How business leaders can support women during menopause

Happy business woman working together online on a tablet, menopause

Last month, the Women and Equalities Committee published a report calling for a menopause ambassador “to help to introduce model workplace policies covering how to request reasonable adjustments, advice on flexible working and sick leave, and building a supportive culture”.

As we approach Menopause Month in October, it’s clear that this is a topic high on the political agenda, and is also an issue that business leaders are – finally – prioritising. 

Back in April, a number of large organisations including the BBC, Citi Bank, Tesco and AstraZeneca signed a pledge to help female staff going through menopause. 

The very fact that a pledge was created and is being taken on by major corporations, indicates that those in the C-Suite are starting to take women and the menopause stage of life seriously. This is welcome news, with data from Health Awareness UK showing that two thirds of women working through the menopause say they currently have no support at all from their employers, while 25% of women say they have considered leaving their job and 1 in 10 actually do.

The simple truth is, if women were better supported through these life changes and transitions, they could continue to contribute to the workforce without business leaders needing to continually allocate budget to retraining staff, which makes smart business sense when you consider that retaining is cheaper than retraining.

It’s also important to acknowledge the employment gap between people over and under 50 years, which has been steadily narrowing over the last 20 years. Statistics show that women over 50 are the fastest growing group of employees and they are without doubt a hugely valuable business asset. However, what’s interesting is that a staggering 14 million workdays are lost to the UK economy due to women taking time off to manage peri / menopausal symptoms.

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So how can business leaders best support women going through this stage of life?

Firstly, there needs to be the creation – and enabling – of a forum for open and honest conversation between employees in order to normalise menopause, removing the notions of taboo, and stigma surrounding the topic. Data released in July from GenM, the menopause partner for brands such as Co-op, Royal Mail and M&S, revealed that almost half (48%) of menopausal or post-menopausal women don’t feel comfortable discussing the menopause at work. Clearly there’s work to be done to break down the barriers and encourage open discussion in the workplace.

There should also be greater encouragement and facilitation of wellness days off, without repercussions when they are actually taken. This is something that goes right to the top, with managers and directors responsible for setting an example to their teams by taking these days off themselves.

Other measures include providing herbal teas, desk fans, relaxing the dress code and outwardly encouraging mini breaks during the day to get out and clear your mind.

Crucially, male employees have a responsibility to actively become allies and to learn from their female colleagues about their experiences. Shifting from an attitude of minimisation or belittling of symptoms to empathy will help women feel able to tolerate the transition more comfortably. The results will speak for themselves – fewer women leaving the workforce, leading to greater female representation on boards, and ultimately lower costs to business for retraining staff.

About the author

Holli Rubin, is a psychotherapist at the private mental health and wellness clinic The Soke, where she specialises in supporting women through menopause and leads the menopause group therapy sessions.

Holli Rubin

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