Overcoming the Taboo: Menopause in the Workplace

Author(s): Ramsha Munshi, Alexandra Zawora, Mathula Chandramohan

Written by Ramsha Munshi, Alexandra Zawora, and Mathula Chandramohan

Women’s health has traditionally been a taboo topic. Education and organizational support resources (e.g. pregnancy, maternity, and paternity leaves) reduced the stigma around pregnancy struggles. However, menopause, a later stage in a woman's life, remains hidden in the shadows, leaving affected employees unsupported. It’s time to overcome this taboo and start supporting employees through every life stage.

Shining a Light on the Reality of Menopause

Menopause is a natural life stage that requires targeted support for many women between ages 45 to 64 but can also impact women younger than 45 and some non-binary, intersex, and transgender individuals. The types of menopausal symptoms impacting employees include:

  • Physical (e.g. hot flashes, sleep disturbances)
  • Emotional (e.g. anxiety, depression)
  • Cognitive (e.g. brain fog, difficulty concentrating)

Individuals experience these symptoms at varying levels, resulting in stress and the inability to concentrate throughout the day. Less than a quarter of women believe they are knowledgeable about menopause (Menopause Foundation of Canada, 2022), signifying a knowledge gap in helping employees cope.

The nature of symptoms causes employees to feel embarrassed and scared to speak up. According to the Menopause Foundation of Canada, nearly 40% of women feel alone during menopause (2022). Employees feeling isolated and those who feel they have a lack of support risk missing opportunities, including:

  • Interrupted career progression into leadership roles, as “18% of women aged 40 to 60 have not pursued a promotion due to menopausal symptoms, and that number jumps up to 24% for Black women” (HRD Canada, 2023).
  • Lost income due to symptoms disrupting employees’ work experience, which may cause employees to leave their jobs or cut back hours. Depending on external factors, this isn’t feasible for all employees.

This leaves employees struggling to find support for their experiences. In fact, “75% feel their employer isn’t supportive or don’t know if they have support” (Menopause Foundation of Canada, 2022). Employees need resources and policies, making it the organization’s responsibility to ensure employees are well-supported throughout their careers.

Inaction Is Detrimental for Organizational Success

Menopausal symptoms affect levels of engagement, turnover, diversity among leadership, and job performance.

Feeling unable to speak about menopause signifies low psychological safety at work. According to McLean & Company’s Engagement Survey, 30% of employees who don’t feel emotionally safe at work are disengaged (2022; N=97,011-109,669). Therefore, a psychologically unsafe work environment increases the risk of this employee segment becoming disengaged.

A lack of support for menopause results in higher turnover as employees are more likely to consider leaving their position and less likely to pursue leadership roles (Maven). This means organizations risk having a less diverse leadership team than they would if they provided menopause support. This influences an organization’s effectiveness because “diverse teams outperform homogeneous ones by over 35%” (McKinsey, 2020).

Job performance also declines when employees experiencing menopause aren’t supported. Menopausal symptoms, such as sleep disturbances and brain fog, influence employees’ ability to perform to their fullest potential. In fact, 40% of women state that menopause interferes with their work performance on a weekly basis (Biote, 2022).

Despite the risks to organizational success, 65% of organizations don’t offer support for menopause (Biote, 2022). It’s time for organizations to step up and advocate for this employee segment.

Take Action to Reduce the Stigma

Supporting employees affected by menopause not only benefits employees, but also increases engagement, improves retention, and boosts performance, enhancing organizational success. Here are some ways to take action:

  • Offer a supportive work environment. Provide fans and proper ventilation, cool drinking water, modified uniforms, and access to private rest areas and washrooms. Offering flexible work arrangements (e.g. working from home, flexible start times) also helps employees cope with symptoms such as anxiety and insomnia. Adjusting the physical work environment and policies is a clear symbol of changing your culture to support this employee segment. For more information, see McLean & Company's Develop a Targeted Flexible Work Program.
  • Educate all employees about menopause. Host events and share resources to inform employees of common symptoms and ways to cope. Involve all employees as menopause also impacts families, supporters, and partners of employees experiencing menopause.
  • Prepare managers to conduct conversations about menopause. Equip managers with the skills to empathetically navigate conversations with employees impacted by menopause. For more information, see McLean & Company's Train Managers to Master Difficult Conversations and Emotional Intelligence in Leadership.
  • Connect employees with appropriate resources. Provide organizational resources that help employees cope with menopausal symptoms, including employee assistance programs, counseling, mindfulness training and external resources. Also, reassess organizational benefits and wellbeing programs to accurately reflect employee needs. For more information, see McLean & Company's Create a Holistic Employee Wellbeing Program.
  • Foster psychological safety at work. Develop a menopause policy and establish accountability for behaviors that contradict organizational values, so employees feel safe to speak without fear of judgment. For more information, see McLean & Company's Introduction to Psychological Safety for HR.
  • Promote the benefits of joining employee resource groups (ERGs). Give employees a safe space to discuss their menopause experiences with coworkers of common backgrounds. Also, consult with relevant ERGs (e.g. women, LGBTQ+) to identify specific resources employees may need. For more information, see McLean & Company's Create a Pathway for Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to Connect to Organizational Support.

Through interventions at all levels of the organization, employees experiencing menopause are better equipped to cope with menopausal symptoms and are comfortable being their authentic selves at work, in turn, boosting engagement and organizational success.

To learn more about McLean & Company’s products and services, please reach out to jcampbell@mcleanco.com.

Works Cited

Dixon-Fyle, Sundiatu, Dolan, Kevin, Hunt, Dame Vivian, and Prince, Sara. "Diversity wins: How inclusion matters." McKinsey, 19 May 2020. Web. Accessed July 2023.

"Menopause 101." Maven, n.d. Web. July 2023.

"The Silence and the Stigma: Menopause in Canada." Menopause Foundation of Canada, October 2022. Web. Accessed July 2023.

Wilson, Jim. "Wanted: Better Support for menopausal women." HRD Canada, 24 May 2023. Web. Accessed July 2023.

"Women in the Workplace Survey." Biote, 2022. Web. Accessed July 2023.

Related Content