Gender aspects in occupational exposure and health studies.
While sex is a biological attribute associated with physical and physiological features, gender refers to socially constructed roles, behaviors, expressions, and identities. On the biological side, males and females differ concerning hormonal and anatomical differences, and It is therefore plausible occupational exposure may act differently on males and females. In contrast, gender may influence the work organization, work environment conditions and exposures, and employment conditions, leading people of different genders to perform different jobs or job tasks, be exposed to different stressors, and work under different employment terms. Traditionally, occupational exposures have been assessed without considering how exposures may differ by sex or gender. Early research focused on occupations that primarily employed men. However, women have entered occupations historically dominated by men, leading to emerging exploration of gender differences in exposure. Some women-dominated occupations have become the focus of intensive research activity. In the Annals, the number of articles including sex and gender issues has increased dramatically over time, with only two published prior to 1980, and 70 in the 2010s, and with a special issue dedicated to Gender, Work, and Health in 2018 where the editors highlighted a need to improve assessment of gender and sex identities to allow for more nuanced knowledge to elucidate the role of work organization and contextual factors about gender, work exposures, and health. Females, on average, have different body dimensions than males, which affects how well workplaces and personal protective equipment (PPE) fit females, and there remains a need for further improvements to ensure that females are protected equally well. On the other hand, females tend to comply more frequently with PPE requirements than men highlighting the need for gender-specific initiatives in order to increase PPE performance and compliance. In conclusion, there is still work to do in order to fill in the existing knowledge gap with regard to sex, gender, and work, but there are promising initiatives and the field is progressing.
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