving almost 3000 Australian women, health professionals and stakeholder groups about women’s health system experiences – the results show: 

  • Two in three women experience bias and discrimination in healthcare, especially when it comes to sexual and reproductive health 
  • Being stereotyped as hysterical or drama queens, and being made to feel like a waste of time is a common experience 
  • Symptoms were often incorrectly linked to periods or lifestyle behaviours, and many were sent home with paracetamol or a hot water bottle 
  • For over 70% of women, negative experiences occurred during GP visits 
  • Nearly half reported having negative experiences in hospital settings  

The consequences of these negative experiences extend beyond emotional distress to include feelings of abandonment, shame, blame and self-doubt – in some cases, delaying diagnosis and treatment lead to disease progression and worsened health outcomes. 

Assistant Health Minister Ged Kearney says, 

“The results of this survey point out all the things we’ve been saying are true. We know anecdotally, but it’s good to have evidence: gender bias in healthcare has really far-reaching impacts on women’s lives.” 

Inclusivity is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ but is essential in all walks of life, especially in healthcare and workspaces. Wavelength’s Founder, Claire Ponsford shares, “The recruitment industry has always attracted a reasonably high percentage of women but now we’re seeing more and more women taking the lead which is really inspiring.” 


Why inclusive healthcare matters: 

Generations of women have faced demeaning, discriminatory and poor-quality healthcare experiences. Progress has been made, but there is still so much work to done to ensure that all women have access to inclusive, respectful and non-judgmental healthcare, and gender equitable opportunities.  

Inclusive women’s healthcare looks like services that: 

  • Cover a women’s entire lifespan and acknowledge her various roles beyond reproduction 
  • Advocate for increased participation of women in decision-making for health services and policies, as both consumers and providers 
  • Recognise and affirm women’s rights to dignity in healthcare settings that prioritise privacy, informed consent and confidentiality 
  • Emphasise the need for accessible information tailored to different socioeconomic, cultural and geographical groups in order to make informed decisions 
  • Utilise evidence-based practices, data and research to address women’s health needs effectively 

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” – Gloria Steinem 


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