Can you believe that 1 in 10 women feel that they have no option but to leave their job due to the impact of menopause?
1 in 10 women!
That is not a small figure.
When we consider that women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing segment within the UK workforce, and the average age for the menopause transition is 51 (with many experiencing symptoms years before), it’s clear that we cannot – and should not – ignore the impact of menopause upon the personal and professional lives of our employees.
So, let’s have a look at the impact of menopause and a few recommendations of how we can support women better in the workplace.
A renovation project on the brain
In Davina McCall’s incredible documentaries on menopause (see resources below), menopause was described as a “renovation project on the brain”, and this is absolutely spot on.
Menopausal symptoms can, in fact, start years before a woman’s periods stop – this is known as peri-menopause. During this time, estrogen levels will fluctuate and become very unstable, progesterone production will stop, and testosterone levels will continue to drop.
By the time a woman’s periods completely stop, estrogen levels are extremely low and they will have likely already have been experiencing years of hot flashes, night sweats, palpitations, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, bone loss and vaginal dryness – to name a few – and this is not even considering the mental health implications around increased levels of anxiety, low mood and even suicidal ideation.
Can you imagine trying to continue ‘business as usual’ with work and home life while all of this is going on?
What’s even worse is that – due to the lack of education around menopause and the horrendous stigma created around the subject – many women do not even realise they’re experiencing menopausal symptoms.
In her ‘reveal all’ documentaries, Davina McCall talks through her experience and she shares how – like many other women – she had no idea it was the menopause and just felt like she was completely losing her mind.
On top of that, due to the lack of education within our doctors surgeries, symptoms of menopause are also often mistaken for depression.
In a survey of 3000 women, it was found that a shocking 2/3 of women were being offered anti-depressants when they showed up at the doctors displaying symptoms of menopause.
One woman even tells Davina that when she told the doctor that she thought she was experiencing menopausal symptoms – she was shut down with “No, you’re too young to go through the menopause”… at the age of 49!
This is wrong on so many levels: firstly, the average onset of menopause is between 45 – 55 and secondly, 5% of women go through early menopause (between 40 – 45 years old) and 1% of women experience premature menopause (before 40). Therefore, it is completely possible for her to have been experiencing the menopause – and in fact, she was.
Education on the signs and symptoms of menopause – and how to safely support yourself and others through this transition – is severely lacking within our society, leading to a lot of women suffering for a very long time when they absolutely shouldn’t be.
So, how can we improve our workplace practices to better support women experiencing peri-menopause and menopause?
Supporting women in the workplace
Before we look at the steps we need to take to improve the support that we offer, it is important to recognise that the tides have been changing and we are getting better at understanding menopause – largely due to the huge campaigns that have been circulating around this subject over the last few years.
For example, in secondary schools, teenagers will now be educated about menopause as part of the new Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum. This is incredible progression and the result of the determination and campaigning efforts of #MakeMenopauseMatter.
And – although we have a long way to go still – 1 in 10 businesses now have a menopause policy in place to help women stay in work. This makes sense not just for the wellbeing of the women, but it is hugely important for us to retain this incredibly important talent pool.
Aside from implementing a menopause policy in every single workplace, let’s finish with what else can we do to better support women in the workplace.
These are just a few recommendations that we have at Siendo – but we would love to hear more from our readers around what else would better support women at work. Please do reach out with any other suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: If you decide to implement these recommendations within your workplace (and we hope you do), we encourage you to make sure these are clearly communicated to all staff. So many great initiatives go unnoticed, because many staff do not know they exist (and posting them on the intranet just won’t cut it these days due to information overload!)
- Designated person(s) at work specialising in workplace wellbeing support for peri / menopausal women: These roles could be filled by a few Mental Health First Aiders, for example, who have received additional training in how to support women during their menopause.
- Menopause support group: A group where open and frank discussions can be held – a place where people can realise they are not alone in their experiences. It is also worth considering opening this group up to all genders and identities. Everyone could benefit from better education around menopause, and so many people are lost at what to do to help their partners through this time in their lives.
- Menopause support app: We won’t be recommending a particular app here, but it is worth researching into the available apps that can act as another level of support for menopausal women in the workplace.
- Flexible working: This should form part of your menopause policy, which acknowledges that women will need an increased level of flexibility in the workplace. They will be far more productive and contribute far more effectively if they are able to adjust the way they work (and wear clothes that support their changing bodily experiences).
- Sign the petition and show your commitment to #MakeMenopauseMatter: thanks to their petition and campaigning efforts, they have already succeeded in their mission to get menopause added to the RSE curriculum in schools throughout the U.K, but they still have more to do. Their other goals include:
- Mandatory menopause training for all GPs and menopause to be taught as part of every medical school curriculum.
- Menopause guidance and support in every workplace.
We’ve signed the petition – will you?
Everyone has the right to go to work and feel supported.
Below you will find various resources that will help you to 1) understand menopause better and 2) manage menopause in the workplace effectively. We hope you find these useful.
- Documentary 1 – Released 12 May 2021: Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and the Menopause
- Documentary 2 – Released 02 May 2022: Davina McCall: Sex, Mind and the Menopause
- The Fawcett Society: Landmark Study – News Article
- The Fawcett Society: Menopause and the Workplace Report
- CIPD: Free Guidance on Managing the Menopause at Work
- The Menopause Charity: Antidepressants and Menopause Report
- Change.org: #MakeMenopauseMatter Petition
- NHS: Menopause Information