According to recent government figures, three quarters of teachers are women, so why is support for those in the profession who are going through the menopause glaringly lacking?
The average age that a woman reaches menopause is 51, but symptoms can start much earlier. Women over 50 are also the fastest growing workplace demographic and many women working in education are in senior leadership positions by this stage in their careers.
While all women go through menopause, some will have a more difficult time of it because of the nature of their job role. Teaching is no exception.
How will a female teacher suffering from menopause-related anxiety cope in such a physically and mentally-demanding school, college, or university environment?
How will menopause-related fatigue and problems concentrating fare against dealing with problem pupils, excessive workloads, and strict deadlines?
What about heavy and unpredictable periods? Hot flushes? What if you can’t just up and leave the classroom if you need to?
Some women’s menopause symptoms are so severe that they either need time off from work or questions get asked about their capability to do their job.
Sadly, support from managers, even female ones, is often not forthcoming.
The result is many wonderful educators feel they have no choice but to leave their role, which is very sad, considering that getting there is the culmination of a lifetime’s work for many women in the profession.
Can the teaching profession afford to lose such highly-skilled and valuable teaching talent? That’s what could happen if schools, colleges, and universities don’t become more menopause friendly.
What can be done to better support female educators who are going through menopause?
There’s no getting away from it, teaching is a physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding job at the best of times, so when it comes to menopause, we can’t just sweep it under the rug.
When I deliver menopause training to an organisation, I always make a point of saying that menopause should be business as usual. While there are some really positive signs that it’s being talked about more openly, it’s still a bit of a workplace taboo.
Women are still suffering in silence, and considering leaving their jobs, which is bad news for a profession like teaching which struggles to recruit and retain talented staff.
So what can be done?
Allowing toilet breaks during lessons where necessary.
Providing sanitary products in staff toilets.
Providing a place to shower and change if necessary.
Considering flexible working requests such as reducing hours or allowing some work to be done from home to help women manage their symptoms.
Providing access to cold water and allowing employees to control the temperature of their working environment if possible.
Menopause in the national curriculum
The government has added menopause as a topic to be covered on the sex education curriculum in secondary schools. Surely schools that are menopause aware and menopause friendly will be better placed to give pupils a broader and more enlightened view of the topic?
And it all needs to begin with how they support their own staff.
Raising awareness about the menopause among women, men, and employers is all about education and making it comfortable and acceptable for people to speak about it. Menopause is not a condition to be treated and cured, it’s a normal stage of life that every woman goes through. Helping people to realise this is my mission.
My training events are aimed at educating HR professionals, managers, and working women about the menopause in a fun, engaging, and informative way.
If you’d like to find out more, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org