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Awareness Of Women's Health Needs As They Age

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>>UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Production support for Noon Edition comes from Smithville. Fiber internet, streaming TV, home security and automation in Southern Indiana. More information at And from the Bloomington Health Foundation, partnering with local organizations and citizens to invest in programs that address our community's health needs. Bloomington Health Foundation, improving health and well-being takes a community. More at 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: From the Milton Metz Studio and IU's radio TV building, this is Noon Edition on WFIU. I'm Bob Zaltsberg from the WFIU, WTIU newsroom. And I'm co-hosting today with Kirma Schulz who's also from the WFIU, WTIU news department. This week, we're talking about a lot of issues that have to do with women's health and women's aging with three experts who we have assembled as guests today. We have two in the studio - Dr. Pamela Jackson - Pam - is professor of sociology at Indiana University and Dr. Radhika Parameswaran is a professor in the Indiana University Media School. We also are being joined by the - on the phone by Dr. Kelly Kasper, who's a gynecologist for IU Health Physicians in Indianapolis. And all have said they want to go by their first name. So we won't be using doctor too much in this program today. You can give us a call at 812-855-0811 in Bloomington or toll free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us your questions at You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition. So I'm really happy to have everybody here with us today. We were just talking with with Kelly Kasper before about, you know, the breadth of the discussion. And, Kelly, you were saying some interesting things about how you were happy to have this makeup of the panel. I wish you would just repeat them for all of our listeners. 

>>KELLY KASPER: Sure, absolutely. I was saying that before we started on air that I'm really excited for the composition of the panel that you created today. I oftentimes will see women who come into my office who have concerns and complaints regarding their health, specifically their gynecologic health which honestly usually is around their sexual health. And in my head, I oftentimes think that, you know, society and societal norms and the views of society in regards to women plays a role into some of this. And I don't have the research to back that up. This is just what I see during my day-to-day practice. And so I'm excited to have the other panel members because I think they probably do have that knowledge based on just their everyday interaction through work and their research. So I'm really excited as we sort of work through that over the next hour or so and talk about it. If in our discussions, perhaps we can't touch on some of my thoughts of what might be going on with women's health, mainly - for me, around their sexuality as they age and if that is truly the case and if there's maybe even some research to support that. And so I'm interested to hear what all the panel members might have to say as we get into... 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Great. All right. 


>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Radhika's going to join in already. 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: Yeah. I just to want, you know, yeah, I'm so glad you brought up this issue because when we think about the media, there's a temptation to think about it in terms of a cause-and-effect model - right? - that you just see something on the media, and then we go out and do that immediately. That is not how media work. Well, you know, media are part of a complex system of different kinds of cultural influences on us including, you know, things like family, school, the religious institutions we go to and so on. But one of the interesting theories that I really have come to appreciate about how the media work is to think about media as a form of pedagogy - right? - that is in that the media, you know, put issues before us that we have to think about. And what they don't put in front of us we don't think about, right? 


>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: And as you're gradually exposed over a long period of time, this becomes, you know, sort of a pedagogy that is quietly and over the long term teaching us - right? - how to think. And so if we don't have the opportunity to see older people enjoying their sexuality - right? - having sexual feelings, being sexual beings and in terms of women, older women often portrayed as asexual or passive sexual partners - right? - so that you see maybe an ad. And, you know, it's only about the man needing, you know, Viagra - right? - and no reference to women sexuality. It contributes to this larger problem of how older women are seen as invisible, asexual, not beautiful - right? - not experiencing sexual pleasure and so on. And so these are just, you know, some sort of broad ideas, you know, Kelly, that I wanted to share in response to this excellent issue you've brought up. 

>>KIRMA SCHULZ: I'd like to follow up. 

>>KELLY KASPER: Absolutely. 

>>KIRMA SCHULZ: Oh, I apologize. 

>>KELLY KASPER: Go ahead. No, go. 

>>KIRMA SCHULZ: I'd like a follow up with Radhika about that. How do you think that the pressure to appear youthful affect women's health as they age and their attitudes about health in general? 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: Yeah. I think this is one of the most, you know, pernicious problems - right? - for - in general, for all of us, that we live in a youth-obsessed culture in general. So even if older women are, you know, appearing in the media quite a bit, it's all about how they want to be young. And so, you know, there's a greater presence of older women in the media. But, you know? So the latest issue of Oprah Magazine is all about the, you know, in a very generous and, you know, sort of giving tone, right? But I see an insidious message there. It's all about age-perfect makeup. Hey, we haven't address to makeup for older women. And now we're going to be so kind to them and produce makeup only for older skin, right? And - but it's not about looking old. It's, again, about concealing - right? - concealing. And so we do live in a youth-obsessed culture. And I would say it affects women more because, you know, the norms of beauty are much harsher on women in general. And aging - I would argue ageism is all about, you know, it's a form of inflicting terror on people. And I'll tell you what I mean by that, that old people, elderly people, aging people are seen as repugnant to society because that is what people don't want to become, right? They represent, you know, so they're not outside of you. That is who you will be soon. And therefore, the terror, I think, is even greater, right? So yeah. We live in a youth-obsessed society. It is a very gendered obsession with beauty. And that tends to affect older women more, I would say, than older men. 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: I want to ask a... 

>>KELLY KASPER: Well, and I... 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Oh, go ahead. 

>>KELLY KASPER: I think that's because there's a double standard there - right? - because how often do we hear that men improve with age, that they look better with the gray hair, that - right? Like, my husband is a perfect example. He's gray. And people say, oh, you look so nice with that gray hair. They don't say that about me. 


>>KELLY KASPER: I'm getting my hair colored every six weeks because I want to cover up my gray. So there is a double, I think, there. So I do think women are affected more often than men in terms of ageism. And how am I supposed to grow old in this youth-obsessed society? 


>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So I want to bring Pam Jackson into the conversation. She's a professor of sociology at IU. So, you know, you've been listening to our other panelists. How does all this play out in - you know, in the workforce and the work world? 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: Well, the - of course, women's images and the way they present themselves in the workplace affects things like promotion - very importantly. And it also, though, affects women even before they sort of enter their workplace. We have gender inequality in wages that women continue to deal with and cope with. But this issue of kind of women in the media besides sort of their sexual health and their sexual identity - it's also important to talk about the different roles that women are dealing with. So many women are working and taking care of children. And for this, especially kind of the baby boomers at this point and those of us who are sort of on the tail end of baby boomers, women are also taking care of aging parents. And so women have all kinds of challenges as they get older. And now, we're seeing a trend of adult children returning home. So we have mothers taking care of, perhaps, their young children, taking care of adult children, taking care of aging parents. And some people are calling this the crowded nest because at times, they're also taking care of an ailing spouse. And so caregiving is one of these roles that we're concerned about in regards to women as they are moving across the life course and facing these challenges. The other issue that's receiving a great deal of attention in the literature on women's health is this issue of financial strain. And so as the economy continues to change, as the occupational structure continues to change the types of jobs that are available to people, then women are also finding themselves sort of behind this eight ball because they are accumulating more debt because they're not occupying the highest positions or getting paid as much as men. They're accumulating more debt over the life course. And we're finding that financial strain overtime also accumulates and affects women's mental and physical health overtime. 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: Yeah. I think this is an interesting issue because if women as they age, you know, are facing so many caregiving burdens as well as being in the workplace, then the question becomes where do they have the time to be healthy, right? This is a challenge, right? Where because - and this brings in, for me, important issues of class race into this topic because the women who would tend to, you know, not have - to have the least time - right? - a lot of times tend to be minority women, women who are in working-class jobs and, you know, doing caregiving at multiple ends. How did they - we were just talking - right? - before coming into this room about how my aspiration as, you know, not to get a hobby really but just to have a few minutes to go to the gym or do a few minutes to stretch in my own house and so on, right? So the question of health is very - to me, very intimately tied also, you know, to, you know, having access to leisure time to do these types of activities and be healthy. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I'm going to ask Dr. Kelly Kasper to refer to - or to react to some of what you have just said. But I want to give our phone numbers again - 812-855-0811 or toll free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions at We'd you like to hear from you if you have any questions or any comments or any topics you want our panelists to talk about today when it comes to women's health, women's aging, all the challenges that women are facing today, you know, as the world is changing, and their roles are expanding it seems to me. So Kelly... 


>>BOB ZALTSBERG: ...Any reaction to what you've heard from our other two panelists? 

>>KELLY KASPER: So - absolutely. And I think we all see the same sort of phenomenon in all of our specialties. And I see it across multiple generations. So for me, it starts with the adolescent young female who comes in and just sort of this idea of sexuality and being comfortable with your sexuality and being able to discuss that and having it be a normal natural part of who a young woman is. And we touched base a little bit that that's really affected by a lot of her upbringing whether that's in - within the household, the family, whether it's perhaps some religious influence. And so, you know, I would see young women who would come in who are just sort of entering this phase of their life where they're exploring their sexuality, and they're just not comfortable with it. And so I do think that something needs to occur within society that we start having those conversations and that we're comfortable having those conversations so that young women are a bit more comfortable with themselves. The next big one that I see oftentimes is sort of just started a family. You know, the woman who's just started having children and because they are out in the workplace, they have this full-time job, they're trying to maintain a household and now, they're trying to care for a young baby or a toddler. And they come in exhausted. They're absolutely exhausted. They don't have time to go out to the gym and, you know, do physical activity to improve their health. And how I see them as often just not interested anymore in a sexual relationship with my partner. And oftentimes, you know, they're there thinking there's a pill that they need or hormone level that needs to be checked. And that's not it at all. They're just exhausted. And this is the piece that I would be curious to hear from our other two panel members. I think a huge part of it is because, you know, society's view of women and what their role is in the household hasn't changed that much in the last decades. They're still expected to take care of their children and still expected to take care of the house. Now they also are out having a job just in order to financially make it work for their family. And then the last is, you know, the postmenopausal women who comes in and says, well, my husband and I haven't been sexually active. And his doctor gave him Viagra. And the doctor forgot they're a couple. And there is another person in that sexual relationship. And, you know, a woman who's postmenopausal who isn't on hormone replacement whose husband all of a sudden has Viagra and now they can all of a sudden have a sexual relationship, that is never going to go well for her. And so I do think it's important. Even health care, I see we forget the other partner. We forget the woman in those - as they age in those later stages of life. 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: Yeah. I think you brought up an interesting point, you know, Kelly in that talking about women and aging or, you know, how society constructs femininity - how do we construct young women, you know, who talk about their sexuality actively? Do we construct them as promiscuous, as outside of, you know, middle-class electability? These are all - I feel, sometimes, we approach them in very compartmentalized ways. That is if you just target, you know, the particular audience, we can fix the problem. So for example, the man coming in - and you just fix his problem. I don't know that this type of isolated, compartmentalized approaches are very useful. I think what we instead have to think about is a much more broad-based, society-based education about each other, right? And so for me, one of the struggles I faced, you know, I grew up in India before India became what it is today - very Westernized, very modernized, right? And so you didn't have this sort of, you know, a culture where, you know, you have youth adolescence. Then, you have middle age. Then, you have elderly. And their paths don't cross, right? That is what - that is how we think about life here. So even - for example, I subscribe to Oprah Magazine, but that's not something a 17-year-old is supposed to read because that is my place in society, right? And so we live in these worlds where, you know, you know, where men do what they do. Women do what they do. And the paths don't cross. So then, we don't learn about each other. And we don't know how to help each other, right? And so I think this contributes to some of this issue of health care as well where you see things in isolation, and you're not saying how does this affect the family, right? How does this... 


>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: ...Affect society and so on. So if there's some way to think of more integrated, you know, where our lives are spilling into each others, you know, much more, and we can learn more about each other, then I think we could support each other more. 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: And I would... 

>>KELLY KASPER: I totally agree. 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: And I would add to that - actually, the - one of the themes that my co-author and I came across in this book that we wrote on how families matter was focused on family health and especially the ways in which married couples, extended family members sort of spoke to each other across these lines regarding their well-being. And typically in the area of sociology when we do research on mental health or physical health, we're using these individual-level models, kind of each individual's health is a function of their own predispositions, of their own exposure to environmental factors or their own social characteristics. But what we find in these in-depth interviews are people who talk about their health in relation to the health of other people in the family. So a woman is upset and depressed not necessarily because of something that happened on her job but because her brother was laid off and faced discrimination or because her niece is having problems in her relationships. And so one of the things that we advocate is for more social science research to kind of go back to this holistic approach to health and not just evaluate individuals - even in the medical field not just evaluate individuals - in terms of their own personal circumstances but to take into account what else is happening in the lives of women and men and their children. 

>>KELLY KASPER: I think that... 

>>KIRMA SCHULZ: To follow up on - oh, I'm sorry. 

>>KELLY KASPER: Oops, sorry. I think that's super important. And I do think we tend to miss the opportunity in medicine. And we - there's - there were a lot of buzz words about holistic health and approaches to medicine. But still, that typically applies to the individual patient who's sitting in your office. And the holistic approach is just tailored toward that one person. And I agree. I think the holistic approach is actually that person and the people in their lives... 



>>KELLY KASPER: ...Who influences their health. Whether it's emotional health, mental health, physical health, it is a broader picture and more - it's much more far-reaching than the one person who's sitting in my office. And we tend to miss that - I think, that opportunity of medicine. 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: I agree. Yeah, yeah. There's patterns and networks - right? - that influence... 


>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: ...Who we are. And it's good not to miss that. 

>>KIRMA SCHULZ: So, Pam, I have a question for you. Some of the - some of your studies have shown higher socioeconomic status and marriage allow one to more easily fulfill social obligations. Where does this leave single women? 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: Well, it leaves single women relying on their social support networks. And in some cases, these are very useful. It depends on who's in that network. And in other cases, this is not very useful. It also depends on that single status. So never-married women, for example, have better mental health than married women among at least African-Americans. And in some cases among whites, there's no difference between married women and never-married women in regards to their health outcomes. It's the divorced and the widowed who have the worse health outcomes among women. And those women are reporting poor health outcomes primarily because of the lack of economic resources at their disposal. So, again, we end up going back to the availability of jobs that pay well, jobs that are equitable and women's abilities to avoid discrimination or bias in the workplace - all of those things are mattering. So the marriage question, it really depends on who that nonmarried category of women are. It depends on race and ethnicity. But at the end of the day, women are reporting poorer mental health than men especially primarily because of lack of economic resources. 


>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. You guys, this show is flying by. We're halfway through. And we're going to take a short break. We're talking about women's health issues from a variety of different perspectives today. We're on Noon Edition on WFIU. We'll be right back. 

>>UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: From the Milton Metz Studio at IU's radio TV building, this is Noon Edition on WFIU. WFIU New covers South Central Indiana and the state throughout the day at and on Twitter @WFIUNews. You can watch unfiltered video of breaking stories on Facebook Live. And you can get a digest of all the day's top stories delivered to your inbox each afternoon. It's a free and easy way to stay on top of the headlines plus the in-depth audio video and print news stories you can't get anywhere else. Subscribe now at 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Welcome back to Noon Edition. I'm Bob Zaltsberg along with Kirma Schulz. And we're talking today about women's health issues. We have Dr. Kelly Kasper who's joining us from Indianapolis. She's a gynecologist for IU Health Physicians. Dr. Pamela Jackson is a professor of sociology at Indiana University. And Dr. Radhika Parameswaran is a professor for - in media at Indiana University's Media School. If you have questions or comments, give us a call at 812-855-0811 or 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at You can also follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition. We do have one questions come in from our producer in the booth. How does returning to work too quickly after childbirth affect long-term health? Kelly, do you want to take that? 

>>KELLY KASPER: Sure. I'll start that. Again, I think if we're going to use this holistic approach of health care and well-being in our patient if we're assuming our patient is a mother returning to work too quickly, I think you also need to include the health of the child as well as the health of the household. And we know that mothers who return to work too quickly whether that's by their standards or the family standards to whomever, they tend to suffer a higher rate of depression which, then, can manifest in all sorts of other issues - difficulties with sleeping, difficulty finding with their infant, if they're breastfeeding, difficulties maintaining breastfeeding which we know breastfeeding is early in life the best source of nutrition for an infant. So if a mother returns to a workplace that doesn't support being able to pump and supply that breast milk and all of a sudden, she's needing to provide formula for her child, that can have negative effects on the health of the child. But then also financial effects formula is not inexpensive. Breast milk is free. And so it's very far-reaching. If she's unhappy, she'll be unhappy at home which can affect her partner, her other children in the household. She'll more than likely be less productive at work as well. So it can have far-reaching consequences. 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: Yeah. I just want to add that I could imagine, too, at work, you know, if you have a release, you have crises at home with your baby. And you have to keep leaving, you know? And I can see that, you know, becoming a form of discrimination as well. People talk about, you know the, lack of productivity and so on. So yeah. I can imagine that it's just very stressful for a young mother. 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: And so research also finds that when women have reliable, trustworthy and affordable childcare options, they make a smoother transition back to work. And that transition becomes very important because women who have a consistent work history early in life actually have better health overtime. And they live longer. And so that connection to childcare is critical. 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: And I'll just quickly add that, you know, it's a related issue that many women, you know, that I know who are in their 60s and 70s are caring for their grandchildren, right? And so going back to the issue that Pam brought up earlier, this is a valuable resource. And, Kelly, back to your point, I mean, that is part of the family, you know, looking at the holistic, you know, structure in place to help a young mother. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So, Pam, you brought up, you know, affordable child care as a really - as an important issue in all this. And so I guess I want to ask about health policy and other policy issues. Are there things that you think need to be done. Or is there, you know, if you had a magic wand and could say here's one thing that I really would like to have... 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: Turn us into Sweden. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah, right. 


>>PAMELA JACKSON: It's done. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. So there's one - yeah. 

>>KELLY KASPER: I was just thinking we should just be more European... 




>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So let's dig into that a little bit. So what kinds of things, what kind of policies would you like to see that would help women meet some of these challenges that they have with their health? 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: So this is an old question. And we all know the answers. So I guess I'll repeat some of them. The - so we know that on-the-job childcare works best. And when women or fathers, men can have their children close by, they don't have to worry, then, about any type of emergency or being able to get away and drive hours in order to perhaps take care of children. So on-site childcare is the best. And, of course, having that be high-quality care matters and quite affordable. So when an employer can subsidize the cost of childcare or when the government can create programs to subsidize childcare and, you know, just confirm that it is the best childcare possible. Basically, when we value children the way that we say we value children and then translate that into policy, then it helps the entire family not just women. But it also benefits their children in the short term and in the long term. And it benefits couples. And it benefits extended family. So that would relieve some of the pressure on grandparents who are asked to parent again during their, perhaps, years that they anticipated being in retirement and enjoying their time off. And so it would release the pressure on the family just across multiple points and across multiple generations. 



>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: And I'll just quickly add. Pam covered a lot of great territory already. But definitely, you know, encouraging all workplaces to just have more flexible policies when women need them and not having silent penalties for this, right? So doing it. And then, you know, establishing that this is a fair way not in a condescending or patronizing way - right? - that they're accommodating, tolerating - getting rid of that type of language and just saying, you know, this is how it should be done. And we're doing the right thing here and letting women know that there's not a penalty for that, right? 


>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: So creating a climate of, you know, understanding and encouragement, I think, would also help a lot. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I just want you to add to that. Silent penalties, what do you mean by that? 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: What I mean by that is that - you know, that corporations and workplaces accommodate women but quietly talk among themselves about how this person is not eligible for the promotion. This person should not be given that challenging project, right? This person should not be put in charge of something that would reward her - right? - down the road. And so doing these things quietly, you know, among themselves and it's all kind of penalizing her for going down the road that, you know, that men - a man, single man perhaps might not have gone down that road. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Got you. 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: And actually... 

>>KELLY KASPER: And I would - oh, go ahead. 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: And I would just say just to add to that, men are actually rewarded when they have children. 

>>KELLY KASPER: Absolutely, absolutely. 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: And so there's a bump actually in their income. And they're much more likely to be considered for promotion. 



>>KELLY KASPER: And I think if we had some of these policies in place - and also for me, a big piece is maternity leave or paternity leave or, for me, I think it's more important - family leave. 


>>KELLY KASPER: If these policies were in place, then there wouldn't - I don't think we would hear that sort of quiet background... 


>>KELLY KASPER: ...Conversation because that's just the expected. And that is how it is. 


>>KELLY KASPER: And six weeks, that is ludicrous for the - for a mother or a father. By six weeks, you're so exhausted. You probably shouldn't be driving a car much less returning to the workplace, being responsible for who knows what it might be? For a physician, you're responsible for someone's life. 


>>KELLY KASPER: You know, I just - I think there needs to be some vast reform in how we view family, children, bearing children, the leave around that... 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: I agree. And this is the irony to me is that, you know, when you look at many countries now, including Japan, for example, you know, women are not having children, right? You - populations are aging in some of these countries. And when you look at these policies, you can see why. It's expensive to have children. You don't get the leave. You're exhausted, you know? So if we perhaps had these policies and a different climate, women wouldn't be, you know, do, you know, so reluctant to go down that road. 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: And, of course, we... 

>>KELLY KASPER: Sure. And I... 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: I'm sorry. Go ahead, Kelly. 

>>KELLY KASPER: I think the countries where there are those policies in place, what we've seen in women have an appropriate amount of time away with support... 


>>KELLY KASPER: ...With their partner also on leave, and their job is guaranteed when they return. They return. And they're happier and more productive. 





>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah. OK. We're going to go to the phones. We have a phone call from Charlotte. Go ahead, Charlotte. 


>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Hey, Charlotte. 

>>CHARLOTTE ZITLOW: Thank you. This is an important program as far as I'm concerned because I'm experiencing being old. And I've gone through all these stages. And I don't mind being old. But I think that's an important thing that should be remembered when people get older. Now, I'm over 85. I can't believe it. And all - everyone who is 85 here is doing something and being someplace and having a family and a job and working in the community and losing a husband who I'd really loved. But - and I'm not entirely helping myself. But I've been getting (inaudible). 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We lost Charlotte. I know Charlotte likes to visit. She still likes to visit with people. Charlotte Zitlow. Our good friend, Charlotte Zitlow. Yeah. 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: And I was just going to add that we can't, of course, go without talking about the Affordable Care Act in that coverage and the fact that the expansion to Medicaid also increased the number of women who are covered by health insurance. And I'm sure Kelly especially knows the number of women who benefited in 2016 from the mandate. And it included preventive health care services, including contraception use. 

>>KELLY KASPER: Yes, fabulous. 



>>KELLY KASPER: That was a huge success for us in health care, I have to say. 


>>KIRMA SCHULZ: Radhika, how does - how do you think the media representation affect how women are treated in the workplace? 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: Yeah, good question. I would say, you know, very broadly speaking - and you mean not just older women... 

>>KIRMA SCHULZ: Correct. 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: ...But just women in general? Yes. You know, I would say that, you know, we're beginning to see more and more, you know, assertive women in the media than we did before. But in general, I would say that despite, you know, having, you know, programs and shows and, you know, women reporters, you know, we have Christiane Amanpour, who's an older woman who's such a good role model. Overall, the construction of femininity - right? - as demure, passive, et cetera, has still not gone away... 


>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: ...Right? It's still there. And so I can imagine that women in the workplace, you know, if they're trying to be in leadership roles if they're trying to be assertive, if they're trying to counter a male colleague's opinions, right? And, you know, and if they're older, in some ways, it's probably easier because older women can be seen to some degree, you know, in the professional workplace, if they have a lot of accomplishments as having earned the right to be assertive... 


>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: ...Right? But for younger women, I can imagine how that's still really hard. So in many ways, you know, what we think of as professional accomplishment and what we think of as professional success, owning the rewards for that is, you know, can be seen as counter to what we think of as ideal femininity, right? And so that - so I would say overall, in the big picture, I think that continues to be a problem. We do have - again, I must say society has been through a lot of change. If we even think about a show like the Oprah Show and what, you know, Oprah, you know, represented - a whole career. That's something really, really positive. But at the same time, I would also say that, you know, the emphasis, for example, you know, that Oprah - that Oprah Show has placed or her magazine on beauty and ideal femininity is still continuing, right? So we have to acknowledge the positive but also look at the persistent problem that continues. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So we're having a little trouble with our phone line. But we have Charlotte back. And she wants to finish her point. So Charlotte, go ahead, please. 

>>CHARLOTTE ZITLOW: Yeah. OK, so that's why, I think, my experience is that being prepared and knowing what I'm talking about has been very helpful through all the years. But I also want to say that now that I am old - and I don't care. And I do take care of myself. I look OK, but I'm not beautiful. But - that I think a real problem in dealing with (inaudible). 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah, we continue to have problems with our line. I hope we can get Charlotte to finish her point. Maybe, she could just tell our producer what her final point is. And we can get that on the air. OK... 

>>KELLY KASPER: I think there was some interesting terminology in that last conversation. At one point, it was women in the workplace who are older have earned their right to be more assertive. And I would argue that we don't use that same terminology with men in the workplace. And it's interesting that concept around, well, if a woman's been in a role for long enough, then she can be assertive or outspoken. And I guess, I wonder why is that not OK for a woman who has not been in the workplace that long who maybe is younger? And why does anyone have to earn their right to be assertive in their role? 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: And this bears out even in the surveys when we ask women and men whether or not they face discrimination in the workplace, whether they feel that they have to demonstrate more competence than other people. And women are twice as likely to report discrimination. And they're more likely - 23% of women actually say that they feel that they're treated as if they are more incompetent or less competent than their male peers compared to just 6% of men who feel that way about their female peers. And so it plays out in the workplace every day as women are entering into more male-dominated fields. The good news, though, is that younger people are having a little better overtime I should say - I guess, younger women - especially in terms of pay equity. Some recent research by the Pew Research Center showed that women ages 25 to 34 are earning 90 cents on every dollar for men. And the average actually for women before that time was 85 cents. And so that seems to be on an increase, at least for the younger generation. That, of course, is also tied to the fact that women are more educated than they've... 


>>PAMELA JACKSON: ...Ever been. And so a higher percentage of women are actually completing their college degrees than men. And a higher percentage of women are completing their advanced degree as well. So that puts them in those jobs that pay more. And some of the young women, then, are seeing the returns on that. 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: Yeah. And I'm wondering, too, you know, as more women enter the workplace and become supervisors - right? - and become bosses of younger women how that might be changing the dynamics of the workplace. I just happen to be reading a book in the field of public relations. And there, the researchers do point out that older women are making a big difference in their workplaces, right? They tend to be better mentors. They know, and they've experienced what young women have gone through. And so they're able to connect with them on a personal level in a way that perhaps older men may not be able to, not that there are not mentors who are older men. There are, right? But that, you know, as we see, you know, older women in the workplace, it's beginning to make a difference. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So Charlotte did call back. She left a - the end of her thought. She just says women still want to be productive and want to be treated with respect even as they age. And as she said, she's over 85 now. But this Charlotte, Charlotte Zitlow - people in Monroe County know that she has been a trailblazer and a person who's broken a lot of barriers and has been a leader in the community for probably 40, 50 years. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So she's been here. And she's done a lot of things. And she's fought a lot of - had to overcome a lot of challenges that now perhaps we're starting to overcome a little bit. 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: And it's interesting that, you know, I think when - she said she's 85 now, right? And so there is this window of time, I think, when women can claim some space, you know, for being assertive. But once you get past a certain age, then you're seen as frail - right? - dispensable, not beautiful until you - that desertion disappears. So this is a quality that goes in and out of women's lives, you know? And so that's something, I think, important to note. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Kelly, any other reaction to that? 

>>KELLY KASPER: I would agree. And, again, we see this in health care. And I actually have personal experience with this last week. I have a grandmother who's 99. She is in excellent health. She is a beautiful woman. She is strong, both mentally - like, her brain, her mind is as sharp as it was when she was 49, as it was when she was 39. In fact, I often forget things that she remembers. 


>>KELLY KASPER: (Unintelligible) when's his birthday? And she was ill over the past weekend. And the initial sort of response that was received in the health care arena was, oh, she's 99. We really don't need to worry or do that much for her, which is exactly the wrong thought, right? You need - we need to talk to our patients. We need to respect our elderly. We need to, you know, treat them as though they are still productive members of society. And we don't need to just write them off in any aspect of their lives because of a number, because of a year, because of an age. And so I completely agree with Charlotte. 


>>KELLY KASPER: They want to be productive and be treated with respect. 


>>KELLY KASPER: Absolutely. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Thank you. 

>>KIRMA SCHULZ: Pam, getting back to how women are treated in the workplace, how does being a minority woman - because they're so largely underrepresented in the media in general. How is - how does being in the workplace as a minority woman differ from being a white woman? 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: So some of the work that I did a while ago focused on being a token in the workplace. And so that work focuses on - and I mentioned some of these elements earlier - whether or not you feel that you are the representative of your group. And therefore, that affects the way people interact with you and come to you with different questions, whether or not you feel like you have to demonstrate more competence in other people, whether or not there is some level of value conflicts or people at least assume that your values are different than theirs. And so minority women face that level of tokenism. And if they are a double minority as in they are both a gender minority and a racial minority, then they become doubly disadvantaged in the workplace. And so they face all of that stress on top of the fact that, then, this larger broader umbrella of gender inequality is weighing over them as well. So black women and Hispanic women earn less than white men and now actually Asian men as well. Asian men actually earn more than white men in the United States. And so women of color continue to fall behind all men in regards to their earnings and their experiences in the workplace. And they're falling behind other women as well, white and Asian women as well. 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: I would just... 

>>KELLY KASPER: I would just say that applies to health care as well. 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: That's right. 


>>KELLY KASPER: Minority women - much less likely am I to see them when receiving health care at the same level as non-minority women. And they're less likely to receive health care that is insured by a private insurance. 



>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: I just quickly wanted to add that for Asian women, you know, the issue tends to be an expectation that you will not be assertive, right? You will be demure and feminine and in your place. And so then sometimes when they do speak up, there is the sense of, oh, you've betrayed your stereotype, you know? Oh, you have a mind. Oh, you can speak out. So I think for different communities, you know, there's going to be different stereotypes. And, you know, when they violate that, there's going to be surprise penalties, et cetera. 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: That's right. And so you have just the opposite - right? - for African American women... 


>>PAMELA JACKSON: We're seen as more aggressive, more assertive. But they're not rewarded for that... 


>>PAMELA JACKSON: ...Even though that's supposedly is something that's valued amongst employees. 

>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: Yes, yes. And that's why I brought that up, you know? 



>>BOB ZALTSBERG: If any of our listeners have a question, you can give us a call. We probably can't get you on the air. But you can share your question with our producer. 812-855-9811 in Bloomington or 1-877-285-9348 outside of the Bloomington area. Or you can send it to We don't have a lot of time left. But we can still try to slide your question. And I did want to ask about a very current topic, the whole #MeToo movement and how that is playing out in all of your different disciplines. Kelly, you know, with your patients, I mean, are you hearing stories that perhaps you didn't hear before? And, you know, how's it affecting the media? And how is it affecting the workplace? 

>>KELLY KASPER: I would say from a patient standpoint, the gynecologist's office has always been a place where, I think, women feel safe to share stories and experiences. And so I would say the #MeToo movement has created an environment where patients are more likely to tell me stories than they would have been previously. I do think the movement, though, has helped health care in that - number of women, many of them my generation, older but also younger which you would not maybe have anticipated as much. The number of women in health care who came out and said, yes, this is a real thing. I have experienced this during my path-career education where perhaps society as a whole would've hoped that we would not have seen it in health care at such the degree that we did. And so I think the awareness that it has brought has been monumental in helping bring conversation around a real problem that does exist. 


>>RADHIKA PARAMESWARAN: I just quickly want to say that I think, you know, the #MeToo movement being in many ways a media movement - right? - with the hashtag and being spread on social media, also being covered quite heavily in the news media. And we can think about the Harvey Weinstein case here, receiving so much publicity. And I think it being so much covered in the entertainment field - right? - which a lot of youth tend to consume. And so it has brought an issue, you know, that's not compartmentalized anymore, right? It happens in the workplace. Human resources deals with it, right? That is not what it is now. It's come out into the open in quite an explosive way, I think. And so in many ways, to me, what it has done is broken down one of those compartments I earlier spoke about in that young men, older men have all had to learn that this happens to women, right? It's not just women learning about what happens to women. It's become an issue that, you know, many. And so I have heard many young men, many college-aged student in our community, you know, actually talking in very thoughtful ways about, wow, we did not know it happens in this way. So I think it's done that what I - go back to my opening statement. It has executed a pedagogy of widespread awareness - right? - so that you have much more widespread awareness among all sections of society. And so in that way, I think it's been quite productive. My only issue is whether it has highlighted the experiences of, once again, poor, working class, racial minority women. Or is it largely a discourse of privileged women? Just something to think about. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Pam, is it having an effect in the workplace? 

>>PAMELA JACKSON: Well, I think it is having an effect. The - and I was just watching something. I don't know if it was on public television. But we have this crisis, of course, among Native American populations and the kidnapping and assault of Native American populations. And so that speaks to the fact or the importance of the media and who is covered in the media in terms of women who are vulnerable. And so that continues to be kind of an effort that we have to put forward, you know, to keep our media accountable to make it clear who is at risk. But I was also thinking about the effect of this movement on college campuses. So here, even on IU's campus, this effort to educate students on sexual assault - and most recently, in my mental illness class, we talked about the fact that the prevalence of PTSD among women, the event that affects them the most is sexual assault, rape, that type of trauma. And so there is this new understanding that there can be a delayed impact of trauma. And I think that's what's critical about that movement. That's one element that's critical for people to understand that you may not necessarily absorb all of the trauma at the time of that event because you're typically trying to cope with your daily life. And we know that women have very complicated daily lives. And so it's the case that some of those symptoms of anxiety and those symptoms of sleep problems actually emerge overtime. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. We are out of time. It's gone very quickly today. I really want to thank our guests - Radhika Parameswaran, Pamela Jackson and Kelly Kasper - for all being here and giving us some great information today for Kirma Schulz, my co-host and also producer Bente Bouthier and engineer Ryan Paskash. I'm Bob Zaltsberg. Thanks for listening. 

>>UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Noon Edition is a production of WFIU Public Radio. A podcast of this program is available at Production support for Noon Edition comes from Smithville - fiber internet, streaming TV, home security and automation in Southern Indiana. More information at And from the Bloomington Health Foundation - partnering with local organizations and citizens to invest in programs that address our community's health needs. Bloomington health foundation, improving health and well-being takes a community. More at



Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.

The December 2019 U.S. Department of Labor Statistics report revealed that women now make up just over half the workforce in the US.

But even as progress is made with the ratio of men to women in the work force, other areas, like awareness of women’s health needs, might not be keeping up.

Menopause usually occurs between 45-55 years old. But symptoms can start as early as someone’s mid-thirties. Symptoms leading up to menopause are known as perimenopause.

Irritability and depression can spike during both perimenopause and menopause, which are also often the years when women are going through familial and career transitions.

Lack of discussion about these struggles can be partially attributed to ageism and stigma surrounding discussing health needs.

Left unaddressed, stigma surrounding the topic of women’s health as they age can affect who assumes leadership roles in companies, health outcomes for women and with lower incomes, and social policy.

One example of Indiana policy that could remove stigma surrounding needs of women in the workplace is Senate Bill 342, which would require an employer of a business with 15 employees to provide reasonable employment accommodations for a pregnant employee and prohibit discrimination of pregnant employees.

The bill focuses on work place accommodations, listing more frequent or longer breaks, unpaid time off work to recover from childbirth, acquisition or modification of equipment, seating, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or less hazardous position, job restructuring, light duty, work break time for expressing breast milk, private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk, assistance with physical or manual labor, modified work schedules and an accommodation prescribed by a health provider.

Health officials say improper care for women after they’ve given birth and returning to work to quickly can create a slew of health complications that affect them for years after.

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition or join us on the air by calling in at 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at


Dr. Kelly Kasper, gynecologist for IU Health Physicians

Dr. Pamela Jackson, professor of sociology at Indiana University

Dr. Radhika Parameswaran, professor for Indiana University Media School 


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