LONDON — The Weber Shandwick Collective has launched its first cross-agency offer focused on women’s health, with the aim of closing the gender gap in health communications and making progress towards women’s health equity.

The Weber Shandwick Collective: Women’s Health – launched on International Women’s Day – convenes health experts from Weber Shandwick and sister management consultancy United Minds, digital health specialist Flipside Health and social creative agency That Lot, working across policy and advocacy, health communications, corporate communications, employee engagement, digital innovation and design experience.

Weber Shandwick’s EMEA health managing director Rachael Pay will lead the women’s health collective alongside an all-female senior team. She told PRovoke Media: “This was a passion project for the healthcare team that became viable – it’s about putting women at the heart of health and being a catalyst for change. Women’s health is not just reproductive health or female-specific health conditions – beyond those areas, women are more likely to be disabled and to be living with chronic conditions and comorbidities.

“But some of the most prevalent and threatening diseases are not well understood by women, and are not communicated about specifically with women in mind. As a leading global healthcare consultancy, we have a responsibility to help close the gender gap in health communications.”

Weber Shandwick’s head of strategy for UK & EMEA, Kristen Dimmock, who is strategy lead for the women’s health collective, added: “Every woman has at least one bad health story, whether because of frustration, pain, a feeling of being not listened too, ignored, undertreated or dismissed. So much more needs to be done and clients with portfolios in women’s health have a tremendous opportunity and a duty of care.”

TWSC: Women’s Health will work closely with a board of external advisors from business, government, academia and society, including experts on topics ranging from women’s health equity and equality, to femtech innovation and public health.

Dr Tammy Boyce, research consultant and equity advisor to TWSC: Women’s Health, said: “Women have been on the periphery of healthcare for too long, and it is time to address some of the marked inequalities and inequities that exist in healthcare. Life expectancy in women is no longer increasing in the UK. Effective communication that resonates and drives action is urgently needed to address the gender inequalities in health.”

As part of its new offer, TWSC: Women’s Health has introduced a proprietary insights product, The Women’s Health Indicator, which has been developed by data analysts and behavioural experts to identify gaps in women’s health, by analysing and assessing thousands of data points across society, media and policy.

For instance, despite evidence that women are at a higher risk of serious complications, and even death, from diabetes than men, media and social media coverage and data analysis from January 2021 to January 2023 by Talkwalker showed that only 3% of the total diabetes conversation is female-focused.

In addition, while there has been a four-fold increase in the development of autoimmune conditions in women, information on signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in women are poorly identified or communicated, with less than 12% of online content on the condition specific to women. And despite women facing a 20% increased risk of developing heart failure or dying within five years of their first severe heart attack compared with men, less than 6% of discussions around heart attack symptoms mentioned female-specific symptoms of fainting, indigestion and extreme fatigue

TWSC: Women’s Health will also help employers normalise conversation around women’s health in the workplace. Women experiencing the menopause are the fastest-growing demographic in the workforce in the UK, but a recent study by the British Menopause Society found 47% of respondents who needed to take a day off work due to menopause symptoms said they wouldn’t tell their employer the real reason.

United Minds SVP Chris Payne said: “As part of our drive to make business more human, we believe that employers who create a culture where conversation about health matters is encouraged will find that women are much more likely to feel confident about asking for the support they need to be effective in their role. Having policies in place is a foundational step, and they should be a starting point for open dialogue and empathetic conversation.”

Weber Shandwick’s chief people offer for EMEA, Helen Matthews, underlined that the agency walked the talk of the new collective, supporting women’s health and wellbeing through HR programmes and policies: “We are proud to have introduced best-in-class policies, focused on women and including menopause, invisible illnesses, flexible working and parental support policies. We are committed to ensuring that these policies are rolled out across the EMEA region by 2025 and are actively working to drive adoption in markets where the conversation is at different levels of awareness.”