February 14, 2024

Is menopause a career conversation?

Recently, along with Meredith Wiseman from Making Menopause Marvellous, I co-facilitated a Menopause event arranged by Uniting Canterbury Women. We delved into menopause from a health and work perspective. Following the event, women are continuing the conversation through Meredith’s workshops and online “lives”, as well as having career conversations with me. At the end of one of our conversations, a participant revealed candidly that she was surprised that menopause could be part of a career conversation.

"I did not know menopause was a career conversation" may sound surprising to many, but the truth is, menopause impacts more than just physical health. It can significantly affect a women's “career health” too. It is not a new topic at all, and one highlighted nationally last year through World Menopause Day in October, and the Paddy Gower Has Issues segment on “Menopause: Time to talk about it” in the same month. A report by NZIER for Global Women: The silent transition: Understanding the impacts of menopause in New Zealand workplaces is a current and compelling read, highlighting the importance of workplace conditions as key to supporting women to maintain economic participation and productivity.

What we know for sure is that women experience menopause differently. Symptoms ranging from hot flushes, anxiety, aches, and cognitive changes make navigating work challenging, and for some, debilitating. During this time, many women find themselves grappling with a shift in how they “do work”, with some experiencing decreased productivity, fatigue, discrimination and, adding to this, a reduced confidence. It can be difficult to talk about it. Sadly, for many, the only option they can see is exiting their workplace, changing roles, reducing hours, retiring early, or working even harder to “keep up” and ultimately “burning out”. Those who feel comfortable having frank conversations with trusted people about how their symptoms are affecting their work can find different ways of working that are mutually beneficial for them and their workplace. Conversations matter! Understanding how menopause is impacting work is indeed an important career conversation—for both employees and their organisations.

For employees experiencing menopausal symptoms, it is difficult knowing where to start. The following hints and prompts might be useful:

-      Reflect on your value—you come with years of experience and have much to offer.

-      Note your symptoms and seek advice—your doctor, and/or a specialist in women’s health and menopause.

-      Notice how your symptoms are impacting your work and home life.

-      Note what is working for you and is not working for you.

-      How could you reformat your work and home life so that it can work for you?

-      What would be helpful for you?

-      Who can you talk to? What has worked for others?

-      Think about speaking to a mentor, trusted person, menopause group, colleagues.

-      Be clear on both your needs and what might be helpful for you before you approach your Team Leader/HR/Wellbeing Representative.

For employers

Acknowledging and attending to the unique challenges menopausal women face in the workplace, and recognising menopause as an important part of a career conversation opens doors to discussions about workplace support, accommodations, and inclusivity. The following hints and prompts might be useful for employers:

-      Acknowledge the skill, capability, and value women (at all ages and stages) bring to the workplace now and as future leaders.

-      Encourage a culture of trust allowing staff to feel confident having open, safe and regular career conversations beyond the performance appraisal.

-      Provide access to mentors, informal support groups and networks.

-      Embed menopause in Flexible Working, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, and Health, Safety, Environment & Wellbeing policies.

-      Accommodate different ways of working, access to resources and spaces that will be helpful to employees as they navigate work and menopause.

If you have any thoughts on this topic, or if you would like to talk about how you could integrate menopause more effectively into career conversations, do connect.

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Amanda Smidt

Executive Director – The Career Development Company


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