With the help of high-profile campaigners, recent years has seen women increasingly empowered to talk about their experiences of the menopause and help challenge a stigma, rooted in sexism and ageism, that has kept women suffering in silence for generations. Emma Levin looks at our latest research into experiences of the menopause and what can be done to improve the lives of women going through it.
If employers are serious about closing their gender pay gaps and increasing female representation at the most senior levels, we need widespread reform of how women are supported through the menopause in the workplace.
Despite a rise in awareness and a new cross-government Menopause Taskforce promising progress, there continues to be gaps in what we know about women’s experiences of the menopause, especially in the workplace.
Alongside the Fawcett Society, Savanta recently conducted the largest ever survey of menopausal and peri-menopausal women in the UK, speaking to over 4,000 women aged 45-55 about their experiences.
As a result of the menopause, the vast majority report difficulties with sleeping (84%), memory or concentration (73%), hot flushes (70%), anxiety or depression (69%) and joint pain (67%).
Unsurprisingly this is having a significant impact on menopausal women in the workplace, with the majority reporting losing motivation (61%) and confidence (52%) at work. A quarter (26%) told us they have taken time off as a result of their symptoms.
Four in five (81%) menopausal women agree every employer should have an action plan to help employees with the menopause and yet it appears very few employers are doing enough to support their staff.
The vast majority of women we spoke to who are currently in work report having no designated person they can speak to about the menopause (83%), no policy for staff to take time off for menopause reasons (80%) and no menopause training for managers (80%) and other staff (83%). Two in five (38%) say they have experienced people at work treating the menopause as a joke.
The consequences of this lack of support are stark. At a time when women should be reaching the peaks of their careers, so many are being forced into taking a step back. One in ten (10%) women who have worked or are currently working during the menopause say they have left their job because of their menopause symptoms. Similar proportions have reduced their hours (14%), moved to part-time work (14%), or not applied for a promotion (8%).
If employers are serious about closing their gender pay gaps and increasing female representation at the most senior levels, we need widespread reform of how women are supported through the menopause in the workplace. The Fawcett Society’s calls for change, off the back of Savanta’s research, include:
- Require employers to have menopause action plans
- Make flexible work the default
- Implement a public information campaign and invite every woman in to speak with her GP about menopause at an appropriate age
- Ensure GPs receive mandatory training to help diagnose menopause earlier.
Savanta interviewed 4,014 UK women aged 45-55 who are currently or have previously experienced the perimenopause or the menopause online between 26th January and 4th February 2022. Data were weighted to be representative of UK women aged 45-55 by age and region.