A 2020 Harvard Business Review study reported that menopause occurs when women are most likely to move into top leadership positions. However, one out of four women within this demographic felt their menopause symptoms negatively impacted their career development or work-related opportunities, while 17 per cent had quit a job or considered quitting because of menopause symptoms.
By definition menopause is the time when a woman has not menstruated for 12 consecutive months. The years leading up to this are referred to as peri-menopause which is when many symptoms start to affect women. For the sake of this post, I will refer to menopause as a general term.
Menopause hits as careers take off:
Women typically rise to management positions from their 40s and by 50 many are reaching CEO level.
Menopause typically starts around the age of 40 and can last into a woman’s 50s.
So, just as a woman is stepping up work, maximising her potential in earnings and career prospects, it can feel like body is betraying her.
Why is menopause a workplace issue?
1.3billion women are in menopause worldwide
60% report it negatively impacts their work
50% want to leave work, with 10% actually quitting
90% report a lack of support in the workplace
And that’s just want women want: support from the workplace.
Given that women in their 40s and 50s are reaching the peak in their careers, it would be fair to assume that businesses would prefer to retain this experienced, knowledgeable resource.
Menopause is a transition time, a time of hormonal fluctuations, a bit like puberty. It affects every single woman at some stage and it will end.
With a bit of workplace support, women are more likely to stay at work, improving not only their own financial future, but also benefiting the business.
Brain power MIA
The most commonly reported difficulties that menopausal women report at work include poor concentration, tiredness, poor memory, reduced confidence, feeling low or depressed.
In our western culture menopause is rarely discussed privately, let alone in the workplace. This lack of awareness and resulting stigma, with menopause and aging viewed as a negative, contributes to the loss of confidence and depression some women experience.
Every woman will go through menopause, but the symptoms she may experience vary. The most commonly reported ones include:
- Hot flushes
- Joint pain
- Weight gain
- Low confidence
- Sleep difficulties
In the UK, 30% of surveyed women said they missed work due to symptoms and 11% forego promotion because of anxiety, depression and lack of confidence.
So what can a business do?
By fostering a culture of inclusiveness and education, not only will the menopausal woman feel supported, but managers and colleagues will have the tools and knowledge to know how to support her.
Creating awareness for all staff through education, either face to face or online, can help shift workplace culture.
Some simple changes go a long way to help women feel supported: having a room she can use when she needs quiet to focus (wouldn’t we all benefit from that), allowing for work from home days as needed and providing a USB desk fan are all great ways to offer some relief to women.
By equipping managers with the knowledge to ask the right questions they will feel confident in discussing options for support should a female staff members seek help.
Businesses that put in place an official menopause policy, and bring it to life through education and changes such as those listed above, stand to gain not only the dedication from menopausal women, but also be seen as workplaces of choice.
Only 3% of businesses currently have menopause policies in place. The Australian government is starting to sit up and take notice of menopause. The change is happening and businesses who are a step ahead will stand out from the crowd.
Let’s bring the discussion into workplace. Workplaces already talk about diversity and inclusion; anti-harassment; mental health; parental leave. It’s time to add menopause to the list.
If menopause is not addressed it can affect:
- Quality of life
- Staff engagement
- Relations with employees
If we can normalise the conversation around menopause so that all ages and genders understand this natural process and know how to be supportive, we remove the stigma not only of menopause, but of aging in general.
Retaining women in employment during their menopausal years will attract, develop and secure a workforce with valuable skills and talent.
Grey hair (should we chose to show it) is a sign of experience, knowledge and wisdom, not of old age and being over-the-hill.
Anja Lineen provides face to face and virtual training for businesses as well as coaching individual women as they transition menopause.
Book a 30 minute consult call to discover what options there are for your business: click here