Menopause is a normal part of most women’s lives, yet that is the last thing we “plan” for! It may be a challenging time full of unknown transitions. In this blog post, we are going to talk about workplace and menopause. Don’t think those two words belong together?? Let me tell you why they should!
If you are a woman approaching 50s, this may feel relevant, but I am here to tell you that it is just as relevant – if not more – for any woman approaching 40s. For some of us, menopause, perimenopause, or premenopause can be a decade-long experience. I am not sure our world is set up for us to thrive during that period!
Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause is officially when you stop getting a period. For many women, however, the decade prior to it can be full of menopause-related symptoms. It varies from person to person. Some have very mild symptoms while others might feel daily disruptions in their life. Common symptoms include:
- Hot flashes
- Brain fog
- Mood changes
- Depression / anxiety
- Body ache and joint pain
- Digestive problems
- Bladder control problems
- Vaginal pain
- Weight gain
- Sleep issues
Why the Stigma?
Menopause is often a very personal and taboo topic for most women. Sure … we might feel comfortable raising our concerns within a supportive, same-age girlfriend group who “get it” or “ have been there.” However, in most polite circles, a conversation about this topic will clear the room quickly.
Women today make up 50.04% of the labor force and at any given time at least 20% of the workforce is going through some stage of this menopausal transition. There is power in numbers, yet women do not feel safe raising concerns around menopause. Women fear being considered “too old” and dismissed as “menopausal women.” They struggle with the challenges of being treated differently in the workforce, and it is scary to feel replaceable. Women today were raised by a generation that attached stigma to the topic of menopause and they actively fear workplace ageism. Both of these things lead to them downplaying their symptoms or suffering in silence.
Why Do We Need to Talk About It at Work?
While this is a personal health issue, it is increasingly becoming an issue that is affecting businesses and economies at large. Menopause happens between the age group of 45-55. This is also a critical career period for many women coming into their own power in their professional lives. According to this article in Harvard Business Review, menopause is often when women are climbing up the leadership ladder while feeling blindsided by this huge, prolonged hormonal transition.
Kids are finally old enough for mothers to prioritize careers and then the age-old problem of the biological clock and career clock..strikes again! While some women have mild to no symptoms, others can experience severe symptoms of menopause disrupting their lives. Menopause is a biological experience that can last for ten years, which means many women are working through debilitating symptoms such as sleep problems, bladder problems, pain, and depression while also making valuable contributions to their company’s bottom line!
Is Your Employer Set Up for Your Menopause?
When it comes to benefits that support women in the workplace, we are making significant progress, yet most of the benefits are centered around pregnancy. Primarily, it involves benefits around fertility, pregnancy support, parental leave, and accommodations for breastfeeding. While these are essential, little to no attention is being given to women going through menopause-related challenges that require specific support.
An interesting survey done by Bank Of America made the statement that: “The number one reason employers say they do not offer menopause-specific benefits is that employees have not asked for them.” This is yet another example of women being cultured to take up less space. They are rewarded for “struggling in silence” instead of asking for what they need. The study shows that 1 in 10 women reported having menopause-specific health benefits and only 1 out of 3 were aware of their benefits.
Women in menopause are the fastest-growing demographic of the workforce. We spend 40-50 hours every week at work. That is a long time to be dealing with some of these symptoms without any actual support. A support structure at work around menopause can help women talent feel heard. It can create a safe environment, will boost employee morale, and can decrease healthcare costs. It will attract women leaders, allow senior female talent to thrive, and decrease attrition rates. And not to mention: it is the right thing to do!
Food for Thought as You Assess Your Employer’s Benefit Package:
- Do you have any menopause specific benefits?
- Do you have access to menopause-specific health providers?
- Does your health-insurance cover hormone replacement therapy?
- What benefits do you have around bone health and heart health as a menopausal woman?
- What is the company culture around menopause, if any? Do they have support groups, webinars, resources that are discussed with employee forums?
- Do you have work schedule flexibility around menopause related symptoms?
- Are there education resources such as menopause awareness sessions available?
To summarize, menopause is a time of change and challenge when it comes to personal as well as work life. Given how much time we spend at work, it is time workplaces consider how best to support their women workforce through the circle of life. With some knowledge and support tools, you can continue to feel at home in your body and continue to kick ass at work even through menopause in all its fiery glory!
To your success,