There are millions of working women who go through the menopause suffering in silence, and it doesn’t need to be this way. For some women, the menopause can really negatively impact upon their personal and professional lives.
Many women consider leaving their jobs or are called into performance reviews because of the impact of their symptoms, and this could be avoided if their employers took simple actions to make them feel more supported.
The research study
A research study carried out by researchers from King’s College London and The University of Nottingham asked menopausal women what they wanted from their employers, and what they didn’t want. The average age of the participants was 54, and of the 137 women who took part, three quarters were perimenopausal and one quarter were post-menopausal. Most of the women were professionals working who worked with colleagues of both genders across a variety of age groups.
Researchers used an online questionnaire which asked women what they thought employers should do to help women going through the menopause, how managers should behave towards them, and how managers should not behave towards them.
The results of the study
What came out of the study was that women wanted their employers to create a positive environment where the menopause is taken seriously by:
Improving awareness of menopause in the workplace
Women want employers and managers to understand about menopause symptoms, how they can impact on work, and how the working environment can worsen symptoms unless reasonable adjustments are made.
Employers should introduce an awareness campaign to show that the issue of menopause is dealt with positively, and that employees should feel free to talk about it.
Offering training across the organisation
Training is a big part of improving awareness about menopause. It should start with line managers, and it should educate them on how the menopause can affect women at work, and what adjustments and support should be offered. This will give managers the confidence and knowledge they need to support women. But training should not be limited to managers, it should be offered at all levels. Women need to understand what’s happening to them, and men need to understand what their colleagues, partners, sisters, and mothers are going through. By educating everyone, it puts the menopause front and centre, and makes it less of a taboo subject.
Telling women how they can get support
Many women will feel uncomfortable talking about the menopause to a manager, especially if they’re male, so it’s important that they’re made aware of as many sources of support as possible. This could be a designated person in HR or occupational health, online or print resources they can access, or a specific support group or place where women can go and chat without fear of judgement or embarrassment.
Making reasonable adjustments
Symptoms like hot flushes can be uncomfortable and embarrassing, so employers could take steps to:
Improve ventilation and temperature control
Make cold drinking water easily available
Provide desk fans
Provide easy access to rest areas and toilets when needed
Provide women with looser fitting uniforms made from lighter fabric
Improving communication and demonstrating empathy
Many women say they expect to be treated with respect and to be listened to by their employer. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen, and many women in the study said they had been forced to have conversations they weren’t comfortable with, been made to feel they weren’t as good at their job because of menopause, faced jokes or flippant comments about ‘women’s problems, or had their concerns dismissed because a manager was uncomfortable discussing menopause. Many ladies I speak to have gone through exactly the same thing, and it needs to stop.
Creating effective policies
Employers should consider menopause when they are creating policies and procedures, either by including it in existing documents or by creating dedicated guidance. The issue is simply too big to ignore. Any policy should give details on the organisation’s approach to menopause, any reasonable adjustments that should be made for menopausal employees, and guidelines for managers. Policies on sickness absence should also make provision for absence due to menopause symptoms. I’ve heard of many cases where women have felt the need to lie about the reason they need time off. Because menopause is not an illness, women are often not treated with much sympathy.
There are benefits to creating new policies or firming up existing ones, for women and for their employers. Women will feel more supported at work and employers won’t lose valuable employees.
The menopause is a fact of life. It happens to 100% of women and it’s a fact that can no longer be ignored in the wider society, or in the world of work.
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.