The gender health gap is deep-rooted and will take decades to bridge – but hope is out there. There are plenty of fearless, brilliant women who are working tirelessly to shine a spotlight on women’s health. Whether they’re busting taboos, challenging parliament, or creating life-changing femtech, allow us to present five of the most inspirational women’s health pioneers.
Still only 23 years old, Amika George has been a passionate period poverty campaigner since she was just a teenager. At 17 she founded the Free Periods organisation, fighting to make sure nobody misses out on education because they cannot afford pads or tampons.
George started an online petition in 2017, asking the government to give free period products to all children on free school meals. It became hugely popular, playing a major role in the government’s 2020 decision to provide free period products in all secondary schools and colleges in England.
She became the youngest person ever to be made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 2021, the same year she published her guide to activism Make it Happen: You can be an Activist. Oh, and she’s also found time to fit in a degree at Cambridge. Whatever George decides to do next; we will be cheering her on.
You’ll know McCall from Big Brother, Comic Relief and The Masked Singer – or perhaps you had one of her massively popular fitness DVDs back in the day. But she has now come into her stride as a powerful and fiercely honest menopause awareness campaigner, too.
Her stigma-busting recent book Menopausing and Channel 4 documentary Sex, Myths, and the Menopause have ignited much-needed public conversations about menopause and helped to expose the many failings in women’s healthcare.
Whether she’s chatting on podcasts or popping up on Instagram, McCall is open about the difficult and upsetting symptoms she has suffered. But she also comes with a message of empowerment and hope, stressing that with the right support, menopause can usher in your “second spring”.
Dr Julie Smith
With 4.2 million followers, clinical psychologist Dr Smith might have been the first qualified mental health professional to start using TikTok as a platform for therapy. Her easy-to-digest, friendly videos give practical tips on how to cope with various mental health issues, connecting with a younger audience who might otherwise come across less robust advice.
Her posts bridge the gap for those who may not need more formal help, but still want trustworthy information about how their body and mind work and how they can influence their emotions and moods.
Not a social media fan? No problem. Smith’s smash hit book Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? was a Sunday Times bestseller last year, and you can also sometimes catch her on This Morning.
Burnout is on all our minds at the minute, after New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted she did not have “enough in the tank” to fight the next election. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington understands the concept better than most, having collapsed from sleep deprivation and exhaustion in 2007.
Nowadays her anti-burnout organisation Thrive helps people, companies and communities make positive behaviour changes, debunking the idea that success must come at the cost of your physical and mental health.
If you are running on fumes, struggling with a toxic culture of overwork or need tools to balance the different demands on your time, we bet Huffington might be able to help.
Founder and CEO of Elvie, Tania Boler is behind some genuinely transformative women’s health gadgets. You will not hear many people talking about their pelvic floor, at least in public, but urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse are distressing and life-altering conditions that affect millions of women after pregnancy.
After she became passionate about women’s health during her own pregnancy, Boler’s first creation was the Elvie Trainer, a smart pelvic-floor-training gadget with a connected app. Since then, she has produced various bits of next-level breastfeeding tech, including the sleek and discreet Elvie Pump.
Boler’s creations prove that femtech is not just a marketing opportunity – it can change women’s lives.
Charlotte is Content Marketing Editor at Thrive and is passionate about the increasingly vital role social media plays in marketing strategies.
For more influential women changing the health landscape, look out for Thrive’s weekly Health Heroes social media posts.