Top women's health campaigners discuss priorities ahead of International Women’s Day
Wellbeing of Women brings together inspiring women to discuss challenges and action needed to drive change across women's health
What I don't want for my daughter is to go through the shame that I think so many women of my generation have felt all our lives about everything to do with our bodies.
Presenter and journalist
Ahead of International Women's Day on Wednesday 8 March, we hosted a panel discussion on the inevitability of two life stages for most women: periods and the menopause.
We were joined by TV presenter Davina McCall, who is an Ambassador of Wellbeing of Women, and other high-profile campaigners to discuss the importance of prioritising women’s health to benefit women and girls at school, in the workplace, and across society as a whole.
Also in attendance was journalist Mariella Frostrup, Severn Trent CEO Liv Garfield, Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon, and Olympic champion Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill.
For too long women’s health has not been prioritised. Women have not been listened to and their concerns and symptoms have not been taken seriously, often dismissed as just “women's problems”.
Historically there has been very little investment in research to find breakthroughs in diagnosis, treatments, and prevention for conditions that can have a huge impact on women and girls’ quality of life.
I want to reframe the way that society sees menopausal women. They really know what they're doing. Then my next thing...we've got to de-demonise HRT. It has to change.
Wellbeing of Women Ambassador
NHS wait times for referrals in gynaecology have increased by 60% - more than in any other area - and issues like endometriosis take an average of 8 years to diagnose. Too often, women are struggling to get the right information about their health, to book routine appointments and to get their basic health needs met.
The panellists contributed their thoughts and personal experiences on the lack of accurate health information available to women, as well as the difficulties in accessing appointments and treatments. They discussed what they feel needs to be done to close the gender health gap and the stigma and taboo that still exists around women's bodies.
Speaking about the shame she felt around her body growing up, Mariella Frostrup said: "What I don't want for my daughter is to go through, first and foremost, the shame that I think so many women of my generation have felt all our lives about everything to do with our bodies. And so I think that it's imperative that menstrual health gets talked about, that menopause gets talked about and everything in between."
Davina McCall said: "I want to reframe the way that society sees menopausal women...They've been doing their job for 20 or 30 years. They really know what they're doing. They're probably really good at it by that point and they have so much to offer.
"For the economy, it's enormous. You don't want to be losing doctors, nurses, teachers when they've got all that experience behind them. So I thought, we've got to reframe the way we look at menopausal women for a start, and then my next thing was, we've got to de-demonise HRT. It has to change."
It honestly blew my mind that there’s this gender data gap. It affects so many women in so many different ways. Most women don’t really realise. So many of my friends have no idea that this is impacting on them and their lives.
Dame Jessica Ennis Hill
Also in attendance were charity Ambassadors, resident TV doctor for BBC Breakfast, Dr Nighat Arif, and Rosie Nixon, Creative Brand Ambassador of Hello! Magazine.
Watch the panel discussion in full below.
Main image: Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Alex Mahon, Professor Dame Lesley Regan, Mariella Frostrup, Davina McCall and Liv Garfield