The well being and health aspects of female workers were discussed. More than half of all women age 16 years or more were in the labor force by 1978. Almost 54 percent were married and living with their husbands and one in five of those couples had children under age six. Better than 10 percent of female workers were heads of family, two thirds having children under 18 years old. The health of women is expected to decline as more women enter the workplace and take on advantages and problems traditionally belonging to men. Among working women, up to 55 percent of female workers smoked, compared to one third of all women and more than one in four among females were problem or potential problem drinkers. The average female weighed as much as 20 percent above her ideal weight, consumed 400 calories a day more than she needed, and engaged less in sport activities. However, about 30 percent of women were individuals or heads of household living in poverty with diets that were 20 to 30 percent deficient in calories and almost 50 percent deficient in iron. Their unemployment rate was higher than for men. Their overall earning was 60 percent of man's earning and they spent more time on unpaid work than their spouses. Maternity benefits comparable to other health plan benefits were available to less than 40 percent of covered female workers. The author states that the task of protecting and improving the health of female workers calls for programs and policies that would help compensate for their health risks. The health professionals should work with management, unions, and other groups to improve health promoting options, such as educational programs, more healthful foods, segregated smoking areas, exercise breaks, smoking cessation and weight control clinics, child care, prenatal and other high risk monitoring, reduction in environmental safety and health hazards, flexible work scheduling, equal health plan coverage, and improved unemployment insurance. The authors conclude that the woman's view of women at work is not different from any perspective that seeks to enhance the health of all workers.
Occupational Safety and Health Symposia 1979, NIOSH, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Cincinnati, Ohio, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 80-139