Menopause. It’s a taboo subject for many. But why? It's a natural part of ageing for half of the population. So why aren’t we talking about it in the workplace?
The gap between men and women in senior positions is often attributed to caregiving. It’s widely acknowledged that women tend to be the primary caregivers and are more likely to leave work to take care of children or elderly relatives. However, what is not often discussed is how menopause may also be contributing to gender inequality in the workplace.
Most women will experience the start of menopause by the time they are 51. In addition, 1 in 100 women will experience symptoms before 40 years of age. This is well before the age of retirement, however a lack of support for people struggling with the menopause means many women retire early. In truth, nearly one million women have left the workplace due to menopausal symptoms in the UK alone. So, just as women are reaching executive and board level positions which usually come with years of experience, menopausal symptoms could push them to leave. This is a huge loss for businesses and has a massive impact on workplace diversity.
With retirement ages increasing, and more women in the workplace than ever before, this natural part of aging can no longer be ignored. It is estimated that in 2030, about a quarter of the world’s female population will be turning menopausal. So, now is the time to put in place some practical initiatives to support women experiencing menopausal symptoms at work. And here’s how:
Listen and Learn
It’s difficult to provide support if you don’t first understand the struggles. Nearly two-thirds of women who experienced menopausal symptoms said that this impacted them at work. But what are the symptoms of menopause? Common symptoms can last up to 10 years and include hot flushes, difficulty sleeping, low mood, anxiety and problems with memory and concentration. Just as you may implement equality, diversity and inclusion training, it may be worth considering training on the impacts of menopause for your employees. Through understanding and listening to the experience of those experiencing menopause, businesses can begin to implement practical steps to provide the support required.
Emotional intelligence is a must for business leaders and can go a long way in encouraging open conversations with teams. Managers should do everything they can to ensure that employees feel comfortable expressing their needs. If someone is struggling to work because of their menopausal symptoms, they should be able to communicate this without feeling embarrassed. Make sure your employees feel confident that their issues will be taken seriously and that support will be provided without question.
Revise Your Office Set Up
Can temperature be controlled in your workplace? Apart from the toilets, are there spaces designed for privacy? If not, these are great places to start in terms of physical changes you can make. Try providing portable fans or moving desks away from warm areas to ease the intensity of hot flushes. Take a look at your office spaces and provide somewhere easily accessible where doors can be closed to ensure privacy if someone is experiencing high anxiety. These are simple changes that could prove to be a lifeline for someone experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Flexibility at work provides huge support for women in the workplace in general. But for those who are menopausal, it can mean the difference between working or not. Sometimes symptoms are so debilitating they may prevent you from leaving the house. In this instance the opportunity to work from home would be helpful. In other instances, swapping one long break to additional shorter breaks but more frequently may assist people manging with symptoms.
These physical and flexible changes in the workplace could have a huge impact on the business’s retention of senior female talent. And whilst they may seem like small changes, they can go a long way to address the current inequality issues and close the gender gap. If your business is looking to improve its equality diversity and inclusion efforts, get in touch today to discuss how we can add value to your company.