At Kindra, we are challenging the social stigma and shame surrounding a completely normal and natural stage of life for half of humanity.
This experience is 1) universal among half of the world’s population, and 2) most likely to affect people while at the peak of their careers—often in positions of leadership.
Yet despite its ubiquity, most of us feel like we can never just talk about it!?
The issue is MENOPAUSE, and the time for change is now.
Starting as early as our 30s and continuing into our 50 and 60s, nearly all women navigate this transition. This is absolutely normal and natural and incredibly challenging and disruptive, all at once. The socially imposed code of silence certainly doesn’t help.
In recent decades, we’ve been able to destigmatize fertility concerns, pregnancy experiences and other reproductive health issues, and now can discuss them as matters of public health and wellness. Gender and sexuality issues have also joined the sphere of mainstream public policy and employment law. We believe that destigmatizing menopause is overdue—and we believe that as gatekeepers for U.S. health care, employers not only have a role to play in this conversation, but indeed a responsibility to be leaders in this space. Today, we’re speaking to organizational change-makers and asking for action.
First, let’s establish that no two people have the same menopause experience. Some people may feel peri- and post-menopausal shifts more than others, and various health concerns may intersect with menopause in individual ways. We also recognize that people’s health histories are affected by complex factors including geography, racism, cultural practices, economic opportunities and widely varying general working conditions. That said, we assert that women desire and deserve inclusive employment policies, structured support, and a generally informed environment in which to do their best work.
We challenge leaders of all genders to advocate for menopause support among day-to-day company operations and sick leave/PTO policies. Teach people managers to allow for menopause concerns with equal weight and consideration as any other physical or mental health care concerns. Encourage affected employees to ask for reasonable adjustments, just as others requiring accommodation have been empowered.
This is not merely a moral imperative: It’s smart business. Weigh the business impact resulting from lack of support. A recent study confirms that 40% of women in midlife felt their job was affected by menopause symptoms weekly, and 20% were impacted daily. Further, 17% of respondents had actually quit or seriously considered quitting a job due to menopause experiences, and 26% felt their career had been negatively affected.
Employee turnover can cost a business dearly. Depending on the employee’s role and wage/salary, losing an employee could cost:
- $1,500 for hourly employees
- 50 – 75% of salary for managers
- 100 – 150% of salary for technical positions
- Up to 213% of an employee’s salary for C-suite positions
C-level roles, for example, are very difficult to fill and quite likely to be held by women in their 40s and 50s. We argue it’s well worth investing in programs that can help your best talent stay in place and perform at their fullest capacity through these years. What might positive and actionable steps look like?
- Sharing experiences is a great way to reduce stigma in the workplace and beyond. Create or join a “safe space” for open conversations, sharing resources, and building relationships. No two menopause experiences are the same, especially considering that there are 34 (!) common signs of perimenopause! Let’s talk about them!
- We ask leaders in transition themselves to model a “new menopause.” Because when we speak frankly about our own experiences, without embarrassment, we tacitly invite others to do the same. And if you’re a leader, sharing your point of view always leaves a bigger impression—and we believe an ability to show a bit of vulnerability or discomfort is especially powerful leadership.
- Though we encourage cultivating an atmosphere where honesty and openness is welcome, it’s important to establish that disclosure is always voluntary and we hold all disclosures in trust. It is every person’s prerogative whether to share or not share any personal health matters, whether in the workplace or anywhere else. Foster a culture where transparency is modeled and privacy is respected.
- Consider how there’s no shame in being affected by seasonal allergies or arthritis, for example, and these concerns affect people of all genders and all ages. Menopause is exactly as normal and natural as these concerns—it just so happens to occur mostly in women and mostly in midlife. In conversations, if you’re uncomfortable, try thinking to yourself, “It’s just menopause. So what?!” then use the same tone you’d discuss needing a joint replacement, eye surgery, dental work, or other typical challenge of caring for an otherwise healthy mature body.
- Leaders must allow women going through the changes of menopause to have flexibility or simply to take breaks—ideally, paid time off (PTO) comparable to any other excused sick time. And if you are feeling your own transition or other challenges, it’s wise to model such behavior to the whole team. Remind yourself and others that rest and recovery are key to building strength and resilience. That goes for mental AND physical health.
- Regardless of executive actions, managers and peer professionals can do a lot to improve the menopause experience for women in every workplace. If you’re uncertain or uninformed about this universal stage of life, ask for perspectives of those who have already traveled through it. Or if you’ve come out the other side, show your colleagues how you’re thriving!
We invite you to get started creating the change. If you need a bit of help, check out this actionable guide:
I’ve worked in organizations large and small over the course of my career. I’ve not only seen toxic workplace cultures where a need to step back or recharge was met with dismissive skepticism, but I was also an active participant in creating those cultures early in my career. The good news is leadership philosophies can and should evolve. It’s taken a lot of lived experience and listening to see and better take advantage of my own opportunities to shift culture from within, and my personal and professional experience with menopause has been a particularly profound teacher.
Here I am, a CEO in menopause, just getting over my first bout with COVID, which absolutely flattened me. Last week, I had multiple moments where I wanted to push myself past my body’s limits—especially in the midst of Menopause Awareness Month. But I didn’t. If I push myself too far, what does that say to the incredible women-driven team I am privileged to lead every day at Kindra? Will they know that I know they need and deserve to accommodate their personal needs, too? And how much stronger might I be as a leader this week having actually honored my perfectly natural need for rest last week?
These are the questions we leaders need to be asking ourselves. From one woman’s menopausal journey to an entire organization’s efforts to create a culture of belonging, change is constant and essential. I am not asking you to change the change at work alone. I’m asking you to join me in working through these deeply necessary changes together. I’m starting with me.
You are not alone. We are all Kindra.