Women might talk with each other about menopause, but an AHRI survey found that only 3 per cent would ever mention menopause at work. What gives?
I recently heard that during a meeting at a women’s magazine, editors discussed writing about taboo topics for women. Someone suggested menopause, but that idea was shot down when a colleague piped up and said menopause wasn’t a taboo anymore, because menopause was now openly discussed. The idea was dropped.
I don’t know what they did decide was a taboo topic – varicose veins perhaps, or facial hair – but to decide that everyone is good with menopause is optimistic at best.
Women talk with each other about their hot flashes, night sweats or a little public fanning now and then. There might be ads for menopausal women in the media, where serene and smiling women take their herbal treatments or go to menopause clinics and carry on pole dancing.
And, sure, many women have told their partners they are going through menopause and their partners know to cut them some slack and open a bottle of Pinot Grigio when things get rough.
More and more women are learning with relief that menopause simply comes with being a woman, and that it applies to all women in different ways and to different degrees. But mainly IT ISN’T JUST YOU. And your symptoms can be treated and your outcome can be managed and controlled by you.
These are certainly dainty steps in the right direction but, frustratingly, menopause at work is still an almost totally taboo topic.
There are not enough studies of menopause and the workplace. I think AHRI did their own straw poll and found only 3 per cent of women would even mention menopause at work.
Another study from La Trobe, Monash and Yale University might suggest why the remaining 97 per cent of women wouldn’t. This study found that the vast majority of women don’t mention menopause at work for fear of aged-based discrimination – aka looking old, seeming old, and hence being side-lined for leadership positions.
For men this is often a qualification for leadership positions. And yes, this discrimination is often made by younger women. The point is that the stigma of menopause can be causing problems at work, not the menopause itself.
This also means that added to menopause is anxiety caused by covering up the symptoms, not being able to talk about it, not being able to ask for a desk fan or for the temperature in the office to be wound down a degree, or could someone just open the fricking window for a minute.
Menopause can be treated, contained and accepted. It is the attitude of others that needs work.
What’s happening in your workplace?
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.”