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“It’s crucial to recognize women as the norm rather than the second sex.”: Aneta Beranová on destigmatizing women’s health in the workplace

Written by
Femme Palette
Published on
June 4, 2024

Aneta Beranová, a dynamic marketing campaign manager at dm drogerie, is passionate about crafting communication strategies that make an impact. We spoke to Aneta about her passion for destigmatizing women’s health topics, what workplaces can do to be more inclusive towards women’s wellbeing, the power of allyship, and lots more.

Please begin by telling us a bit about yourself and what you do.

My name is Aneta Beranová, and I am a 28-year-old marketing campaign manager at dm drogerie, where I have been shaping impactful communication strategies for the past two years. Prior to this role, I engaged in international and intercultural extracurricular education initiatives while completing my studies in Germany. At dm drogerie, I develop campaigns that resonate broadly, effectively reaching what is essentially our target group—almost everyone. 😊 This role challenges me to blend creative and strategic thinking to meet the needs of a wide-ranging demographic.

You will be one of the speaker’s at the Femme Palette Women’s Health event where you’ll open the topic of breaking women’s health taboos in life and career. Why is this such an important topic to speak about?

Because taboos can kill us. Or at the very least, they diminish our quality of life and perpetuate discrimination. We humans need more empathy and a positive attitude towards individuality. It's crucial to strengthen the position of women and recognize them as the 'norm' rather than the 'second sex'—a perception I still strongly feel exists around us. For instance, menstruation is normal, and discussing it openly and respectfully should be too. It's not normal to feel immense stress over a menstrual blood spot on your trousers; these things happen. Period. 😊 Likewise, experiencing menopause, which can last many years, should be seen as normal topic. Issues like vaginal dryness, miscarriages, or even questioning the desire to become a mother should be openly discussed without stigma.

 

We should also embrace our hormonal cycles, recognizing that feeling tired is as natural as feeling euphoric at other times. We ought to leverage these phases instead of blaming ourselves for not being consistently hard-working. In a world that prizes productivity, it's important to understand that it's unrealistic—and indeed, inhuman—to expect 100% productivity every day.

 

By not discussing these issues, we disconnect from our bodies. We ignore pain, whether it's from painful periods or painful thoughts, which can lead to serious health issues like infertility or depression or burn-out. The danger of taboos lies in their ability to silence us, preventing necessary conversations about 'these things.' Breaking these taboos is not just about sparking dialogue; it's about saving lives and improving them.

What was your motivation personally to start bringing attention to the topic of women’s health and wellbeing?

I had no other choice. As an extroverted person, I naturally draw people into my experiences. Observing the unnecessary obstacles women face—obstacles that drain their focus and energy—I felt compelled to make a difference. My motivation is fueled by the positive feedback from women who appreciate my efforts. Many share similar stories, thanking me for having the courage to speak up, especially when they fear consequences like losing their job—a concern that is surprisingly still prevalent in 2024 and one I am determined to help eliminate by 2030. Beyond individual stories, this movement is about creating a supportive environment where women's health and well-being are prioritized, not penalized. It's about fostering a culture where discussing health openly becomes the norm, not the exception. Each conversation we inspire, each taboo we dismantle, brings us closer to a society where women can thrive without barriers. Working towards such a cultural change that better supports women—including myself—brings me peace of mind.

 

When I first heard about dm drogerie's initiative to launch a campaign focused on women's health, I saw immense potential and knew we could spark a significant movement. And indeed, we did. Now, I am very pleased to be a member of a dm international group that can foster this topic both internally and externally.

Research suggests that women often face stigma or discrimination in the workplace related to their reproductive health. What measures can be implemented to address and eliminate such discrimination?

Absolutely, women face discrimination or at least stigma in the workplace, not only concerning reproductive health but in many other aspects as well. The first step towards addressing this is fostering a culture of open-mindedness and encouraging people to reflect more broadly on their lives and biases.

 

I am proud to say that at dm, we have implemented several measures that help mitigate these issues. We maintain a very transparent payroll policy where everyone knows what each person earns, ensuring equal pay from day one for employees in the same position, regardless of gender or age or ability. It’s the same position. Additionally, when someone returns from maternity or paternity leave, their salary is adjusted to match the increases that others received in their absence.

 

Flexible working arrangements such as part-time positions and unlimited home office options are standard. These standard shapes corporate culture, viewing parents as valuable members of the company without penalizing or praising them for their family responsibilities. This should be a norm that goes unnoticed because it's so fundamentally integrated into corporate values.

 

Reproductive health encompasses more than just pregnancy or (the desire to have) children. It includes dealing with the emotional impact of infertility, accommodating medical appointments for treatments like IVF, managing energy levels during menstruation, and having open conversations about menopause… In a supportive company, leaders are aware of the various challenges related to reproductive health, such as PCOS or endometriosis, and are prepared to respond appropriately to these situations.

 

Moreover, it's crucial that these values are visibly upheld throughout the company. Women are strong in their unique feminine ways, and every aspect of 'being a woman' should be recognized and appreciated. By implementing these measures, we not only support our female employees but also set a standard for what a truly inclusive and equitable workplace looks like.

 

In many workplaces, menstruation is still considered a taboo topic. How do you think this taboo affects women's health and quality of life, both personally and professionally?

Extremely. I think the impact of menstruation taboos is massive and often goes unnoticed, which is very dangerous. When menstruation is stigmatized, it discourages open dialogue about related health issues, leading to a lack of support and understanding. This silence can prevent women from seeking necessary accommodations or medical care, potentially intensifying health problems such as PCOS, endometriosis, and adenomyosis—all conditions that are scientifically under-researched and too often a cause of infertility, a concern that should alarm society as a whole.

 

Professionally, the taboo can create an environment where women may feel compelled to hide their discomfort or pain, affecting their productivity and overall well-being. The fear of being judged or not taken seriously can lead to stress and anxiety, which not only detracts from their professional performance and personal satisfaction but can also lead to chronic stress or chronic pain.

Taboos surrounding menstruation are an obvious source of gender inequality. This silence is not just oppressive—it's an active contributor to the systemic inequality that pervades our workplaces and society.

How do you believe endometriosis, characterized by chronic pain, impacts women's careers, and what strategies do you think workplaces could implement to better support employees dealing with this condition?

Endometriosis affects our bodies constantly, influencing every movement, or, it might not be felt at all. However, its impact on our lives is always tremendous. Each person with endo, or suspected endo, experiences it differently. Some might have little to no pain but struggle with infertility. Others endure pain daily and nightly. In my case, I can never predict how I will feel. Will I experience excruciating pain that leaves me unable to breathe, walk, or sit, consumed by thoughts of despair? Or will I be the energetic Aneta, easy to work with, arriving at work at 7 AM, full of energy and highly productive? I simply don't know until the moment arrives. This unpredictability makes planning difficult and is challenging for my colleagues to understand.

 

I've received feedback that I appear unpredictable, sometimes perceived as rude or hasty, and at other times so relaxed that it seems inauthentic. I understand these perceptions and always strive to do my best, hoping for empathy and understanding. However, not everyone can relate, and this is where leadership plays a crucial role. Leaders must clearly support and trust employees with chronic pain, chronic illnesses, and other disabilities. They should ensure that behaviors influenced by these conditions are understood and tolerated.

 

Workplaces need to foster open discussions about these challenges. Just as pregnant women receive accommodations when they feel unwell, similar support should be extended to those with endometriosis, who may face these health issues for years. Decades. Imagine the difficulty of enduring such challenges. It's essential for all sides to seek the best solutions and openly discuss all concerns, creating a supportive and inclusive environment for everyone.

 

What role do you think male allies or advocates can play in promoting conversations about women's health in the workplace and advocating for policies that support women's well-being?

Let's put it simply. Women's health is surrounded by taboos. Discussions about women's health with men is even a greater one. However, I see this as an extremely powerful leverage to break these taboos more quickly and effectively. Men, in my view, have an obligation as leaders to engage in these conversations. By actively participating and advocating for better policies, male allies can use their influence to promote significant changes in the workplace, helping to dismantle stigmas and improve support for women's well-being.

Last but not least, do you have any advice on how women can prioritize their wellbeing and allow time for self-care with a busy schedule?

Yes, my advice is straightforward: remember that while everyone is replaceable at work, you are irreplaceable at home. If you don't take breaks to allow your body and soul to heal and relax, they will eventually force you to stop. By managing your well-being proactively, you stay in control and ensure you can give your best in every aspect of your life. I beg you to do so.

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