This Week in Culture

Breaking the Silence: Supporting Menopausal Women in The Workplace

Just a few days ago, I turned 40. It got me thinking about the journey ahead and, more importantly, the tremendous support I’ve experienced from the company I’m proud to work for.

Employers all over are finally waking up to the fact that there’s a vital group of employees they need to look out for. While they’re starting to tweak their approaches and benefits, I wouldn’t call it a remarkable job just yet.  It’s also important to note that quite a few startups are getting in on the action too. As we’ve made strides in convincing companies to address fertility benefits in recent years, our next challenge lies in urging them to prioritize childcare, generational care, menopause, and other life transitions.

In a recent HR Dive article, I emphasized how crucial it is to address the challenges women face in the workforce. Those stats are quite eye-opening, with 97% of women fearing that asking for flexible work arrangements might hurt their careers and a whopping 95% believing their workload won’t change even if they do get a flexible schedule. These numbers highlight the prevalence of fear-driven cultures, often imposing an implicit or explicit ‘pregnancy tax’ – basically assuming that once you become a parent, you’re somehow less committed to your job. It’s a mindset we need to change.

A brief summary of our work around empowering women at work

Now, let’s talk about women going through menopause. They have historically found it challenging to navigate the workplace during this phase. About 25% of working women in the US experience symptoms like hot flashes, brain fog, and sleep disturbances that can interfere with their days at work. The real problem, though, is that these symptoms frequently go unnoticed and untreated, which forces many women to suffer in silence, especially in open-plan offices and during meetings.

Take a look at this article for a deeper dive into the ways that employers are starting to really step up:

The workplace can be rough for menopausal women. Employers are starting to step up

Imagine this: a 63-year-old office administrator having hot flashes during a crucial meeting, feeling like all eyes are on her. It’s a scenario that, sadly, many menopausal women can relate to. But here’s the good news – things are changing for the better.

More employers are taking action to recognize and support women as they go through menopause at work because it is so vitally important. According to a recent survey by HR consulting company Mercer, 15% of large organizations now either offer or plan to offer benefits specifically designed to help women manage their menopausal symptoms. This is an important step in ending the stigma surrounding menopause at work.

What’s even more encouraging is the shift in company culture. Employers are actively creating environments where women feel comfortable discussing their menopausal experiences and accessing the support they need. It’s a sign of progress we should all celebrate.

According to a recent study by the Mayo Clinic, 13% of women reported negative work outcomes caused by menopause symptoms in the previous year, such as missed workdays or fewer hours worked. The stigma surrounding menopause makes these symptoms’ psychological burden even greater.

But there’s reason to be optimistic. The Menopause Society plans to introduce recommendations next year for employers to better support employees going through menopause. This initiative aims to bridge the knowledge gap and promote understanding, which is another exciting step forward.

Some companies are already making remarkable strides. Take, for example, Organon, a healthcare company that focuses on women’s health. They introduced a Global Care Leave plan that allows employees to take time off for self-care, including managing menopausal symptoms. It’s a forward-thinking approach that not only recognizes the importance of self-care but also supports women in leadership roles during this crucial phase of life.

So, in order to better support menopausal women at work, what can employers do right away? It’s about offering flexibility and knowledge. Small changes, like allowing employees to control the office temperature or providing fans at desks, can make a world of difference. Revising dress codes for comfort and raising awareness about existing care benefits are equally important steps.

Finally, it’s high time we celebrate the positive shifts in the workplace that empower menopausal women. I’m incredibly grateful to work for a company that leads the way in supporting its employees through all life stages. Let’s continue to normalize conversations about menopause at work and ensure that employees everywhere know they are valued and supported.

Elsewhere This Week

Since it was Labor Day this past Monday, let’s jump back to a topic we spoke about a few weeks ago: Labor unions and strikes.

US unions have flexed their muscle this past year. Are they winning?

Over the last year, we’ve seen a resurgence in union activity across the United States, with some notable victories and a few setbacks. As we recently discussed, unions such as the Teamsters successfully used the threat of a UPS strike to secure higher wages, particularly for part-time workers, addressing a concern shared by many workers.

Smaller strikes, such as those at Starbucks, have contributed to the total, which now stands at nearly 400. Because of a tight job market where employers are eager to fill positions, these strikes have frequently resulted in higher pay and benefits. However, as you know from previous discussions, some ongoing strikes, such as those involving actors and writers in SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild, highlight ongoing concerns about working conditions. The importance of company culture becomes even clearer in this context, emphasizing the importance of creating inclusive workplaces that support employees at all stages of their careers.

Return to office mandates are ridiculous, unnecessary and, in some instances, even cruel

After Amazon’s CEO spoke out this week the conversation of forcing workers to return to the workplace is becoming more and more of a conversation. These requirements are being stated as “ridiculous, unnecessary and, in some instances, even cruel.”

The recent surge in corporate RTO mandates has sparked debate about the true motivations behind these decisions. As we discussed last week, CEOs treat these mandates as if they were a magical solution to increasing productivity. But the actual impact of office work versus remote work on productivity is unknown, with little concrete data to back up either claim. Even companies known for data-driven decisions, such as Amazon, have based their RTO mandates on judgment rather than hard evidence. As you know from our previous conversations, some CEOs appear more concerned with regaining control and filling empty office spaces than with productivity.

Also, while CEOs emphasize the importance of in-person human connections, particularly in meetings, the reality for many employees is that even in an office, most interactions take place via video calls with colleagues scattered around the world. The desire to closely monitor employees by walking through the office is a dubious management practice, as evaluating employee performance based on inputs rather than outputs is frequently counterproductive. What employees truly value is the ability to balance work and personal lives, and RTO mandates that require forced relocations and long commutes can unnecessarily disrupt this balance. Ultimately, an office work environment will naturally evolve into a social hub over time, without the need for draconian mandates backed up by substantial data and research. Companies that effectively support remote work stand to benefit in the long run from a diverse talent pool and a vibrant office environment, without putting their employees in an uncomfortable situation.

In case you missed it last week, I’ll leave you with some of my initial thoughts from the Amazon CEO’s comments.

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