Menopause will affect half of the population. Menopause is an inevitable part of aging. It affects most women as well as trans and non-binary men. The symptoms can last up to a decade and are caused by a decline in hormone levels, including testosterone, progesterone, and oestrogen. It is only recently that the effects of hormones on women's careers and lives have been studied in depth.
It doesn't take long for women to realize that symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, and difficulty focusing can all have a significant impact on their lives. Researchers now know that these symptoms can also affect a large number of careers. A study of thousands of Japanese women -- the first country to examine menopause and work -- revealed that one-fifth of those experiencing menopause were affected by'menopausal losses'. These women quit, lost their jobs, or reduced their hours of work because of their symptoms.
Many people enter menopause at the same time as they move up to more challenging and senior roles. This is a common occurrence in research as well as other career fields. It may cause some women to reconsider their career goals, which could lead to a further drain on the "leaky pipeline" of science-related women. As we reported in a Careers feature, women going through this stage of their lives shouldn't be forced to quit or go back to work because they don't receive enough support from their employers. Everybody has the right to make their own decisions, but they shouldn't feel forced to do so by an unwelcoming workplace.
Research workplaces can be used to support staff who are going through menopause in many different ways, according to the essay published in BDJ Team (J. A. Bell et al. BDJ Team 9, 24-26, 2022. Flexible working hours and accepting menopause symptoms are great places to start. Many workplaces have created quiet areas for employees. This not only benefits those with noise sensitivity, hot flushes, and other symptoms of menopause but also helps those who are looking for quiet time for other reasons.
People have created peer networks, either virtual or in-person, to help women who are going through menopause. Red Hot Mamas is a Canadian and American example. Menopause cafes, which were established in the United Kingdom, offer an informal way for anyone to meet and share information about menopause. They provide a meal and a drink.
The Royal Society of London, the oldest scientific academy in the world, has established a menopause support group. It is currently preparing guidelines to help women access support such as changes to work hours, roles and technology. The University of Nottingham has guidelines for managers to support employees going through menopause. It has campuses in the United Kingdom and China. You could offer flexible work hours, better ventilation, such as desk fans or innovative interior architecture and design.
Although more research is required in this area, workplaces can offer assistance on managing symptoms and information about where to get such advice.
This support must be provided with care. Institutional policies and support programs that do not include the most vulnerable people could make them feel ashamed and stigmatized. Nature spoke to several women concerned that the public attention given to the difficulties women experience during menopause might discourage academic employers from hiring older women. These fears are understandable. However, there should be ground rules. Institutions shouldn't force women to reveal their menopause status or require them to participate in discussions about the topic.
It should not be possible to do nothing. Springer Nature is one of many employers that have pledged support to women going through menopause. These pledges include making sure that women experiencing menopause are heard by their managers and that they have access to practical support. These are only the first steps. All employers, even those in scientific and research, have more to do.
Research must also be more focused on studying the effects of menopause on careers in all countries, not just those with high incomes. Organizations that have not addressed the challenges menopause can cause for their working lives must do so immediately. It is time to end the stigma surrounding menopause. This will make research more accessible for all.