The menopause is an unspoken struggle for women which can last years with very little respite. Unlike periods, which occur once a month, the menopause has no let up. Every woman goes through it at some point, but for years it has been surrounded by silence.
For many women, the menopause has rarely mentioned consequences in their working lives. However, Channel 4 have introduced a new policy which would make their workplace a safe and suitable environment for women going through it. This includes allowing paid leave for menopause-related issues and flexible working arrangements.
It is promising that a major and high-profile employer is recognising the effects of the menopause on women and their careers. Greater support will also help towards closing the gender gap. However, this is just one company and there is a long way to go in the fight for equality.
Not all women experience serious symptoms, or any at all. But for the large proportion of women who do, the effects of hot flushes, mood swings, fatigue and forgetfulness can seriously impact their lives. All of these have a serious impact on one’s ability to work well. As a result, women have recounted being unfairly treated and penalised in the workplace.
The treatment for symptoms of the menopause are complicated and often the research provides contradictory conclusions. The most common treatment, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), has led to concerns from oncologists that it increases the risk of breast cancer. However, it is one of the only effective treatments currently on the market. It is essential that the side-effects of certain treatments be taken into account when supporting women in the workplace.
There has been very little medical research done into the menopause, let alone research on its role in the realm of work. Channel 4’s progressive step proves that work places can adapt. It is not impossible for a woman to go through the menopause and work comfortably; only small adjustments may be needed in workplaces but would make all the difference.
According to a survey by a menopause clinic, 94% of women said the menopause negatively affected their work. This is holding women back and creating an even larger advantage for men in an already unequal work environment. We will get nowhere if those issues are not even spoken about, and other employers should take note of Channel 4’s actions.
The stigma surrounding the menopause has existed for far too long. Channel 4’s announcement demonstrates that real change is possible. However, there is still a difficult road ahead before women are truly equal and protected in the workplace.
Image Credit: nytimes.com