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Menopause expert urges companies to consider inclusivity for women at work

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Menopause expert Kate Usher, who works with companies and organisations committed to supporting women in the workplace, is calling for more inclusion around menopause ahead of International Women’s Day. The theme for this year is ‘Inspire Inclusion’

A renowned menopause expert and author has spoken out about the importance of creating supportive workplaces for women experiencing the symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause.

Kate Usher, who owns and runs Menopause in Business to help organisations become more menopause-inclusive, says that although the general landscape of menopause awareness is improving, there is still much to be done to help women remain in their chosen careers and not be disadvantaged at work by a natural phase in life.

“Because of the age at which menopause is experienced, women are often at the peak of their careers when they may have to manage the wide range of symptoms that menopause can bring,” says Kate.

“If organisations are not supportive or flexible enough around this issue, they risk isolating talented and knowledgeable employees who ultimately might take the decision to leave the organisation. This can lead to a very real gap in the talent and experience that successful companies depend on.”

This year’s International Women’s Day (8 March) has the theme of ‘Inspire Inclusion’ and for the UN ‘Invest in Women’, Kate sees this as a perfect opportunity to include women experiencing menopause in the ‘inclusion’ debate.

“Our places of work need to consciously consider and include menopause to ensure women choose to stay in employment and do great work. Without this, too many will feel that there is no other option but to leave and many more will downgrade their ambitions”

A 2022 House of Commons Committee Report, Menopause and the Workplace, referenced BUPA research which found that more than 900,000 women in the UK have left their jobs due to menopausal symptoms. Additionally, a report by Simply Health last November, entitled Health and Wellbeing at Work, found that a startling 87 per cent of women would like their employers to be more supportive of women’s health. It is estimated that absence related to menopause costs the UK economy £7.3 million each year.

“In any organisation, employees are the biggest asset,” says Kate. “Retaining good quality and people who feel respected and understood is absolutely key to growth, both financially and in terms of overall reputation in the marketplace. Making sure you have the right advice and focus on this is essential in a modern and inclusive organisation.”

Kate is the author of Your Second Phase: Reclaiming Work and Relationships During and After Menopause, and she regularly speaks about menopause and the importance of normalising it at work.

She says that organisations often don’t realise how straightforward changes can make a significant difference to women, and she shares five tips to get businesses started in becoming more menopause-inclusive are a great start.

  • Lead from the top. If the senior leadership drive their company’s menopause policy, this will have a hugely positive “trickle-down” effect on the rest of the organisation. Normalisation and inclusivity will naturally become part of that company’s culture.
  • Open discussion. It is important that all members of staff with managerial responsibilities are trained in how to support women going through menopause and that there is open discussion around the subject, rather than embarrassment or stigma.
  • Build awareness. There is still a great deal of misinformation, lack of knowledge and misunderstanding about what menopause means and how it manifests. The result of this is that it is too often thought of as something that women just have to “deal with.” This leaves female staff feeling isolated and even ashamed. Basic education around menopause awareness can combat this effectively.
  • Manage expectations. It is essential any menopause policy is clear on what’s expected in terms of behaviour, language and awareness for all members of staff, regardless of role, gender or seniority.
  • Make use of data! Organisations often routinely collect data but do not maximise it for learning. Tracking your staff retention rate for women in particular age groups, for example, can reveal where gaps might be in inclusivity and provide opportunities for improvements such as extra training and policy updates.

Kate says her own very challenging menopause combined with her career in business and the corporate sector led her to want to do more to help ethical and successful companies keep women within the workplace.

“My own experiences made me feel very alone and out of control at work,” says Kate. “It can be an overwhelming struggle when you feel you have to carry on as normal and manage everything completely by yourself. It can be a real onslaught as symptoms increasingly take their toll. The workplace is a key part of challenging this so we can create a real sea change in thinking, rather than just token box-ticking. By working towards this in a positive and dynamic way, we can ensure women don’t lose hard-won careers and businesses don’t lose some of their best talent. When you think about it in this way, it can only be a good thing!”

* The House of Commons Committee report, Menopause and the Workplace, can be found here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5803/cmselect/cmwomeq/91/report.html


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