In the United Kingdom, the debate on the equality of women in the world of work has focused its attention on a largely ignored aspect: menopause. The Women and Equality Commission has opened this summer an investigation about this stage in the life of women, which involves a hormonal change, and its repercussions in the world of work. A 2019 survey found that nearly 900,000 women in the UK left their jobs due to menopausal symptoms. The parliamentary commission will collect evidence and testimonies until September 17 to analyze whether it is necessary to take protection measures for women.
“Women have quite a few gaps about menopause”
“It’s like the typical comment of ‘are you menopausal or what?’. Yes, it is heard in general, always in a derogatory or laughing tone,” replies Julia, 50 years old and going through menopause, on whether she has ever received negative comments in your work environment on this issue. This telemarketer works with several colleagues who are going through the same process. “Between us we do comment on it, but it is true that there is a bit of taboo or shame to talk about it with superiors. But, come on, the same thing happened with the rule,” she reflects.
The Equality Commission of the British Parliament has taken the issue seriously and considers that there are workplaces that are “failing women” at this point in their lives, between the ages of 45 and 55, which can make it difficult to achieve professional development and contribute to the so-called “glass ceiling” whereby women do not reach managerial positions and positions of greater responsibility, among other gender inequalities.
Obstacle in “the cusp of the races”
“It causes women who are eligible for managerial positions to leave work at the peak of their careers, which has an impact on workplace productivity, the gender pay gap and the pension gap,” he says. the Commission.
The origin of the research focuses on the results obtained by a survey conducted in 2019 by the BUPA group (Sanitas owner in Spain) and the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), a private insurance and a human resources association. It showed that three out of five menopausal women (59%) were negatively affected at work. According to the study, nearly 900,000 UK women quit their job for an undefined period of time because of menopausal symptoms.
What symptoms did the surveyed women report that affected them at work? Almost two-thirds (65%) said they were less able to concentrate, more than half (58%) said they experienced more stress, and 52% said they felt less patient with clients and colleagues. In addition, other very common symptoms are insomnia and, sometimes, heavy bleeding.
“Yes, it is something that conditions you, but I think that more or less we get along well. It is true that nights go by that you have not slept and the next day you are dead from fatigue, or that you have a lot of hot flashes and it is unpleasant and uncomfortable, but I think that we compensate on the other hand, “says Julia.
End the “taboo” and the “stigma”
The BUPA and CIPD survey indicated that almost a third of the women surveyed (30%) claimed to have requested sick leave due to their symptoms, but only a quarter felt capable of communicating to their boss the true reason for their illness. absence. Of those who did not explain the reason, a third (34%) argued that “shame” prevented them from saying why they had to be absent and 32% said that the reason was that their boss did not support them.
The Equality Commission notes that current legislation protects people from discrimination based on sex, age and disability, but they have responded to calls to analyze whether all necessary measures are being taken on this issue, including the possibility of developing “A policy on menopause in the workplace”. The commission will present to the government, which is preparing its Women’s Health Strategy, its conclusions and recommendations “in order to develop policies that address gender equality.”
“Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of women in the UK are currently going through menopause – a process that can be exhausting both physically and mentally – it is ignored in legislation. It is time to expose and address this huge problem. , which has remained almost invisible for too long “, defended the president of the Commission for Women and Equality, Deputy Caroline Nokes.
In the United Kingdom, the debate is in the media and in some companies, such as the British water company Severn Trent Plc, whose CEO, Liv Garfield, explained on Bloomberg the steps it took as one of the pioneers in “menopause education” in 2018. The first thing the company did was tackle menopause, shirk the “taboo” and include it in conversations. The second phase consisted of making schedules more flexible and improving access to toilets and fans, explained the businesswoman.
On the other hand, there are voices who are suspicious of these debates, which they consider “basic” and which should already be normalized, and who believe that they may be “distracting” from others of greater importance. “It always seems that we are defending very basic things that no reasonable person could disagree with,” he writes. in Financial Times Viv Groskop, who believes that these issues can act as “cover” for other really controversial, such as hierarchy at work, age discrimination and inequality, among others.