I Quit My Job So That You Don’t Have To
The pandemic has affected us all deeply and differently. A common theme that has come up for me and my friends seems to be a re-assessment of where we are in life and the asking of deep, existential questions like: Is this what I was meant to do? Am I giving enough and using my “gifts” to help others? Is this my “purpose"? “Do I need one?”
If you also happen to be a woman in your early 50s working full time you may also be asking yourself even deeper queries like: “Why did I walk into this room?” “What was I about to say?” “Was I always this tired?” “Is it appropriate to scream loudly in an office with an open floor plan?” “Why does my (insert any body part) hurt?”
Combine the two and that’s where I personally have been the past year. I’ve been working in the fertility benefits industry as a quality assurance analyst and trainer for almost 4 years and think my company has done a great job of being flexible and compassionate during an unprecedented time in our lives. I’ve felt a sense of belonging and feel aligned with the company’s values and mission. But, but, but…. I feel somehow done.
As someone who has worked for years in health and wellness, I find myself going down a deep rabbit hole of information whenever something comes up in my own health. The menopause journey is no different. In fact, the rabbit hole was so deep this time I ended up signing up for a UK-based program to become a certified “Menopause Coach” and holy shit there’s a lot to learn! I can not wait to impart this knowledge to other women and support them through their own journey. (Hey- look at that! I found my purpose!)
This deep dive into all things women’s midlife health has me thinking again about dealing with menopause in the workplace overall and how we can improve conditions and policies for women. Because let’s face it, this is not a conversation that we are currently having. It amazes me how much further along this conversation is in England, compared to here in the States. Let’s break down some facts:
- According to a study from the Society for Endocrinology, one in four women will experience serious menopause symptoms.
- Menopause often intersects with a critical career stage. It usually occurs between ages 45 and 55 – which is also the age bracket during which women are most likely to move into top leadership positions.
- Some researchers suggest that workplace ageism (and let’s face it probably sexism as well) also plays a part in the exclusion of menopausal symptoms from corporate health policies.
- 1 in 10 women have quit their job due to menopause symptoms, over 50% of women felt too embarrassed to talk about their symptoms to ask for support in the workplace and 47% of women who needed to take a day off did not feel comfortable enough to to tell their bosses or colleagues the reason why.
It’s vital for women to stay in leadership positions and continue to lead companies with their education and experience. Let’s take a look at some ways the UK has taken on this issue and how we may be able to learn from them.
First of all, beyond what I already know (and love) about the openness of UK companies' willingness to talk about menopause (or as they call it in the UK “The Menopause”) a quick Google will bring up several courses and educational resources for companies that are seeking this kind of inclusive environment. This training, an app that includes menopause education for the workplace, and an article for HR regarding menopause awareness. I was having such trouble finding US-based resources and policies for menopause at work that I was excited to find this, only to realize that while it was to support creating a menopause policy or “US companies”, it was, yet again, by a UK-based organization. Get it together, USA!
Some takeaways from these trainings for companies to further their “menopause-friendly” workplaces are:
- Menopause is not a taboo subject, and employees needs to feel comfortable talking about it to colleagues and leadership. Create a culture of inclusivity and openness that leads to understanding without any stigma. This will prevent an undercurrent of ageism. Ageism, like sexism and racism, should not be tolerated in any workplace.
- When appropriate, flexibility and workplace accommodations such as proper ventilation, fans, and the ability to work from home can and should be made. Worksite wellness programs should include menopause education and access to both medical and holistic modalities, such as yoga, meditation, and acupuncture for menopausal symptoms.
- Sharing facts, and science, and debunking myths and stereotypes around menopause will empower women to speak up and ultimately make moves to put policies in place that will benefit all women.
The bottom line is approximately 20% of our workforce, millions of us will be affected by menopause at work and we are not talking enough about the effect it will have on ALL companies and their employees. Menopause is so much more than a hot flash joke, it’s a major health event that includes over 34 (!) symptoms and can have dire consequences on our health now and in the future. It’s great the conversation has started, but there’s more work to be done.
*UPDATE APRIL 2023: This blog was originally written for Revel, an amazing platform for midlife women that is now unfortunately defunct. I'm re-publishing it here as more women may relate to this story and can feel less alone. Not surprisingly, the "34 confirmed symptoms of menopause" have now grown to 42! If you are wondering if what you are experiencing is related to this transition, and want real evidence-based strategies to start feeling great again, I always offer a free 1:1 session to see if menopause coaching is right for you: www.midlifeevolved.com/booking*