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14 October 2022

BY Vicky Pearce

October is Menopause Awareness Month. Thanks to the efforts of Davina McCall, it’s a subject that has garnered a lot of public interest lately and one that is close to my heart.

Last year, I was thrown straight into a medically induced menopause. I now know from first-hand experience how hard it is to manage the gamut of symptoms – both mental and physical – in a professional environment.

I have decided to speak out after reading a survey conducted by the Financial Services Skills Commission (FSSC) into how menopause is (or should that be isn’t?) handled in the financial services sector – an environment that, in the majority of workplaces, is still male dominated.

I believe we need better working conditions for menopausal women and the only way to affect change is through greater openness, which will hopefully lead to an increase in understanding and awareness.

Hiding in plain sight

The FSSC found that one in ten employees in the financial services sector are currently going through the menopause and for almost half, it makes them less likely to want to progress. It uncovered three key findings:

  1. A culture of silence means the impact of the menopause is hidden
  2. The sector is losing talent because of the menopause
  3. With the right support, women can stay and progress in financial services.

The survey found only 22% of women experiencing the menopause disclose their status at work and this, coupled with the impact of symptoms, is holding them back from progressing and in some cases, remaining in work. Most women the researchers spoke to, who had reduced their seniority or left roles, believed that had they known more about the menopause and been given support they would have stayed or been promoted.

This culture of silence and lack of support for menopausal women is no doubt fuelling the gender disparity in senior leadership roles. I believe we need to smash the myths and stereotypes surrounding menopause. The collective experience and knowledge offered by women of my age and older should be valued by our industry and every effort made to retain their services during this difficult transitionary period in their life.

Positive action

Progressive employers are already integrating menopause policies into their HR provision and more firms should follow suit.

The FSSC study noted that inaction is costing businesses talented employees and they must guard against skills shortages and recruitment costs.

Women in workplaces where management training is undertaken and a policy or guidance document was in place expressed pride in their employers. They believed the steps being taken had a positive impact on their environment, as colleagues were better informed about the menopause and they felt more comfortable discussing it or seeking support.

Six key areas for action were recommended by the FSSC. They are:

  1. Provide information and advice about the menopause and coping at work
  2. Train male and female managers and HR on how to support employees
  3. Publish a policy or guidance document
  4. Facilitate support systems and networks so women can discuss their experiences freely
  5. Demonstrate senior leadership support
  6. Cover the menopause in private health insurance plans and employee assistance programmes.

Changing attitudes

The success of B-Compliant relies not quite, but almost entirely, on the abilities of women. We are at various stages in our lives and each has their own personal challenges to juggle with work, be it childcare, elderly parents and/or the menopause.

We need to stop believing it is something to hide and start talking to our colleagues – women and men – about how it is affecting our daily lives. Simple changes to the workplace and the attitudes of managers can make a world of difference to women like me and ensure we continue to make a valuable contribution for years to come.

A summary of the Financial Service Skills Commission survey can be downloaded here: Menopause-in-the-Workplace-Impact-on-Women-in-Financial-Services.pdf (financialservicesskills.org)

If you would like to know more about my experiences of menopause in the financial services sector, don’t hesitate to contact me. Telephone (0161) 521 8641 or email: info@b-compliant.co.uk

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