Article by Ceri Wheeldon
Last week I was invited to a panel discussion on the menopause , where following on from research commissioned by Superdrug as part of their Life Plus Beauty report.
The report highlighted that the Menopause is undoubtedly a concern of growing older, with 50 per cent of those yet to experience it admitting to worrying about its approach, rising to 69 per cent in the under 50s. When it comes to the symptoms playing on their minds, hot flushes not only topped the list of the biggest worry but it was also the symptom experienced most by those who were post-menopausal, with 68 percent saying they suffered from them.
Women were three times more likely to be worried about losing their memory (56 per cent) than they were about their hair turning grey (16 per cent) whilst nearly half (48 per cent) feared not being able to keep active in older age.
An open discussion about the menopause
The panel was open about how the menopause had affected them in all areas of their lives, with the lack of information , particularly at a GP level raised as a major concern, where symptoms were often dismissed, and no help to manage them offered.
The discussion touched on the impact of the menopause in the workplace, and how difficult some women found it to manage their symptoms without it affecting their productivity. It was felt that employers could do more – and that more education was needed in this respect.
While I fully support having open discussions about the menopause, and the increasing awareness and support available. I am concerned, however, when the focus becomes negative, particularly when it relates to the workplace.
We are living and working longer, whether through choice or necessity – particularly with the changes in state pension age. Ours is possibly the first generation with a high percentage of women in their 50s and 60s continuing to work full time, and so the first generation to manage the transition through the menopause and beyond while working. I believe that the last thing we want to do is build such a negative view of women going through the menopause, that it becomes an issue for employers when hiring. We all know that there is legislation in place to prevent discrimination based on age, gender etc, but we also know that we cannot legislate to prevent the perceptions of individuals influence their decisions – particularly in the hiring process.
During my own career I have had to survive discrimination for just being a woman, and even more discrimination when I was a woman of child bearing age ( what if she has to take time out for maternity leave, childcare issues etc) . I know that today we are legally protected from this having an impact, but we do not want to raise doubts in the minds of potential employers and hiring managers that hiring women over 50 may present problems due to the menopause.
Don’t scaremonger regarding the menopause
The menopause is not an illness, is entirely natural and some women just sail through it. Others need varying levels of support. Surely the emphasis should be on providing women with the information they need to visit their GP with an understanding of their symptoms, in order to have an informed discussion about the options for them. One aspect that came out of the panel discussion was that many GPs need more education/training regarding the menopause too. Although employers should be aware, lets emphasise that for many women the menopause will have no impact at all in the workplace, and that for others, with the right treatment and support from their GP, the impact should be minimal.
We need to ensure that we don’t scaremonger when it comes to employment of women over 50. We have worked hard to challenge perceptions and attitudes. We don’t want to create another hurdle to climb. After all, women over 50 make great employees!