30 Jun Is Menopause Ignored in the Workplace?
Taboos lose their power when leaders address them openly, as we’ve seen with issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation.
by Nadine O. Vogel
Menopause is rarely discussed, although half of the world’s population experiences it at some point. It impacts ciswomen, typically from age 45 to 55, lasting 7 to 14 years. This age bracket is the fastest-growing workforce segment, and a person is most likely to be promoted to lead during this time of life. Menopause is not strictly a ciswoman thing. It can also affect trans and nonbinary people. Therefore, let’s remove the menopause stigma in the workplace. The good news, taboos lose their power when leaders address them openly, as we’ve seen with issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation.
We do not all experience menopause the same way. It is estimated that 75 percent have symptoms, 25 percent quite severely, such as hot flashes, hair loss, irritability, depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation, and cognitive impairment. Symptoms affect activities and productivity, needlessly exacerbated by poor policies and outdated gender and age-related assumptions. We see employee support in other workplace issues, but they’re almost nonexistent for menopause, resulting in fear of shame, awkwardness, or straight-up discrimination due to symptoms. For trans and nonbinary people, the act of camouflaging is even greater. Half of those who have taken leave do not disclose the real reason to employers or colleagues.
What employers can do
In the United Kingdom, menopause is protected under The Equality Act. Some companies have established organization-wide departments and personalized menopause programs.
In the United States, women experiencing menopause are not a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act, yet an employer can: understand, listen, and drive change. Ideas include:
• Create a culture of transparency. Offer “listening sessions,” a safe space for these uncomfortable but necessary conversations.
• Connect menopause and the DEI agenda. Link the initiative to well-being and inclusion strategies.
• Adopt new policies. Develop guidance documents to provide practical support.
• Roll out training. Equip human resources professionals, company leaders, and managers with knowledge to provide support. This is important for individuals who have not or will not directly experience menopause due to age or gender.
• Make training ongoing. It should deliver the facts, effects, ways to reduce feelings of awkwardness, and ideas for providing support. Training should ultimately challenge beliefs and focus on removing barriers.
• Offer workplace accommodations. Simple changes can make a world of difference. Examples include:
– Flexible start times. This helps combat issues of sleep disturbance.
– Modified worksite temperature. Use A/C, fans, or open windows. Provide a lounge area for a quiet space and/or privacy.
– Celebration. The World Health Organization and the International Menopause Society designated October as World Menopause Month. Has your company participated? If not, when?
To continue increasing the number of women in leadership and value their contributions, employers must address the physical and emotional aspects of menopause.
The time is now. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for support with your menopause training, programs, and practices. DW
Nadine O. Vogel is the CEO of Springboard Global Enterprises, which is home to Springboard Consulting, Disability Mama, The WIP Group, and the affiliated charity The Springboard Foundation.