New research: The role of gender specific health benefits in helping businesses attract and retain female talent

March 1, 2023

Today marks the launch of a new report we’ve been working on with our partners at the Rewards and Employee Benefits Association (REBA). The report ‘Examining inclusive wellbeing in the workplace’ seeks to uncover current and future HR objectives, as well as organisational risks – with a view to understanding how gender-focused benefits can help businesses reach their ‘people’ goals.

While the findings produced a number of interesting insights, as we approach this year’s International Women’s Day, the clear focus on recruiting, retaining, developing and promoting female talent is perhaps the most pertinent. 

Indeed, the research indicated that almost all businesses (93%) who responded to the survey, have at least one HR objective dedicated to better supporting female employees. Specifically;

  • 87% of businesses have a current or future HR objective to increase the number of females in leadership positions (vs. just 3% of males) 
  • 82% have a current or future HR objective to enhance the career prospects for females (vs. 26% for males)
  • 68% have a current or future HR objective to retain more females (vs. 19% for males)
  • 66% have a current or future HR objective to recruit more females (vs. just 10% for males)

A further 85% of respondents said that closing the gender pay gap remains a current or future HR objective, demonstrating that despite heightened awareness, the gulf in gender parity at work is far from being solved.

Current and future HR risks

When asked about current risks to their organisation, more than half (62%) cited their ability to attract and retain females as a current risk, followed by an ageing male workforce (29%) and a lack of gender diversity negatively impacting creativity/insights (29%). Retaining new parents (23%) and retaining working carers (18%) came in fourth and fifth respectively, both of which tend to disproportionately impact female colleagues. 

Accusations of discrimination linked to gender were also identified as a future risk by 16% of firms.

Looking at future risks, a pattern of concern is clear around the prospect of an ageing workforce. The biggest future risks cited by employers were females unable to retire due to inadequate savings (41%) and males unable to retire due to inadequate savings (33%). 

Yet just 21% of respondents say that closing the gender pensions gap is a current HR objective – though this is set to almost double within the next two years, with a further 20% likely to put an objective in place to address this.

Developing a gender-focused strategy

Despite the clear focus on female talent, the main reasons cited for introducing gender-focussed benefits were to improve workforce wellbeing (73%), improve workforce DE&I (70%) and be competitive as an employer of choice (67%).

In the report, REBA summaries the discrepancies here as: 

“Employee benefits are only effective if they meet the diverse needs of individuals, rather than being constrained by a one-size-fits-all template. While there are more female-identifying employees than ever in the workplace, employee benefits and wellbeing strategies originally designed for a traditional, male-identifying, full-time workforce persist.”

“That mismatch between strategies and benefits and current workforce demographics has driven pay and pensions gaps, loss of senior female talent and has limited opportunities for parents.”

Just 20% of employers currently have a joined-up strategy in place to support female focussed health and wellbeing in the workplace.

Benefits currently offered by employers

When asked about the current gender-focussed benefits offered, menopause support was the leading benefit (39%). While increased awareness of menopause as a workplace issue has likely encouraged this, other areas that have an equally big impact on productivity, absence and retention of women were less of a focus. Namely, fertility support, which is currently offered by just 15% of employers and general women’s health support (covering conditions such as PCOS and Endometriosis) also only offered by 15%. 

Indeed, when asked specifically about current or future risks to absence or productivity, 73% saw female mental wellbeing as a risk and 63% named female physical health a risk.

These findings seem to indicate a recognition amongst employers that greater support for female health concerns is needed, but what’s less clear is whether they’re spotting the connections between having gender specific support in place, and meeting their current HR objectives, which are almost entirely focused on supporting women.

Almost all of the data we’ve reviewed so far, whether related to HR objectives or current or future risks – presents a clear pattern that suggests with greater support for women, a number of these could be addressed.

Equity in the workplace

In reviewing the findings of this research, Peppy Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Dr. Mridula Pore commented:

“The reality is that these problems persist because women still don’t have equity in the workplace. As this research shows, a woman’s reproductive biology will dictate that she will have a very different career journey to her male counterparts and as such, has very different needs at work. Employers who aren’t able to provide adequate support in these areas will, sadly, see women leaving their workforce and will likely find it difficult to attract female talent too.”

Indeed, employees are looking to their employers to recognise their needs and to provide support beyond employment. They want to know they work for a responsible employer, who looks out for them as ‘people’ not just as staff, and who aligns with their own values, morals and stories. In a tough candidate market, recognising the importance of gender-specific support, and providing it, can make all the difference to attracting the best talent (over your competitors).

In summary, when thinking about ways to meet HR objectives, this research suggests that employers need to get to know female biological health and educate their organisations on topics related to women’s health needs (such as painful periods, fertility journeys, carrying a child, miscarriage, becoming a parent, menopause – and everything in between). And most importantly, recognise the impact these conditions have on a female colleagues’ ability to do their jobs, and how without the right support, it is impossible to retain this important demographic.


To find out how your organisation could take steps to focus on equity in the workplace, download our latest toolkit: International Women’s Day 2023: A Toolkit for Women’s Health and Equity