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'Glaring' lack of menopause support for women in workplace

13 October, 2014

Menopausal women fear age-based discrimination in the workplace and face a glaring lack of menopause-specific support, a new La Trobe-led report shows.

However many said they felt anxious about speaking with their managers and colleagues about any symptoms because of the fear of being stereotyped as 'aged'.

Findings from the Women, work and the menopause study, involving researchers from La Trobe, Monash and Yale Universities, offer a unique insight into the physical and emotional life stresses and  opportunities facing many women in this growing workforce demographic.

In addition to managing peri- and menopausal symptoms, many of the women surveyed were also juggling the stress of parental and child-caring responsibilities and other life transitions such as divorce. 

Info and training for supervisors

Lead researcher, La Trobe University's Professor Gavin Jack, says the findings are significant.

"With an ageing population, increasing numbers of older women working and the possibility of the pension age being raised to 70, supporting and understanding the health and well-being needs of this group is crucial to fostering workplace satisfaction and performance," Professor Jack says.

"This has wider community implications for economic productivity and mental health."

More than 800 women aged over 40 and working in the university sector took part in the study.

Among the report recommendations was a consensus that there should be more information and training about menopause and its symptoms for supervisors so they can be better equipped to handle conversations and provide support.

Practical solutions are also flagged, such as offering temperature control in offices to manage symptoms.

Breaking a taboo

Professor Jack hopes the report is a catalyst to breaking down some of the taboo that surrounds menopause.

"Managers and women themselves need an attitudinal shift away from seeing hormonal issues as weak or a barrier to a successful career," Professor Jack said.

"We need to rethink the culture of our workplaces by tackling the myths and unconscious biases associated with menopause and with ageing.

"Organisations need to recognise that mature-aged women are a committed, ambitious, and resilient segment of the workforce. This report is a big step in that direction."

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