Women face many challenges along the timeline of their careers. Although many federal laws make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender, there’s no denying that losing time on the job for pregnancy or taking care of children can cause a woman’s career to slow down. Many women get “stuck” caring for aging or ill parents, another problem in the job world. By the time a woman gets her career back on track in her 40s, she finds another hurdle – menopause.
Menopause is when a woman’s menstrual cycle stops or when she hasn’t menstruated for 12 months. The period leading up to this stage is called perimenopause. According to the Society of Endocrinology, the average age for a woman to reach this milestone is 51, but it can occur much earlier and even later in life. While it is typically marked by not having a period, the loss of hormones brings on multiple symptoms including insomnia, anxiety, difficulty focusing, and the stereotypical hot flashes.
Why should employers care about menopause?
Menopause is not classified as a disability, because it is a natural part of life. Still, it affects 50% of the population. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimates that 20% of the workforce is affected. Although menopause is typically considered an older woman’s issue, women under 40 also can go through menopause due to cancer treatment or other health conditions. Employers need to be aware of how these symptoms impact women at the height of their careers. Empathy can go a long way toward reducing absenteeism, losing senior female talent, and avoiding lawsuits over ageism.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Menopause Society designated October as World Menopause Month. To break down barriers, we need to start talking about it more in the workplace.
This is part 1 of a multi-part story. Parts 2-4 will be posted soon.