Why companies need to acknowledge menopause in the workplace

The most commonly cited reason is sky-high childcare costs, caregiving responsibilities, and pressure or burnout from juggling multiple obligations. Analysts are eager to point to the many reasons that would cause women, specifically, to leave the workforce. And yet they continue to leave one reason off the list.

The taboo of menopause in the workplace

Currently, up to 20% of the US workforce is affected by menopause symptoms.

And unlike women who leave the workforce because of childcare challenges, women who struggle with menopause symptoms rarely find established company guidelines, support, or a sympathetic ear.

As a female CEO in male-dominated industries for most of my career, I can almost see the eye-rolling. How can this be a severe issue when you’ve never heard anyone say menopause was their reason for ending employment?

Working in the life sciences industry, I’ve heard directly from patients whose lives were being upended by menopause symptoms but didn’t think to seek medical help until their symptoms became too disruptive at work.

But that is only the beginning. Once someone decides to seek help, an alarming number of health care providers are uncomfortable treating menopause or unfamiliar with the variety of symptoms that hormonal imbalances can cause. Even when women do seek medical care, they are often misdiagnosed or told to “wait it out,” neither of which helps them manage symptoms in their workplace.

The importance of normalizing a natural life stage

Remember that we are talking about a natural life stage affecting 50% of the population. It doesn’t seem possible that a whole generation of women has nowhere to turn. And yet, I nearly lost one of my valuable employees when hormonal symptoms made her increasingly uncomfortable at work.

I realized that if this topic was difficult for my own employee to discuss, it must be much more difficult for so many others. To get a better idea and understanding of the issue, I decided to survey working women of menopause age in the US Knowing that this generation of women likely spent most of their career hiding anything that set them apart from their male colleagues, I felt hard data. would provide the clearest insights.

The proof is in the number

Our company recently conducted a Women in the Workplace survey, which revealed that 4 out of every 10 women experienced menopause symptoms that interfere with their work performance or productivity on a weekly basis. Seventeen percent have quit a job or considered quitting due to menopause symptoms. That’s a significant percentage of the “missing” female labor force.

We also found that many respondents didn’t feel comfortable asking for accommodations at work. Over 87% of respondents had not spoken to an employer or manager at work about their menopause symptoms, citing reasons that suggest feelings of shame and fear of discrimination or being seen as weak and making excuses. Only 34% of these respondents felt that people experiencing workplace challenges due to menopause would receive support.

Every time I hear about the shortage of women in the labor force, I wonder how many women felt forced to leave simply because our society is unwilling to normalize a natural life stage.

Attracting and retaining a valuable demographic

While we still have a long way to go, we’ve made significant advances in this country. In recent years, organizations have created supportive workplace environments with family and medical leave and reasonable accommodations that recognize us as humans. Women undergoing menopause should be included in these conversations, and in a way that doesn’t burden those who fear the impact it may have on careers or their relationships with their colleagues.

I have the numbers to prove it. Over half of the women we surveyed said that if they were considering working for a company, it would be important for them that the company clearly expressed a commitment to support employees with menopause symptoms.

According to a research note by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the US labor market isn’t expected to reach full employment until 2024. This finding alone should make every employer and human resources manager pay attention.

A better way for all

If you’re a leader or in a position of power in your organization, there are several things you can do to improve these statistics.

Start by making some simple additions to your employee guidelines, such as offering flexibility for remote work and options for temperature control. According to our survey, these two factors can significantly affect how this demographic feels about their workplace. Our surveys also revealed that kindness, compassion, and awareness of what they’re going through could go a long way.

As employers, we can’t afford to continue losing valuable contributors to our organizations. We must normalize being human and work toward making supportive environments the minimum standard for all workplaces. That way, we’ll be able to attract and keep the best talent across all life stages. That’s a future we should all be working towards.

Terry Weber is the CEO of Biote.

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