Menopause in the Workplace
Menopause When Working
In the 19th century women lived to an average of 48 years, so most women never experienced menopause. During the 20th century, due to improved sanitation and medicinal benefits, the average age gradually lifted, until today, the average lifespan is 83 years.
Spanning the Victorian era and many decades after, women’s medical issues were just never discussed. Personal dialogue was considered immodest. Social etiquette reigned supreme. Men regarded emotional women as hysterics and unstable. Women were supposed to fit into a mould created by men.
A revolution for women occurred with the release of the birth control pill in the 1960’s. With the ability to control the number of children conceived, this gave women the choice of entering the work force. Later came the battles for equal pay and recognition.
Now in the 21st century, women have become CEO’s, Prime Ministers, and leaders in the work force. BUT?????? Have women advanced enough to openly discuss menopause as a work environment concern?
Women are in the prime of their working life during their forties and fifties, just as menopause kicks in – lasting 5 to 10 years on average. The kids have left the nest and women can devote more hours to their career. Women are reaching their career peaks, but are they being side-lined because of menopause symptoms?
Menopause Symptoms are familiar. Hot flushes, perspiring, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, hair falling out, loss of confidence and over tired. Because they are unpredictable and embarrassing, women are dealing with these issues silently. Surrounded by a taboo shroud menopause is not discussed in the workplace. Women will make jokes and giggle amongst themselves, but that same banter does not transpose to the entire workplace, especially if the workplace is male dominated.
The menopause body transition, and the mental and physical changes that accompany it, is not supported. Women feel ashamed and fear makes women reluctant to mention it, as this could lead to being tarred as a problem employee. To be labelled as irrational or emotional is decidedly not good for one’s career. Particularly if you are prone to spontaneous crying or petulant moods as your imbalanced hormones go berserk.
Stressful work situations are difficult to deal with when your emotions are jumping all over the place. Irritable and cranky in the morning, super tired in the afternoon. Heaven help you should you fall asleep during a boring presentation.
Discussing menopause symptoms and effects in the workplace expands women’s exposure to sexism and ageism in the workplace, so silence allows them to fly under the radar.
A turnaround is occurring though for menopause recognition. Last year Vodaphone researchers surveyed more than 5000 women, of whom, one third, said they hid their menopause symptoms due to a perceived stigma. Significant symptoms mean some women opt to miss out on job opportunities and 10% will actually quit working altogether. Women move to lower paid positions and quit management roles, which impacts the gender pay gap. About 45% of women contemplate retirement or an extended break. This represents a significant amount of experience being lost.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that about 35% of employed women are over the age of 50. To support that influence, change needs to occur for ‘the change’ to lose the air of secrecy and isolation. Menopause is not an illness, but an unconscious bias exists due to discriminatory fears.
Workplace menopause policies are rare. It is an occupational health and wellbeing issue that is sadly lacking. The Diversity Council Australia and the Human Rights Commission recently commissioned a report titled Older Woman Matter, specifying attention towards older women’s issues. Interestingly it was noted that HR departments are not skilled in assisting menopausal women.
The way forward?
- Will workplace policies alienate older women by creating prejudice regarding their work capability?
- Is a global focus required?
- Are working menopausal women the driving impetus to introduce policy?
We conclusively agree that more open discussion is required, especially because of the effect on the women, the organisation, and the companies they work for. It is thought that labour market dynamics will force a change. Sensitivity is required, but by creating a positive atmosphere, change can be augmented.
Kirstin Hunter was the CEO of Future Super. Before resigning, she announced her support for the company introducing an annual 6 days paid menopause leave, renewing debate. The change is happening.
If you are interested in looking for a natural all evidenced based Menopause range, we have created the Menopause Collection with you in mind. Click here to see who we can help.
Written by Mona Hecke
Mona Hecke is a degree qualified Naturopath, nutrition specialist and health and wellness writer.
With over 20 years in the health industry, beginning with a focus on children and families, and a bestselling book ‘The Lunchbox Revolution’, Mona is now empowering women through education and conversation to take action and embrace change. Gut health, mindfulness, nutrition, hormones, and menopause are the topics that women want and need to know to create their healthy future.
Mona holds certifications in Lifestyle Coaching, Kinesiology, holistic herbal medicine, and nutrition.
A recognised leader in the health industry, Mona’s strong social media presence and passion for influencing change will continue to be a catalyst for health reform for the benefit of every Australian.