Author Jean Kittson thinks that how employers treat women going through menopause in the workplace is a great litmus test.
In a study of women, work and menopause, Associate Professor Kathleen Riach from Monash University says: “Our findings stress that the experience of menopause is not simply about biology, but shaped by an occupational environment that may exacerbate or ameliorate menopausal symptoms. Workplace cultures and practicalities such as how to obtain a desk fan send important messages about how valued or recognised older women are by their organisations.”
In other words, if you want to find out whether your employers are rubbish or not, wait for menopause and see how they react.
The trouble is that most of us cannot afford to treat our jobs as a social experiment.
One woman I interviewed for my book said that in her workplace, a university as it happens, they had policies for everything including sick leave, parental leave, maternity leave, domestic violence leave but there was absolutely no menopause-specific support.
Another woman in senior management whom I interviewed said that her symptoms embarrassed her, especially in meetings when a hot flush could cause her to look “flustered” and sometimes came with momentary feelings of nausea. All she wanted to say was “Hold everything for one minute,” but didn’t feel she could. Especially as one junior woman had said to her “The trouble with this place is that it is run by menopausal old bags”
To which my friend said “I am menopausal,” and the young woman said “Oh, I don’t mean you.” Happily, many women going through menopause are in positions of leadership. They are women of experience and acquired wisdom and empathy, and they can get juniors counselled for this sort of discrimination or, if they are having a tense flush day, just sack them. Ha, ha, just kidding … sort of.
Do you have any personal experiences of menopause in the workplace to infuriate or encourage us?
Jean Kittson will be featured on a panel discussing workplace wellbeing at AHRI’s National Convention 3-5 August 2016 in Brisbane. Registration closes 22 July. To check event details and register, click here.
Jean Kittson is author of the book You’re Still Hot To Me. The Joys of Menopause, which Dr Penny Adams (GP, author and women’s health advocate) has described as “… at last I have the definitive book on menopause to recommend to my patients.”