Today is International Women’s Day and the theme this year is #BreakTheBias. Bias towards women still, sadly, exists in many forms. We’re going to lift the shadowy veil of shame on one such bias that is still very much alive and kicking, and affecting HUGE numbers of women in the workplace: menopause.
Please note that for the purpose of this article, ‘woman’ and ‘women’ relate to people whose gender was female at birth.
Menopause, unlike pregnancy, affects ALL women, at some stage of their lives (most women go through it between the ages of 45 and 55). Yet there is still something so shameful about the whole grim set of circumstances. Women don’t like to speak about it. They suffer in silence.
Here in the UK, where I live, women over 50 are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace. Women make up nearly half of the UK workforce. Yet, according to UK-based charity Wellbeing of Women, creators of the Menopause Workplace Pledge, around 900,000 have quit their jobs because of the menopause.
Women have struggled with their menopause symptoms in the workplace for YEARS: three in four women experience menopause symptoms and one in four have severe symptoms. Discussion of these struggles needs to be normalized and the misplaced stigma removed. While menopause is no longer the taboo subject it once was, advancements in addressing this imbalance do still need to be made.
Without workplace support for women, symptoms such as anxiety, brain fog, fatigue, poor memory and hot flushes can lead to:
- Loss of confidence
- Decreased productivity
- Taking time off work
- Less satisfaction with their job
- Making the difficult decision to leave the workforce
Menopause Workplace Pledge encourages organizations to take positive action and support all staff affected by menopause in the workplace.
According to IWD: “It’s clear that addressing menopause in the workplace is not only imperative for gender equality, but companies that do so will benefit from happy and appreciated employees as well as reaping the rewards of a large demographic of talent.”
(Women of a ‘certain age’ have A LOT to offer, including a wealth of experience, supernatural patience and the ability to seriously multitask).
As a perimenopausal woman, my biggest struggle is insomnia. I feel fortunate to work for SMTP2GO because they are incredibly open and supportive of my ‘wobbly’ days… Yet I still feel the need to hide the brain fog, memory outages and exhaustion from my colleagues. I’ve never, ever been shown anything other than support and understanding from my place of work (lucky, right?) but I still feel ashamed and terribly furtive of my symptoms. And this is deep within ME, ingrained. Why should any woman feel ashamed of herself for going through this most natural transition?
I personally came up through very male-dominated industries and, as a woman, there was no room for “weakness” or, in fact, being female! Maybe it’s the same for many other women working in tech? As the mother of daughters, I can only hope this is a thing of the past. The menopause discussion does seem to be going in the right direction, at least 🥳
“Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality,” – IWD2022.
I’ve been told by female friends that once you’re through the grisly jaws of menopause, life gets astonishingly good again. I’m hoping for a hormone-free Valhalla, with long, restful night’s sleep, where I can remember where I put my glasses, and lots of cats. A perimenopausal woman can dream, can’t she?!
Let’s break THIS bias!