Half of the world’s population goes through the life-changing experience of menopause. In America, this occurs around the age of 51. Menopause is the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycles due to changes in levels of the hormonal estrogen and can last between two and 10 years.
Some of the symptoms include hot flashes, disruptions to sleep, fatigue, and impacts on emotional health, with around 20 percent experiencing depression at some point during the transition. With such a large percentage of the global population experiencing this, why is there so little education and understanding around this topic?
Menopause in the workplace
27 million people in the U.S. workforce are silently battling menopausal symptoms. That equates to over 20 percent of workers potentially being without enough sleep, sweating buckets at their desks, and experiencing intermittent headaches, brain fog, and low energy.
Due to these life-disrupting factors, many women are scared to disclose their age to their employers. A survey revealed that 20 percent of women believe menopause has hurt their manager’s and colleagues’ perceptions of their competence. One woman explained to Fast Company how the symptoms impacted her: “It certainly affects my confidence from the point of view of speaking at meetings because I am not as fluent . . . that concerns me. I don’t want to, you know, suddenly not have the word that I need, so I am perhaps sort of withdrawing a little bit.”
Solidarity with menopausal women
With such a large percentage of the population experiencing menopause, why is this not being addressed head on? The simplest solution to support women experiencing menopause could be merely to talk about it.
There is still a taboo about discussing menopause in many workplaces. Women don’t want to admit they are going through it as they think it will hurt their credibility or reinforce stereotypes, and many men don’t want to talk about “women’s health issues.” Silence on this issue has serious repercussions on women’s perception of themselves and misunderstanding from others.
There can be very little consideration and space for the difficult biological events women go through: including menopause, menstruation, and having children. There should be opportunities for flexible working without women being scared of the negative impact on their career.
Together we can make the workplace a more inclusive place through discussion, empathy, and understanding. Stay tuned for part two for some solutions on how we can implement this.