• Friday, June 14, 2024
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Normalising the conversation around menopause in the workplace

How ‘japa’ wave disrupted workplaces in 2022

Menopause is rarely a topic of conversation in any setting, even though half of the world’s population experiences or will experience this biological transition at some point in their lives. It is not a medical condition or an illness but a natural component of the life cycle, yet this topic remains unspoken about – especially in the workplace.

Culturally, we are slowly starting to have this conversation, especially in the MENA region. Earlier this year, TENA, the worldwide leader in incontinence products launched a campaign to change the narrative around menopause in celebration of International Women’s Day. This follows research that revealed 82 per cent of women in the region were keen to use a new and more positive phrase to describe menopause, in place of Age of Despair – a description for menopause in Arabic.

As a result, the phrase ‘Age of Renewal’ has now been added to Al Maany, the Arabic dictionary, as a new entry. This initiative has garnered support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations’ sexual and reproductive health agency and is a massive feat for women everywhere.

With women now rising to senior roles and holding leadership positions more than ever, we need to start valuing the conversation around women’s health in the workplace. We know that pregnancy and motherhood are considered the fabric of our society and the way we support soon-to-be mothers has significantly changed. Yet, it is rare to hear support for the needs of women going through menopause. We need to change this.

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Women between the ages of 45-55 have steadily risen over the last three decades. It is crucial that we demystify a natural phenomenon and ensure menopause and its effects on women is part of the workforce conversation, otherwise, we will see a rising number of women leave their jobs prematurely and create a gap especially in leadership and C-suite.

A 2019 survey, conducted by BUPA and cited by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a London-based association for human resource management professionals, reckoned almost 900,000 women in the United Kingdom left their jobs over an undefined period of time because of menopausal symptoms.

It is time for employers to look at all aspects of the wellbeing of all employees and menopause can no longer be an exception. By shedding light on menopause and showing support for women experiencing it, organisations can reap benefits in terms of better loyalty levels and a more inclusive and productive workplace.

At Standard Chartered, we recently partnered with the Financial Services Skills Commission (FSSC) to explore how the menopause transition affects women working in financial services and their progression to senior roles. The research is being carried out by the Fawcett Society, UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights. It will provide critical insight into the challenges faced by women experiencing the menopause transition at work and how this impacts the talent pipeline across the UK’s financial services industry. The findings will also identify actions organisations can take to better address the barriers women are experiencing and will also provide practical advice on how employees can be better supported.

As a business community, we need to normalise the conversation around menopause in the same way we have changed the conversation about mental health, parental leave, etc. We need to break down barriers and foster inclusion by supporting women in this transition. I was very fortunate to have worked for a leader who valued my health and wellbeing when I first started experiencing menopause symptoms.

He was well informed about menopause as his wife had gone through this. He gave me insights on different things to do to relieve menopausal symptoms and helped me through making decisions on whether to take medication or not. Throughout, I felt supported and often verbalised how I was feeling with my colleagues without being stigmatised. My wellbeing was valued and, in turn, my deliverables were not affected.

Addressing the stigma around menopause means challenging negative and stereotypical attitudes by changing not only culture, but policies and practices as well. An honest conversation and willingness to take this issue seriously is the first step which will ultimately lead to a more inclusive and supportive workplace.

Clarke, regional head of HR, Standard Chartered Bank Africa and the Middle East (AME)