Menopause the hidden threat to women’s careers

According to MP Carolyn Harris, “the menopause revolution has begun” there has definitely been a significant increase in the amount of coverage on the menopause this year in the media, in parliament and within organisations. We’re particularly interested in the effects of both perimenopause and menopause on women’s careers and ensuring that awareness translates into action. Peppy Health in a recent poll of HR directors found 54% of businesses currently do not have any dedicated menopause support.

Interestingly we’ve seen a couple of articles written by women saying it’s not something that should be talked about in a workplace context, that women don’t want to talk about it and that it will give employers more reasons not to give opportunities to older women.

We disagree. We know from both our own research and recent reports that whilst many women are not comfortable talking about it at work it’s less to do with privacy and more to do with the social stigma and the inherent ageism that still exists in the workplace and society.

Why is this important?

We know that women 50+ are the biggest growing demographic in the workplace, for many women the perimenopause and the menopause hits at the point when they may be at the peak of their careers, ready to move into senior leadership positions and address the gender balance that exists in senior leadership and boardrooms across the UK.

A quarter of women are perimenopausal by the time they are 40. Many women moving into perimenopause don’t know what’s happening in fact research from GenM showed that those whose career was on a high when the perimenopause began were the most unprepared (90%) and knew the least about it (83%) 

 We’ve worked with many women who reach a point where they suddenly feel overwhelmed by their jobs and feel it’s because they’re in a high-pressure role. Those women often reduce their responsibilities as they feel they can’t cope, don’t put themselves forward for promotion and some leave the organisation.

So if you’ve invested in a female talent pipeline, the menopause could cause a serious leak. The most worrying thing is that many of the women won’t know the reason and as an organisation, you definitely won’t. Women rarely divulge their menopause symptoms (only 1 in 5) and the more senior they are the more unlikely they are to do so.

So what can you do about it?

There are some obvious things that organisations need to put in place including having a menopause policy, providing awareness training, having practical support and facilities and access to medical advice. 

What’s really vital is that as well as putting those things in place is creating a culture where it feels safe and acceptable to talk about the menopause This needs to be something that is at the heart of D&I – it affects every woman.

Here’s how Richard Simpson CEO of Watkin Jones sees it…

“Being seen as a poor employer in the eyes of the more highly educated 50% of the population would be hugely damaging and stupid for any leader to allow….

If we think the next generation of bright and talented young women aren’t watching how those ahead of them are treated in an industry as they reach more senior positions, we are kidding ourselves.

There’s an additional level of support that we strongly advocate, particularly for those women in senior roles who would be difficult to replace. That is providing specific tailored transitional coaching to support women who are struggling with physiological symptoms affecting confidence, concentration and their sense of belonging, often not recognised or misinterpreted as performance issues or loss of motivation. This approach provides women with bespoke support that is relevant to their situation and challenges, helping retention, advancement and performance.

Want to know more about how you can support your female employees navigate the menopause? Get in touch.

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