We know menopause is hard to manage, especially when you’re coping with deadlines, demanding bosses, and the need to prove again and again that you’re just as capable as anyone younger or in possession of a penis. (Oh, and lately, add Zoom fatigue to the seemingly endless list of work-related agita.) But has menopause itself made you think about quitting work or actually following through?
Almost 900,000 women in the U.K. left their jobs over an undefined period of time because of menopausal symptoms, a London-based association of resource management professionals found in a 2019 study, which was released last month. If that’s true for the U.K., the numbers for the U.S., at five times the population, would amount to a mass exodus. Bloomberg News reported the findings as well as a statement from an association representative that said menopausal women who are not supported will be leaving “at the peak of their experience” and will “impact productivity.”
We certainly appreciate that the U.K. representative acknowledged the value of older women in the workforce. We couldn’t agree more. But it feels like a big stretch to think that millions of women are leaving jobs solely because they have hot flashes, insomnia, and the like.
Menopause and Work: Something Doesn’t Add Up
We’re far from the only ones who are dubious of the statistics. “As someone going through it—it’s not something you leave the workforce for. I’ve seen the article too and it’s b.s. Menopause is a thing we need to talk about more so women recognize it and know their medical options. It doesn’t stop anyone from being fully capable at work,” said one Twitter commenter.
Another woman on Twitter wrote: “I’ve never heard of anyone leaving the workforce due to menopause. Maybe b/c everyone I know HAS to work.” She goes on to posit that it’s motherhood that prompts women to leave jobs more than anything else.
Writing in the Washington Post, Helaine Olen chalks up any workforce drain at our age to the lethal combination of ageism and sexism. “Age discrimination begins to impact women years before menopause—one study pegged it at age 40 for women,” Olen writes. “Many workplace experts believe it’s not uncommon for middle-aged workers to attempt to hide their age in hopes of seeming younger to those in charge of hiring and firing….and few things say `aging worker’ like menopause, which the average woman experiences in her early 50s.”
We’ve written extensively about age and sex discrimination, and during the pandemic we formed a group to discuss what actions we can take. One of the leaders of the group, writer and career coach Bonnie Marcus, is doing research on gendered ageism. You’re invited to contribute your thoughts. And a menopause-health site, Gennev, is conducting a survey about menopause and the workplace. Let’s tell the world what’s really going on in the workplace.