Menopause is a silent yet massive economic issue, presenting an insidious barrier to women in the workplace.
Employers and governments need to address menopause in order to get more women into leadership and/or retain them in managerial roles across all industries.
Menopause is often endured in silence. Research indicates women are leaving their careers when the hot flushes, sweats, sleeping, and concentration irregularities negatively impact them and their cognitive functions.
The lack of menopause awareness in the workplace presents another barrier limiting progress for women and their careers. The representation of women in leadership roles is already significantly limited; for example, the average tenure for a female board member is 4.1 years in comparison to 6.9 years for male board members. This gap is even wider for women board chairs, with the average tenure of 2.7 years compared to 6.3 years for a man.
Support for menopause in the Australian workplace has largely been left to the private sector. In 2016, the Victorian Women’s Trust (VWT) introduced the Menstrual and Menopause Workplace Wellbeing Policy to support workers (VWT 2012).
The National Women’s Health Strategy 2020-2030 published by the Australian Government (2019) outlines a need to conduct more research into working with menopause, however, there is no clear progress, and no budget has been announced.
We know there is a gap between progressing towards executive roles and experiencing menopausal symptoms. Additionally, research reinforces the need for workplaces to be conducive to women dealing with symptoms of menopause. Neglecting this issue and ignoring the elephant in the room could lead to women’s increasing absence from the workforce.
The Grattan Institute found that the addition of 6% more working women would grow the Australian economy by $25 billion in addition to building economic independence. That number alone should influence governments to look beyond the evident.
I encourage for government to undertake a Menopause and the Workplace Inquiry to examine the degree of impact menopause is having on the economy and the government’s role in future policymaking.
If we are serious about rebuilding after the Covid19 pandemic, we must include all our talent. Building a more supportive working environment for those experiencing menopause has considerable benefits for our communities and our nation.