Why employers need to do more to support women in the workplace

By Heather Jackson and Sam Simister, co-founders of GenM

For many, the menopause is seen as the last taboo in modern society. In fact, despite the progress that is being made in the area, our groundbreaking Invisibility Report1 revealed that 75% of menopausal women still feel that the topic cannot be openly discussed. One of the many disadvantages of this is that in the workplace, many employees with menopausal symptoms suffer in silence, with many being forced to pause or even end their careers.

Menopausal women are the fastest-growing demographic in the workplace according to the Office for National Statistics2. But with 48 clinical, medical and credible potential symptoms, many of which can be debilitating and  invisible in nature, the menopause presents a big challenge to this demographic. The effects can be physical, emotional and psychological and can have a huge impact on their confidence, mental health and productivity. Frustratingly, for many, this transition comes at the lifestage when they are at the tops of their careers.

According to our Invisibility Report2, 88% of women wish their workplaces were better set up for menopausal colleagues, while only one in five would say that their current employer is well-informed about the menopause. What’s more, 90% of women who’s careers were on a high when entering the menopause said they felt completely blindsided and unprepared for the change.

It is crucial to address the role that workplaces have in understanding the menopause and making it a more positive experience for those experiencing it, whilst also helping to normalise the conversation for those who don’t. After all, the menopause doesn’t just affect those going through it – it also impacts everyone who interacts with them whether colleagues, friends or family. It also affects businesses too, from employee retention, to morale, to customer engagement, and ultimately bottom lines.

For business leaders, this can feel like a difficult issue to tackle. Particularly for those who are just waking up to the issue, the problem can be knowing where to start. But, while it can’t be denied that there are many changes in the working world that need to be made, there are some straightforward first steps that can help to make a difference in the workplace.

With our Invisibility Report showing that three in four women still feel that the menopause can’t be spoken about publicly, normalising, destigmatising and demystifying the conversation is key. What’s more, establishing an environment for people to talk about the menopause comfortably and authentically is vital for employers to learn which accommodation strategies would best benefit colleagues.

For example, an employer might consider flexible working schedules, offer options to work from home, provide fans to help with hot flushes, or host menopause information sessions to empower staff to discuss the topic confidently and raise awareness for menopausal symptoms. 

Clearly, there’s also a very pressing need for more education and awareness surrounding the menopause. Our research shows that more than half of women (51%) can only name three of the 48 potential symptoms. If women themselves can only name three, how much less do their male colleagues know about the menopause? One of the most important steps in making menopause better understood and supported in society, at home and at work is spreading awareness and normalising the conversation. Responsible employers and managers can play their part by creating a workplace culture where there is no penalty for respectfully raising or openly discussing this natural transition.

Last year, we saw huge companies such as ASOS, Timpson and Kellogg’s commit to certain actions for menopausal employees, from offering up to 10 days paid menopause leave to offering to cover the cost of Hormone Replacement Therapy treatment. At GemM, we also have over 40 companies on board from Marks & Spencer and Next to Simba and Modibodi. Each of these brands has pledged to do more to understand the needs of the menopause and represent them in workplace policies, as well as in products, services, signposting, and marketing campaigns. All of these represent a huge step in the right direction, but it’s only the beginning.

According to our research, more than half of British women admit their employer knows very little about the physical and emotional effects of the menopause. This simply isn’t good enough. After all, the menopause affects every element of your business where people are involved, whether employees or customers.

At GenM, we walk you through understanding the impact of menopause symptoms and help your company to use its platform to normalise the conversation surrounding the topic. Additionally, we help you to better represent the menopause in future products, services, signposting, campaigns, and workplace policies.

While it is not currently a legal requirement to have a menopause policy in place, we think organisations should help to support their employees through ‘the change’. But any policies cannot simply be a case of box-ticking. As mentioned previously, the starting point needs to be the culture of the workplace, from normalising the conversation to spreading awareness of symptoms.  If the environment is not supportive to the needs of employees then any policies will not be effective.

The menopause directly affects half of humanity, and indirectly, it impacts all of us. With more women working into their later life, and 10% of women’s symptoms lasting up to 12 years3, this issue will only become more and more important in the workplace.

We’re working together with over 40 brands, big and small, to create a world where the menopause is no longer a barrier for women in the working world. With over 15.5 million women in the UK currently going through the menopause, as well as many trans and non-binary people, what will you do to help improve the menopause experience?




Story originally appeared on fca.org.uk


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