The World Health Organization has named October World Menopause Month and World Menopause Day on October 18th. While mental health often takes the spotlight, it’s important we continue to open the conversation on the less talked about aspects of our health, like menopause. World Menopause Month is a time to raise awareness and talk openly about this normal, natural part of aging and include menopause in modern DEI initiatives.
Even though nearly half of the world’s population will experience this biological transition and nearly half of all women work, menopause is rarely an open topic of discussion in the workplace. A YouGov poll of 1,025 HR professionals found that 72% of organizations did not have a menopause policy and that 77% did not train line managers on the subject.
Yet, approximately 75% of women will experience some menopause symptoms and 25% will experience serious symptoms. Interestingly, research by Harvard, Mayo Clinic, and the NHS shows that most women are reluctant or even afraid to talk to their employer about menopause.
This important Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion wellness conversation remain largely taboo.
Why it matters in the modern workplace
- Menopause is a natural condition affecting all women
- With current demographics and increased life expectancy, the trend is for women – the fastest growing sector of the workforce – to continue working later in life.
- Un-managed menopause symptoms can have an enormous economic impact, directly affecting attendance, health care costs, and work performance.
- Though well-being has globally emerged as a strategic business priority, workplaces, working practices, and health policies are generally not designed with menopause in mind.
- Research suggests that workplace ageism and misogyny can play a part in the exclusion of menopause symptoms from corporate health policies, making this a relevant Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion component.
- Menopause occurs at an average age of 51 which correlates with a critical career stage when women are more likely to occupy stressful senior positions. This is especially relevant as we continue to increase the number of women in leadership roles and encourage their valuable contributions to the bottom line.
- Menopause often occurs when women have other major life stressors such as aging relatives and/or children leaving home, all impacting resilience.
- Symptoms such as hot flashes, “brain fog”, anxiety, depression, and sleep issues can reduce confidence, add to workplace pressure, and cause embarrassment.
- Women have a tendency not to disclose symptoms at work due to concern about their careers or embarrassment.
What we need to do
- Start the conversation!
- Shift our thinking and begin considering menopause as mainstream and as important as any other occupational health issue.
- Accept that menopause is not just a female issue, it’s an organizational and societal matter.
- Provide programs to increase awareness among managers and employees of menopause as a genuine occupational health issue.
- Cultivate a culture where women feel comfortable about discussing symptoms and their impact on their working lives.
- Educate all employees with basic facts from trusted sources to encourage open conversations and connect them to concerns of stress and burnout.
- Provide options around flexible working hours and work environments – such as office temperature or ventilation – to help manage symptoms.
- Ensure that a dedicated menopause policy is a part of your corporate well-being, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion or general HR policy.
- If you are a leader going through menopause, try to normalize your challenges, so that other women can feel empowered to speak in the future.
Start the conversation this October!
If you stay silent – for whatever reason – recognize that you are reinforcing the taboo and ambiguous attitude that currently exists. Through active leadership support, an organization can begin to realize benefits in productivity, work culture, and the bottom line, when the menopausal transition is addressed as a specific, work-related concern. Let’s start the conversation because menopause really does matter!
Republished with permission from whealthness.ch