Embracing Change: World Menopause Day
Every woman's journey is marked by transformative phases, and one such significant milestone is menopause.
Every woman's journey is marked by transformative phases, and one such significant milestone is menopause. On 18th October, the world unites to observe World Menopause Day, a day dedicated to acknowledging the profound impact of this natural transition on women's lives. Beyond the biological changes, menopause often brings with it various emotional and social challenges. This observance is more than just a date on the calendar; it's an opportunity to shed light on the experiences, myths, and realities surrounding menopause.
One crucial aspect we focus on is the significance of normalising menopause in the workplace. Creating an environment where menopause is openly discussed and understood is immensely beneficial to women undergoing this transition. Normalisation not only reduces stigma but also allows women to seek the support they need, ensuring their well-being, productivity, and overall job satisfaction. By fostering a menopause-friendly workplace, we empower women to navigate this phase with confidence, promoting a culture of empathy and inclusivity.
In this blog, we are joined by expert partners, Grace Molloy, CEO of Menopause Friendly Australia, and Lisa Saunders, Nutritional Food & Health Coach and Co-Owner of Own Your Health Collective. Together, we delve into the heart of World Menopause Day, exploring its importance, dispelling misconceptions, and emphasising the need for understanding and support. Their insights shed light on the complexities of these stages and the importance of recognising and addressing the associated challenges.
Understanding Perimenopause and Menopause: Navigating Women’s Health Transitions
Menopause, the cessation of menstrual periods, marks the end of a woman's reproductive years. According to Lisa Saunders, Nutritional Food & Health Coach and Co-Owner of Own your Health Collective, this natural transition occurs retrospectively after 12 consecutive months without a period, typically around the ages of 50 to 52. Preceding this significant event is perimenopause, a transitional phase marked by hormonal fluctuations. This phase, lasting an average of five to eight years, is characterised by irregular menstrual cycles and a myriad of physical and emotional symptoms.
For many women, perimenopause can be a confusing and challenging time. Grace Molloy, CEO of Menopause Friendly Australia, shared her experience, highlighting the importance of awareness and understanding.
"I had no idea when perimenopause would start for me. I experienced changes like heart palpitations and had to navigate these shifts on my own," said Molloy.
Her experience led her to launch Menopause Friendly Australia, which supports organisations seeking to introduce menopause awareness and support. Drawing on best practice from its UK counterpart Menopause Friendly, it takes members through a journey of committing to become menopause friendly all the way to accreditation. With tried-and-trusted CPD-accredited training, Menopause Friendly Australia ensures all organisations pass rigorous criteria across a range of standards to receive accreditation.
Raising awareness is one of the key starting points. The lack of understanding about perimenopause exacerbates the situation; many women are unaware of the signs and symptoms. On average, menopause strikes at 51, preceded by perimenopause, a period marked by hormonal fluctuations and symptoms. Once a woman completes 12 months without a menstrual cycle, she officially enters menopause, marking the end of her reproductive years.
Understanding perimenopause and menopause necessitates recognising the myriad symptoms women might encounter—up to 35 or more in total. Saunders emphasised, "Every woman's journey is marked by transformative phases... These symptoms range from familiar problems like hot flashes, night sweats, and breast tenderness to irritability, sleep disturbances, changes in libido, and weight fluctuations." The unpredictable nature of these symptoms, particularly concerning menstrual irregularities, underscores the individuality of each woman's experience. Intriguingly, about 20% of women don't undergo any symptoms, although this is the exception rather than the norm.
One significant challenge faced by women is the lack of awareness and education regarding these symptoms. Saunders added her insights, emphasising how many women find themselves uninformed and bewildered, often questioning their mental well-being during this phase. "The fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone, pivotal during perimenopause and menopause, significantly impact mental and brain health," said Saunders. Research from esteemed institutions like Monash University emphasises the importance of early self-care, understanding one's body, and adopting healthy lifestyle practices. Despite the tendency to overlook these concerns, prioritising self-care from an early stage can vastly improve the transition into perimenopause and menopause, ensuring a more manageable and empowered experience.
The Whispers of Perimenopause: Listening to Your Body
In the realm of women's health, the subtle signals of perimenopause often go unnoticed, their importance underestimated. Lisa urges women to be acutely attuned to these signals, which often manifest as irregularities in menstrual cycles or unexpected shifts in mood.
"It's incredibly individual, ranging from five to a decade," Lisa shared. These variations underscore the importance of open conversations surrounding perimenopause, a time that can be exceptionally challenging for many women. While perimenopause typically commences in the mid to late 40s, for some, these subtle changes might start as early as their late 30s. Lisa stresses the significance of paying heed to the whispers—those unusual moments, subtle alterations in menstrual cycles, or unexpected shifts in mood. These whispers are profound, indicative of the body's transformative journey.
"By acknowledging these signals," Lisa emphasised further, "women can take proactive measures.
Seeking timely medical advice and making lifestyle adjustments can significantly ease their passage through perimenopause and eventually, menopause. This proactive approach not only empowers women with knowledge but also provides the necessary understanding and support to navigate these transitions with grace and confidence."
In a world where women's health experiences often remain unspoken, listening to these whispers becomes paramount. It is through understanding and embracing these subtle signs that women can embark on this transformative journey with informed decision-making and unwavering support.
Navigating Menopause Challenges in the Workplace: A Crucial Conversation
Acknowledging menopause as a workplace concern isn't just an act of compassion—it's a crucial step towards cultivating a supportive work environment. The statistics present a concerning reality: between 10% and 25% of women contemplate leaving their jobs due to the challenges posed by menopausal symptoms. This predicament stems from a dual issue: managing these symptoms becomes overwhelming, compounded by widespread misunderstandings within workplaces regarding the unique struggles faced by menopausal women.
This dilemma sparks a vital conversation within corporate spheres: How can workplaces adapt to comprehensively support women navigating this natural yet challenging life stage?
Grace Molloy, a leading expert in the field, sheds light on the gravity of this issue. She emphasises,
"Yes, workplaces absolutely can adapt. In terms of turnover, we know that one in four women will experience symptoms that are problematic enough that they will be considering leaving."
"For most organisations, introducing support is fairly simple and inexpensive, but can help them to retain valuable talent. Raising awareness and fostering open conversations is a good starting point, and considering the most helpful reasonable adjustments is also key. We know that employers aren’t medical or menopause experts, so always encourage them to signpost where employees can seek external support, or direct them to their healthcare provider for aspects which reach beyond the workplace.”
This revelation is rooted in research from the UK's Fawcett Report, indicating that 10% of individuals indeed exit their positions due to these symptoms. These women, often seasoned and highly skilled employees, actively contribute to workplace dynamics, frequently taking on additional responsibilities. Losing such invaluable professionals is a significant blow to any organization.
Furthermore, this issue extends beyond immediate workforce dynamics. It influences broader aspects such as gender pay gaps. Workplaces are under increasing scrutiny to minimize these disparities, especially with impending transparency regulations like WGEA, which will publish gender pay gap data. Retaining women in the workforce during this phase, particularly those in higher-paying roles, becomes instrumental in addressing these disparities. Fortunately, there are practical strategies that organisations can implement to tackle this challenge and ensure the continued engagement of women experiencing menopause. This includes fostering understanding, providing comprehensive support systems, and encouraging open dialogues, thereby enabling women to navigate this significant life transition with confidence and support.
"The numbers of women experiencing menopause are likely to exceed 1 billion globally by 2025. So it really is a huge number. It's very much a natural life phase that we really need to normalise within the workplace", Lisa added.
Crucially, a recent study revealed that 83% of women feel that their menopausal symptoms are adversely affecting their work. Alarmingly, over half of these women expressed a desire to leave or take a hiatus from the workforce. Additionally, 60% emphasized the lack of support from their workplaces, underscoring a glaring gap in the current corporate landscape. These findings illuminate a pressing challenge: women are keen to remain in the workplace, many returning after breaks to continue their careers well into their 60s. However, their aspirations collide with the entirely natural physiological stage of menopause. During this phase, women may experience a range of symptoms, requiring the essential support to navigate this transformative period of life.
Employers, too, bear a significant burden in this scenario. For them, losing these skilled and trained professionals not only results in a loss of knowledge and expertise but also carries substantial financial implications. As Lisa pointed out, "What kind of impact does that mean to me?" This sentiment resonates deeply with employers who understand the strategic and financial repercussions of losing experienced employees. Therefore, menopause isn't merely a women's issue; it's undeniably a workplace concern that demands collective action, understanding, and comprehensive support mechanisms. Acknowledging and addressing this challenge head-on can pave the way for inclusive, empathetic, and truly supportive workplaces.
Empowering Women Through Menopause: A Call for Supportive Workplaces
In today's rapidly evolving professional landscape, the dynamics of the workplace are undergoing a significant shift. Central to this transformation is the imperative need to acknowledge menopause as a workplace concern. This isn't merely a matter of compassion; it's an essential facet of fostering a truly supportive work environment. As organisations grapple with the challenges posed by a talent shortage, retaining skilled and experienced employees, particularly women, becomes paramount.
So, what can organisations do to bridge this gap and create supportive environments for menopausal employees?
Grace Molloy advocates for a proactive approach:
"The first thing I’d recommend is to get some input and feedback from your employees. Ask your people what they would like to see in terms of support, and create a safe place where people feel they can have confidential, constructive conversations. Once you’ve shifted the culture into one which normalises menopause, it can work wonders."
Lisa Saunders echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the need for education and understanding at all levels of the organization. She notes,
"It starts at the top. Getting the CEOs involved, getting the board involved, getting the senior leaders on board with this and understanding that it is a serious issue."
Redefining the Workplace Narrative
It's essential to redefine the workplace narrative around menopause. Understanding, empathy, and education are the keystones to building a workplace where women can thrive through menopause. In conclusion, addressing menopause as a workplace concern isn't just about retaining women; it's about fostering a workplace where everyone, regardless of gender, can thrive. It's about acknowledging the transitions in life and creating environments where employees are not just supported but celebrated for their resilience and dedication. The responsibility lies with each organisation, each manager, and each employee to contribute to this transformative change, ensuring workplaces are not just spaces of productivity but sanctuaries of empathy, understanding, and inclusivity.
Empowering Organisations: A Comprehensive Approach to Menopause Support
Navigating menopause in the workplace requires a holistic and empathetic approach, one that extends beyond mere policies and delves into the very fabric of organisational culture. In a recent discussion, experts shed light on the pivotal role of education, understanding, and active support in creating menopause-friendly workplaces.
Lisa Saunders, an expert in menopause support, shared insights into their strategies: "We work with organisations through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, workshops, and webinars, all of which can be conducted online. Additionally, we conduct audits within organizations to truly understand the pulse of their workforce. These audits often reveal valuable insights as employees are often more forthcoming with external entities like us than with their employers. It's all anonymous, ensuring a safe space for expression."
This personalised approach ensures that organisations are equipped with a nuanced understanding of their unique workforce's needs. Recognising the vital role of male allyship, Grace Molloy emphasised the significance of educating managers and leaders. "Giving managers a framework to discuss menopause, along with understanding the signs and symptoms, is key. Many men within our workplaces, after attending our sessions, have meaningful conversations with their spouses about menopause. This ripple effect of understanding is invaluable."
Organisations often start with policies, which is essential, but it's not enough. Policies must translate into actions embedded in the organization's culture. We've seen instances where policies exist, but the atmosphere within the organization remains negative, rendering the policy redundant. It's about creating an active, supportive culture
Grace stressed the need for personalised policies:
"We intentionally avoid providing templated menopause policies. Every workplace is unique, and policies need to reflect that uniqueness. We guide organisations on how to create tailored policies, providing numerous examples. It's not about having a policy for the sake of it; it's about having a living document that truly supports employees."
In essence, supporting women through menopause requires a multi-faceted approach, blending education, personalised strategies, and meaningful policies. As organisations embrace this comprehensive outlook, they pave the way for a future where menopause isn't a challenge to overcome but a phase to navigate with empathy and understanding.
Addressing Menopause: A Strategic Imperative
Acknowledging menopause isn't merely an ethical consideration; it's a strategic necessity. As our workplaces evolve, so do the challenges faced by our workforce. Menopause, a natural phase marking a woman's life journey, demands our attention and understanding. It's not just about supporting women; it's about preserving invaluable talent, fostering inclusivity, and fortifying the very fabric of our organisations.
Consider the numbers: a substantial percentage of women contemplate exiting their jobs due to the complexities of menopausal symptoms. This exodus is not just a loss of the workforce but a depletion of expertise, experience, and institutional memory. Menopause-friendly workplaces are not just accommodating; they are thriving hubs where diverse talents blend seamlessly, creating an environment ripe for innovation and progress.
Understanding menopause isn't a mere checkbox in HR policies; it's a commitment to the well-being and longevity of our workforce. By fostering candid dialogues, breaking taboos, and instituting targeted support mechanisms, organisations not only retain their workforce but also empower their employees to navigate this phase with resilience and confidence.
Moreover, a menopause-friendly workplace transcends gender and age. It's an embodiment of empathy, recognising life's transitions and celebrating the tenacity of individuals facing them. In an era where workplace culture defines a company's identity, embracing menopause-friendly policies isn't just a step; it's a leap toward a more compassionate and progressive future.
The responsibility rests with every organisation, from CEOs to frontline employees, to champion this change. By doing so, we aren't just adapting to a shifting landscape; we are sculpting it. We are laying the foundation for workplaces where every individual, regardless of gender or life stage, feels valued, understood, and empowered.
As we steer our organisations toward this menopause-friendly future, we aren't just ensuring our success today; we are investing in a workplace ethos that is not only professional but profoundly human.
In embracing this transformative journey, we are not just leaders; we are architects of a workplace revolution that prioritises people, dignity, and progress.
The future of work is indeed menopause-friendly, and in welcoming this evolution, we are crafting a legacy of compassion, support, and enduring success.