Working and menopause: Eliminating the Shame
World Menopause Day
Today is World Menopause Day, a significant day to raise awareness of menopause and how it can affect people’s lives.
There is no doubt that recent conversations about menopause and the perimenopausal years have shed light on some myths and taboos. That have made this time of life for many people even more challenging to navigate. Unfortunately, many stigmas are still attach to this very personal subject. The responses I received when I told a few friends that I was writing this article ranged from support to outright horror.
Making it easier to talk about and get help for menopausal symptoms is crucial in light of how widespread and severe they can be and how much they can affect people in nearly every aspect of their lives, including at work. After all. Many of us will experience symptoms that range from unpleasant to life-altering. As a result of certain surgeries and medical treatments or as a natural part of getting older. What’s more, ladies, yet a few trans and non-double individuals as well.
As someone with severe endometriosis since 18. Which came with crippling pain. I frequently boasted how much I looked forward to menopause. I reasoned that I would stop experiencing the pain that dominated a significant portion of each month during menopause. Now I understand how flawed this reasoning was; I was transitioning between challenging periods.
I’ve experienced menopause twice:
I could not take any hormones to combat menopause symptoms for a brief time in my 20s when I received an experimental hormone treatment for my endometriosis, and again now. Even though my 20s experience mainly consisted of hot flushes and, at random, coughing, I broke a rib. It
paled compared to my 50s experience. And it’s different from a work perspective. I was fortunate to have a low-pressure job in my 20s. I can’t say this about my 50s.
What are my side effects?
Indeed, they are essentially the entire look at the list. Indeed, when I was recently working on my organization’s menopause inclusion guidance. I checked nearly all of the symptoms I listed as potential ones. Some of them were symptoms that I had no idea could be caused by menopause. My symptoms have included, but are not limited to, hot flushes, arthritis in my fingers, brain fog, and persistent insomnia, which has resulted in constant, overwhelming exhaustion, and a great deal more. Since my job requires a lot of public speaking. Like many menopausal symptoms—my job requires me to be on top of things and constantly multitask (and remember words). However, all of this became difficult. I occasionally felt that I was losing the essence of who I was and what made me unique.
Turning point in life
A turning point in my life came when I talked to and listened to my coworkers and learned about their own experiences. It included Sharon Thorne, who is also the co-author of this piece, and others who are in relationships with menopausal women. They assisted me in understanding that I was not alone and required specialist medical
assistance. On the medical front, it’s always a process of trial and error because my endometriosis makes it challenging to find the best hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, as of this week, my symptoms have subsided.
My own experience and the experiences of numerous others have bolstered my belief that we need to put in more effort to eradicate the stigma associated with menopause at work. I want everyone going through it to feel like they can talk openly about their symptoms and how they affect them. I want them to know they can do this without being judged by coworkers or feeling self-conscious about it. Menopause should be discussed, understood, and mitigated in the same way mental health issues are discussed, understood, and mitigated at work.
It needs to be done right away because surveys have shown that menopause symptoms are causing too many people to continue leaving their jobs, and not everyone has access to the medical care I have. This silent exodus is a significant loss not only to the individual but also to the workplaces to which they contribute after years of hard work to advance their careers and balance work and life.
In other words, careers should continue even after periods end. Even if it initially feels awkward, we need to make it acceptable to discuss menopause at work. These conversations are more helpful and less uncomfortable the more we do them. And the easier it should be to establish a workplace culture that welcomes menopausal workers and encourages them to stay.
When I start going through menopause, the subject was never discussed, especially at work. People were expected to deal with their symptoms privately, including in the workplace. Where they are frequently the most difficult to manage.
This lack of transparency shaped my own experience of menopause:
I had no idea what was causing my symptoms when they first started. As a result. My rest was seriously disturb, and I lost quite some of my typical energy and inspiration. I could get through long, stressful days on two hours of sleep and was frequently overcome with negative feelings.
I required as soon as I should have because I did not associate these symptoms with menopause. And when I did realize it was menopause, I didn’t tell anyone about it because I didn’t want to be seen as someone who had lost something." So I waited a long time to get the proper treatment, and I worried a lot about how my symptoms might get worse and affect my career at a time when it was the most challenging and promising.
Thinking back. I can’t help thinking about how different my experience could have been. If menopause had not been such an untouchable at that point. Therefore, I concur entirely with Emma regarding the need to de-stigmatize menopause in the workplace.
Receiving support and information at work helped me better manage those challenging times.
Senior leaders, many of whom have personally experienced or know people who have, should also be in charge of this shift. It is why I started telling my story, and I hope that other people will do the same when they are ready.
Employers can also take measures to normalize conversations, create safe spaces for people to share their experiences, raise awareness, and lessen the sense of isolation and confusion. That many menopausal women experience are open and authentic leadership.
For instance, we at Deloitte encourage our Deloitte companies to hold menopause cafés and webinars. Several that Deloitte UK has hosted have been highly eye-opening for me. For example, I will never forget hearing from a very senior police chief about how her symptoms nearly cost her her job and her marriage and how she struggled for two years to get diagnosed.
Emma points out that menopause presents both a personal and a business challenge. More than half of people will probably go through menopause during their careers. When symptoms get too bad. Many will have to cut back on hours, turn down promotions, or quit their jobs altogether. These are individuals whose abilities bosses have put resources into for a long time but risk losing at the pinnacle of their ability.
Therefore, it is essential to incorporate menopause-specific policies into the inclusion strategies of organizations. Such as mental health support, flexible working, or specific medical services. To ensure that individuals continue to thrive during this crucial phase of their lives and careers.
Deloitte’s global diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) agenda include menopause inclusion. As a result. Many of our companies have implemented tailored practices like an agile working program in Deloitte North and South Europe or a dedicated story-sharing platform in Deloitte US. Additionally. We have published global comprehensive menopause guidance. That includes information on symptoms, workarounds for alleviating them, best practices for providing support, and resources for team leaders like conversation guides.
Our focus on menopause inclusion makes me proud, but work is still to be done. My commitment as chair of the Deloitte Global Board of Directors is to advocate the issue. In as many ways as possible, of Deloitte. Indeed, I believe that boards play a crucial role in this situation. Challenging management to improve their menopause inclusion strategies continually and setting the tone from the top regarding culture, values, and, most importantly, DEI.
We can do a lot to ensure that work is where people can get information, care, and support despite menopause’s potential to disrupt lives and careers. The stigma can and should be eradicate.