Menopause challenges for women STEM workers

Menopause challenges for women STEM workers

Nancy Miller

Written By Nancy Miller

This topic has long been shrouded in taboo, often absent from even familial conversations. However, there’s no getting away from the fact that menopause is a reality facing many women as they navigate the later phase in life. The notion of simply enduring without discussion might have been considered normal a few decades ago but times have indeed changed! Women now thrive in what was traditionally male-dominated domains and promoting awareness and understanding, whether at home or in the workplace, can only bring positive outcomes.

Women in STEM and the menopause

The convergence of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and menopause is a significant yet frequently disregarded subject. Menopause, a natural biological process marking the end of a woman’s reproductive years, can have significant impacts on women’s physical and mental health, as well as their professional lives. What’s more, sometimes we don’t even know that it’s the menopause causing these changes!

Thanks to the likes of TV presenter Davina McCall and other personalities in the public eye, we are starting to understand that it’s normal to be feeling the way some of us do in perimenopause and the menopause. I remember walking into a Zumba Toning class and being asked if I was feeling fit etc.. my response that day was “no, I woke this morning, feeling like I’ve been hit by a bus!”.  All my joints ached, literally overnight!  4 women, including the instructor turned and said MENOPAUSE!  Little did I know at the point that oestrogen leaving the body causes this horrendous pain!!!

In STEM Industries, where women are still underrepresented, the challenges associated with menopause can further exacerbate existing gender disparities. Symptoms such as hot flushes, fatigue, mood swings, and cognitive changes can affect women’s ability to perform at their best in demanding STEM roles. Additionally, the stigma and lack of understanding surrounding menopause may prevent women from seeking the support they need in the workplace.

In a statement from UK Parliament – Menopause and the Workplace: The number of women who will experience menopause whilst in employment is increasing. Pre-pandemic research showed that women over 50 were the fastest-growing group in the workplace, with around 4.5 million women aged 50-64 currently in employment in the UK. The same report also noted that women are remaining in the workplace longer than ever before; in 1986, the average age of leaving the workplace was 60, but, by 2020, that age had increased to 64.3. Evidence to the inquiry pointed out that women in this age group are highly skilled and experienced, typically at the peak of their careers, and are role models for younger workers. However, we also know that many of these women feel forced to leave work because of menopausal symptoms.

Advice for STEM employers

Understanding the needs of women experiencing menopause is essential for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Employers can help by implementing policies and practices that support women’s health and well-being, such as flexible work arrangements, access to menopause-friendly environments, having desk fans available along with education/training for managers and colleagues on how to support employees going through menopause.  Looking after menopausal health is key to encouraging longer and more fulfilling working lives, which is why the BSI have created a new standard BS 30416:2023 – it can give businesses the tools on how to give practical ways of helping employees that are experiencing the menopause.

Recent research has revealed that one in 10 women who have worked during the menopause have left a job because of their symptoms. Eight out of 10 women also stated that their employer had not put in place a menopause absence policy, shared information, or trained staff.


Image Source: Menopause Support

Where do we go from here?

In conclusion, addressing menopause in the workplace is essential for fostering inclusivity, supporting women’s health and well-being, and promoting a culture of understanding and empathy. By acknowledging and accommodating the unique challenges women face during this stage of life, we can create a more supportive and equitable work environment for everyone.

Here at Jigsaw Business Group, we have a Menopause Champion and are in the process of implementing policy to help with adjustments that could potentially be needed. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

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