6 reasons gender equality is important for the MS community

International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the achievements of women around the world. It’s also a day to discuss issues affecting women, and how to make progress towards gender parity.

Gender parity is important for everybody, regardless of their gender. It makes for less depressed, safer, and economically stronger societies.

As women are three times as likely to get MS as men, it’s no surprise that gender equality is important to our community. But, MS and women’s rights are more closely linked than you might have thought about before.

Here are 6 reasons why gender equality is especially important to the MS community.

1. 70% of people with MS are women

Having MS is the club that no one wants to be in, but we’re stronger together. It’s important to celebrate each other’s successes (whatever our gender), raise each other up, and strive for equality.

2. When you live with MS, equality is not only about gender

Gender equality is accepted as an important goal for many countries. However, there is still more work to do to understand and educate people on how chronic illness, disability, and gender combine.

The effect of this combination (intersectionality) can mean someone who is disabled and female experiences more injustice or disadvantages than someone who is disabled or female.

Tackling gender equality will reduce barriers and stigma. This could include or example, race, ethnicity, or disability status

3. We campaign on the same issues

Fighting workplace discrimination, sharing domestic and care responsibilities and challenging stereotypes are all part of the global strategy for achieving equal rights.

These are also all important issues for the MS community. Raising awareness of these issues on International Women’s Day benefits the everyone affected, regardless of their gender.

4. It will reduce stigma around our symptoms and improve MS treatment

The stigma around chronic illness and its symptoms like pain and fatigue need no explanation to people with MS. The story of being misdiagnosed, undertreated, or diagnosed late is a common one.

Evidence suggests this happens much more frequently to women, and even more so to women of colour. This can be a result of gender and racial stereotyping.

Scientists agree that early diagnosis and treatment of MS leads to better health outcomes. This shows just how important it is to address gender stereotypes in the medical field.

5. Gender diversity is crucial to developing new treatments and technologies

Women are underrepresented in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) they make up only around 28% of the workforce. Diversity isn’t only morally important, it actually improves the quality of work.

Having more women involved can make research more accurate. This happens because for example they include more women in studies or consider gender differences. It also brings more diverse thoughts and different perspectives.

Finally, it practically means there are just more people working in STEM!

That’s more people to find new treatments or help us better understand what causes MS.

6. More diversity within neurology and the wider medical field means better outcomes for patients.

Less than 30% of neurologists in the US are female. Your health team should be people that you trust and feel a connection with. Supporting more women to get into medical professions, and specifically, neurology, means you would be more likely to find a doctor who is the right fit.

By finding the right doctor for you, you can feel more comfortable, empowered, and able to share your problems. This all leads to better treatment and all-round wellbeing.

If you’re wondering how you can impact gender equality, the UN has suggested 12 small actions that make a big impact.

Twelve small actions with big impact for Generation Equality | by UN Women  | Medium

How to empower yourself with your health team

Emilyn is here to support and empower you in your healthcare, regardless of your gender. Knowledge is power and by understanding our health better, we can advocate to receive better care.

If you need support, empowering yourself, try these three things

  1. Be clear, concise, and descriptive about your symptoms. Provide examples of what they feel like, how often they occur, and how it is affecting you.
  2. Explain the different things you have tried to help and whether anything has worked well in the past.
  3. Bring along a trusted person to support and advocate for you. (This can be especially helpful if you feel your doctor isn’t listening to you; your loved one can jump in to back you up.)
  4. If needed, find a different provider.

Regularly tracking your symptoms can help you have better conversations with your health team.

Emilyn is here to support you to do this. Start tracking today to build a better picture of your health.