A third of women hide menopause symptoms at work – report

Surveys of attitudes in five countries finds women still experiencing stigma in the workplace

A third of women who have suffered symptoms of the menopause say they hid them at work, and many think there remains a stigma around talking about the subject, according to a survey of workers in five countries.

More than 5,000 women in the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and South Africa were interviewed about their experiences of the menopause and work in research for the mobile phone provider Vodafone.

In all of the countries except Italy, about a third said they had hidden symptoms, while in Spain more than half felt a stigma around the subject in the workplace.

South African women seemed most comfortable discussing the subject with colleagues, with 37% saying they thought there was a stigma, while in Italy the proportion who said they had hidden symptoms was lowest at 28%.

The survey found those who experienced symptoms before they were 45 were most likely to say that they were too embarrassed to ask for support in the workplace. Of those in the UK, 63% of adults under the age of 44 said they had shied away from asking for help, while across all ages the figure was 43%. The figures were similar in the four other countries.

In recent years, businesses have begun to introduce policies to help women who are suffering from menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, anxiety and fatigue.

Channel 4 made headlines when it announced a range of measures to support staff including flexible working arrangements and a private, cool and quiet workspace they could use when needed.

However, there are concerns that many women are still leaving the workforce because they struggle with some of the effects, and feel they are not supported by their employers.

Vodafone said it believed about 15,000 of its 100,000 employees would be currently experiencing the menopause, and that it was making a “global commitment” to support them.

The company will roll out a training and awareness programme to all employees, and all have been invited to a webinar on “hormonal health and life stages” on Thursday.

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Leanne Wood, chief human resources officer at Vodafone said the move was part of the company’s “desire for women to see Vodafone as the place to be for their career through all stages of their life”.

“With menopause impacting women for a significant period of their working life, it’s important to us that our environment supports and normalises these life stages by openly talking about and supporting menopause in the workplace,” she added.

The company has set a goal of women holding 40% of management and leadership roles by 2030 and said this was already reflected at board level. Globally, women currently hold more than 31% of its management and leadership roles.

Contributor

Hilary Osborne

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