How many females called into work today due to the menopause? Don’t worry I wouldn’t expect you to know and I wouldn’t believe you if you said you did know. And let me tell you why. There are no stats. None.
“We all know women who are palpably suffering from the menopause. They bear it bravely, adjust as best they can, and never consult a physician about it…There is ample evidence that the course of history has been changed not only by the presence of estrogen, but by its absence. The untold misery of alcoholism, drug addiction, divorce, and broken homes caused by these unstable, estrogen-starved women cannot be presented in a statistical form”. ( Wilson and Wilson 1963, 355 )
And amusing as this is, it had a point about stats, even today. However just recently (June 2017) it has been acknowledged that 280 million sick days are lost each year due to perimenopause/menopause symptoms. However I think this number would vastly increase if all women were more open about peri/menopause symptoms. Actually less than 50% will admit suffering with perimenopause/menopause symptoms. It’s one of the most non-spoken about conditions in the world, not just in the workplace.
We have been analyzing and treating menopause/perimenopause symptoms since back in the mid 1800s, where the word commonly associated with the menopause was hysteria. Maybe because a treatment, back then, which was favored by a woman gynecologist, was to inject the vagina with the filtered fluid of guinea pig ovaries.
However it wasn’t all bad — other common treatments for symptoms were opium and cannabis. Which I would class as natural medicine. I think the natural medicine route, was a eureka choice back then, that they should have played out much longer.
Luckily by the late 1890s we had advanced somewhat and ladies were now prescribed grounded-down cow ovaries in the form of a tablet and… please sit down ladies and it’s all about to make sense — testicle juice. Yes, drinking testicle juice was known to support menopause symptoms. Somehow I don’t think it was the same female gynecologist who thought that one up.
By 1930 we had more of an understanding of menopause and as you’d predict, medicine evolved as did the knowledge. Doctors now associated the menopause as a deficiency disease. But from then until the 1970s, when the International Menopause Society was launched and until now, we have only moved on with trialling different medicine-based methods. Things like HRT, Anti-depressants, etc. Taking into account we have moved on (a little) in terms of medicine, sadly that’s where it starts and ends. We just don’t talk about it. And because of that we have no education and very little experience of it, especially in the workplace. We still have a lot of unstable, oestrogen-starved women out there who are suffering in silence.
I refer to the term unstable oestrogen-starved women, because I like it. No sarcasm. I really do. It makes me laugh, in a warm way. Being 50 and perimenopausal, I have empathy with the term. I’m a huge fan of the menopause, I see it as very liberating. I’ve embraced it in a very positive way and spent a lot of time treating my symptoms via the ‘farmacy’ not the pharmacy. And I tend to stay away from anyone (or thing) that makes it out to be bad or a draining part of life. It’s far from it in principle. But it’s a time in your life that you should value. What makes me so big on the menopause ? Besides oodles of research and changing my own life last year as the symptoms were so overwhelming I thought I had ME. Now I train 5 times a week and have gone through my own journey to find out what works for me. I’ve also spent time in India looking at the Ayurveda way to treat the symptoms as well as other cultures and I’m also a Nutritionist where I’m now focusing mainly on women over 40 as well as nutrition for sports. The message here is – I’ve had to find this information and educate myself. Other than the negative basics — there is nothing else out there, especially in the workplace.
My career expertise is employer branding, something I love and draws out all my passion.
Commercial business, changing times, digital pace means we have to keep analyzing our culture more often than we’d like to or we are used to. The working environment has changed — attracting talent — longer careers — shortness of true, thought provoking candidates means we have to be open to everyone and to do that we need to educate our employees. True employer branding starts from the top — down, but every employee needs to understand it. How many large companies talk about more women in leadership roles to balance the stats? Hundreds, if not thousands. How many companies want to attract more female tech talent? Believe me when I say, if you’re not set-up to support women, fully, one of your competitors soon will be.
And if you didn’t already know, 46% of women make up the work place. 35% of women are in senior or managerial jobs. Women on UK Boards has doubled since 2011. We even have a female Dr Who!! Perimenopausal symptoms start from the early 40s in a high percentage of women, with the average age being 51 (some say 54) for full menopause. That means women can be symptomatic for 10 years’ before they complete menopause. The symptoms are not intense for everyone, but gradual over the years. The more knowledge your company has of this and the more you educate your SLT and line managers, the less sick days will be taken and less stress will be evident in your female population nearing this age. We’re not asking for the keys to the Kingdom, we just want you to know that us unstable oestrogen-starved women, we are still as dynamic but once in a while, we just need to take a pause.
I’m lucky I’m knowledgable enough to treat my issues myself — but there was a time I needed support. I had many unpleasant symptoms, and going into an office based work environment (or any work environment) sometimes wasn’t possible. Traveling via my job again, sometimes wasn’t possible. And I know of no company that is set up with a process to accommodate women like me. Because they are missing an understanding. It’s a taboo subject. But not for me. I going to be sharing, over the weeks, a better understanding so you can be a full 360 employer of choice — not just a box-ticker to meet legislation. You want to build an all inclusive, passionate, true employer brand? — then stop ignoring the obvious. It’s not just about flex-time. Or filing it all under mental health, (deep breath).