While more and more is being done to combat menopause discrimination in the workplace, the fact remains that it still happens daily.
Countless working women going through ‘the change’ are facing hideous attitudes at their job, suffering in silence while symptoms wreck havoc on their bodies and confidence.
Is it any wonder women feel self-conscious and get embarrassed about owning up to menopause when their colleagues, bosses, and co-workers giggle, laugh, and demean the natural changes that are happening in their bodies?
I’ve spoken to thousands of women during my 30 years as a women’s health specialist, and many have told me that menopause has made them feel inferior, invisible, uncomfortable and less confident. In many cases, both at work and at home, they’ve reported that menopause became a badge of failure and confusion, and challenged their self-esteem.
Many of my patients or women in my Facebook Group have many horror stories. Theresa, a hospital worker told me about being called into her manager’s offers because a member of staff had complained about her opening windows. Asked if she was struggling with the heat she said yes that she was struggling through the menopause to be greeted with this perhaps you shouldn’t be there. She promptly burst into tears. This makes me sad and outraged at the same time that no one took the time to think about her and her needs.
The menopause symptoms can have a large effect on productivity. During my Real Cost Of Menopause survey, I found that 84% of the women interviewed, equal to about 8 million working women in the UK, believe their productivity at work is reduced because of their menopause symptoms.
At the time she was going through menopause, Joscelyn was running a busy print and design company with her husband. Though she considered herself a cheerful person, she started increasingly experiencing dark moods she called ‘Black days’, which deeply impacted her ability to network with clients on the phone and face to face.
On her ‘black’ days, she couldn’t cope with talking to anyone and would often find herself at home on the sofa, comfort eating, watching TV or sleeping. This deeply impacted her productivity and very nearly cost her the dream career she had built.
While more than two-thirds of menopausal women admit to decreased productivity levels, only 20% haven taken time off to deal with their symptoms. This means that day after day, millions of women are working through tension headaches, fatigue, depression, foggy memory, mood swings, and many other menopause symptoms without saying a word.
And while we may recognise these signs of menopause on paper, it can still sneak up on women and leave them stunned.
For instance, actress Cherie Lunghi was taken by surprise by her symptoms. She found herself suffering from appalling anxiety without knowing why, and would easily become wound up about very small things. Every day, Cherie felt desperately tired because her sleep was interrupted by night sweats. When she had a hot flush at work, she was completely embarrassed, totally confused, and deeply concerned.
So many women are still afraid to bring up the ‘m word’ in front of their managers or bosses, especially if those above them are younger or male. No matter how many company agendas and policies are implemented, the truth is that menopause is still considered an embarrassing, taboo topic.
Moreover, women fear that their performance will be evaluated against a situation that occurs in the life of every woman over which they have little control.
It is time to change the conversation about menopause and reframe both our understanding of it, our terminology, how we deal with it and, most importantly, our attitudes.
In order to rewrite the discussion surrounding menopause and make the topic acceptable to everyone, we need to know what those suffering from menopause think and feel.
That’s why I’m conducting a new “Change the Conversation” Survey examining attitudes to menopause. The results we receive will help raise awareness of the challenges women are facing at this inevitable life-stage. It will enable women to express themselves more freely and open the door to increased support and workable solutions.
In exchange for your honest thoughts, you’ll receive a free download, where I share my top tips about feeling wise and positive through menopause.