With many women over 50 returning to work or thinking about how best to extend their working lives, I asked Dr Lynda Shaw how the menopause affects the way we think and are able to function in the workplace. Do we make better or worse employees?
Does the menopause change women’s abilities in the workplace?
With the hormonal changes experienced by women going through the menopause and the decrease in oxytocin, a hormone which contributes to maternal behaviour, women who have gone through the menopause no longer need cuddles, and are no longer drawn into others lives to ‘fix’ them.
With their children having flown the nest their brains are no longer in emotional turmoil, and typically they are more lucid and even .
What does this mean in terms of employment?
For employers this makes post-menopausal women the perfect candidates to have on board. They are more drawn to caring and contributing to the ‘bigger picture’ . They are no longer subject to a monthly cycle and the roller coaster that can bring. Chemical changes to the brain change the mindset. Women at this time want to learn, regenerate, rejuvenate.
For employers hiring mature women, they can expect loyalty. Women will give back to the company far more than the investment made in them. They will put all their feminine, nurturing energy into the bigger picture. They want to accomplish for themselves. That’s the science – but society has not yet caught up with us getting older and working longer. Historically post menopausal women were hunter gatherers – gathering seeds and nuts for the babies of younger women. Post menopausal women have huge energy and the ability to learn and accomplish.
How does the menopause affect women’s confidence?
During the menopause itself confidence can decline. Hormonal changes can make women more emotional, and can affect all parts of life and make them less effective and think less clearly. Also many women react negatively to the loss of their reproductive years. However, post menopause the brain reaches a ‘pleasurable ‘ state. It thinks clearly and efficiently. Women become more altruistic and show more generosity- we are hardwired to be kind – and that kindness is now channelled towards the greater community. Women regain their confidence – they are calmer and use this time of their lives as a stepping stone, joining groups, going to night school, thinking outside the box.
We create new neurons in our brains every day – but it is essential that we stimulate them and keep our brains active. Many people think that doing daily crossword puzzles or sudoko is enough to keep the brain alert, but this only uses the same neural pathways repeatedly. To stimulate the brain and keep it active the brain needs to be challenged by learning new skills – learning a new language, musical instrument or getting to grips with new technology are far better for this than doing crosswords.
By working the brain it will stay healthier for longer.
Dr Lynda Shaw is a registered chartered psychologist with the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine as well as entrepreneur and author. With previous experience in the business world, she has also lectured in Psychology and Neuroscience at Brunel University and conducted research on brain function and impairment, specialising in consciousness, emotion and the effects of ageing.