According to a 2021 survey by the Mayo Clinic, it was estimated that around 10% of women ages 45 to 60 years old in the US had taken time off in 2020 owing to menopause symptoms, costing employers approximately USD 1.8 billion.
Menopause may or may not have been fully understood or well enough over all these decades, but it has been having major effects on women and the workplace. For instance, women with severe menopausal symptoms report feeling less motivated at work, thereby being provoked to consider changing jobs, reducing number of hours at work, or altogether leaving the workforce to stay away from potential issues, situations, or events that could end in an undesirable conclusion or climax to professional careers.
It would seem cruel for any woman realizing goals and making achievements in the prime of life to suddenly happen upon an unseen enemy lurking within. Unfortunately, menopause transition is estimated to show 34 symptoms and more than often, these affect women who are progressing to higher levels at work. While for some, symptoms can be physical, and manifest in the form of headaches and hot flushes, others may experience gradually depleting sleep quality, erratic menstrual cycles, and psychological related symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings, reduced confidence levels, and poor concentration, among others. Many women experiencing these symptoms do not even know that these are related to hormonal change This challenge never experienced before sadly adds to already existing challenge and exacerbates hurdles of ageism and sexism that may be already prevalent in some workplaces.
While on the one hand, menopause has a severely negative impact on the sufferers and gets more severe during a period of time in their lives, while on the other, it indirectly causes major issues to employers. According to a 2021 survey by the Mayo Clinic, it was estimated that around 10% of women ages 45 to 60 years old in the US had taken time off in 2020 owing to menopause symptoms, costing employers approximately USD 1.8 billion. Though the objective of any company may be to drive revenues and productivity and brand image, majority of companies are getting actively involved and engaged in campaigns, programs, and helping to drive awareness about menopause, highlight the dangers and challenges, and also to move closer to a ‘menopause-friendly workplace’ so as to address a serious issue and make work easier for all, regardless of age, gender, or conditions.
As the world progressed away from taboo and traditional practices and wellness matters and health became more mainstream, discussing and addressing pertinent issues of women and the workplace have become a whole lot easier. This includes women and health and mental and psychological conditions and matters, but there still remain some that are just outside a boundary line, but in sight and within reach of addressing. Some concerns of women such as fertility struggles and postpartum depression have already been acknowledged as issues that employers can address. More recently however, discussing the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause has moved into a zone that was more largely considered taboo.
Companies have been working towards transparency and inclusion across varying standpoints on the work front and especially with regard to worker or employee importance and satisfaction and desired outcomes. Companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of supporting employee well-being by addressing various challenges and issues women face during their tenure, and menopause in the workplace has also been gaining attention. Companies and organizations are implementing menopause benefits and options as part of a progressive approach to create a supportive environment for their female workforce.
Some of the novel approaches include extending education and awareness programs, enabling access to counselling services, devising and deploying more flexible work arrangements to suit needs as per situation, as well as exploring and offering tailored health benefits to working women of varying ages. This is supported through acknowledgement of conditions and accommodation of the unique needs of employees going through menopause. This is also enabling companies to develop inclusivity, enhance job satisfaction, and demonstrate a commitment to gender diversity and equality in the workplace.
Women participation in the global workforce in the 1990s was around 50.8%, but started to decline and reached 47.7% at the end of 2019. These statistics remained about the same in mid-2023, but female participation in the global workforce is expected to expand substantially owing to a number of key factors. Inclusion and gender equality as well as abilities of women and men to compete on a global stage indicate that it is clearly a matter of time before workplaces will become more employee friendly and this is indicative for both men and women overall. Also, over the next 10 years, majority of companies would have implemented menopause benefits to ensure employee comfort and convenience, enhanced productivity, job satisfaction, competitiveness, and inclusion.
Large corporates and firms do account for a major chunk of working women currently, but a substantially larger chunk of women workforce are spread across the other areas and sectors. As of March 2023, the agriculture sector is estimated to account for the highest percentage distribution of female workers, followed by manufacturing. The 2022 share of female workers worldwide by industry was healthcare and care services accounting for 65%, education for 54%, consumer services for 52%, and government and public sector for 50%. There are a number of industries more to mention, but sufficient has been included to provide a fair indication that women account for a significant share in the workforce in general.
Companies are currently adopting more women-friendly approaches owing to contributions and capabilities of women seen over time and focus on creating a transparent platform for individuals of any gender and background in recent times. For instance, women held 50.04% of all jobs in the US in 2020, which had expanded from 49.7% in 2019. According to experts, this upward trend of women workforce is expected to continue and further accelerate as the number of men in the workforce declines in parallel. It does appear that companies are also making moves to embrace this trend in evolving workforce and much is being done on this front. For instance, Microsoft, Palantir Technologies, and Abercrombie & Fitch are among a small, but increasing number of US businesses offering menopause benefits, with women most likely to be affected now representing 20% of the female workforce.
Such changes are expected to continue in future as campaigns to offer menopause support to colleagues gain traction. In April, an article was published on a campaign for ‘Menopause Workplace Pledge’, which was designed to raise awareness on menopause and the workplace, and also highlighted it as being a serious issue. According to statistics, around 1 million women have quit their jobs owing to menopause issues at the workplace. Results also indicate that a majority of women do not participate or pass up on promotions or reduce number of hours put into work due to menopause. The campaign calls on employers to take the Menopause Workplace Pledge to keep women and colleagues in work and help them to flourish at every life stage. The campaign has been successful and continues to garner hundreds of signatories over ones already having signed ranging from FTSE 100 companies, major supermarkets, banks, and accounting and law firms to schools, hospitals, universities and even London Zoo. A major sign-in was by the Royal Mail, which has launched a range of initiatives to further support the 16,500 members of its staff likely to be experiencing perimenopause and menopause symptoms.
The UK has been making gains in the effort to create ‘menopause-friendly workplaces’ and this is largely due to it being a country where menopausal women are believed to be the fastest growing work force demographic. A number of organizations in the land have been securing certifications as ‘menopause-friendly’, and this is not limited to the larger firms only. Recent poll results indicated that three in 10 workplaces in the UK currently have some kind of menopause policy in place, with even an awards ceremony for the most menopause-friendly companies.
Not far behind is the US, with plans to change the stigma around menopause in New York and create more menopause-friendly workplaces in the city through improvement of various related policies. A growing number of employers are investing efforts to retain experienced women on the workforce, and many have understood that one way to do so is to offer help to women with menopause symptoms.
According to experts, a primary step to creating a menopause-friendly workplace is to provide education to reduce the stigma around the subject. Companies are encouraged to post information on company websites and provide training on related matters to employees and managers, regardless of gender. Having someone designated to talk about the subject to those with the symptoms and seeking support helps to ease the overall outcome. This approach also works much better if the designated individual to talk on the subject is high up along the echelon at the workplace. This also serves to demonstrate an organization’s positioning of a matter of importance, which garners seriousness, as well as opens up the matter for discussion and makes it free to talk about
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