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Menopause impacts career progression. What organisational changes are needed?

Menopause comes at the career peak for many women, yet the combination of challenging symptoms, and a lack of understanding in organisations, can seriously inhibit their careers. 

user iconJerome Doraisamy 29 November 2022 Big Law
Menopause impacts career progression. What organisational changes are needed?
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Menopause impacts all women at some point in life, typically between 44 and 55 years old, with the transition lasting up to a decade, and often arrives at a time when their aspiration to grow and develop their careers is at its highest. 

Women face a lack of acknowledgment and dialogue about the impacts of menopause in the workplace, which can prompt some to leave the workforce and lead to a decline in promotions, as women demote themselves due to the impacts of their symptoms and the lack of support, education, and awareness in their workplace. 

Menopause continues to be a taboo life stage and something the majority of Australian businesses, communities and individuals are reluctant to engage with, explained Natalie Moore, consultant at Own Your Health Collective. 


“With the number of women experiencing menopause likely to exceed 1 billion worldwide by 2025, the time to normalise this life phase is needed more than ever,” Ms Moore told Lawyers Weekly.

Cited by the US and UK as the “silent career killer” of their fastest-growing workforce demographic, menopause poses a risk to women’s careers, health and wellbeing, livelihoods and, more broadly, gender equality and diversity strategies, explained Ms Moore. 

There are over 35 symptoms of menopause, including brain fog, confusion, and forgetfulness; trouble sleeping; anxiety and moodiness; and lack of self-confidence.

“The biggest effect those symptoms have on women is by undermining their confidence in their ability to do their job,” Ms Moore continued. 

“The symptoms can play a big role in the way women feel about themselves at work, in their careers and in their life.”

Fifty-eight per cent of women going through the menopausal transition admitted it was “challenging” to manage whilst working.

“Women are passionate about working, and their careers suddenly find themselves unsure about their ability to do their job; they question themselves constantly, and whether we like to admit it or not, their performance unwillingly declines,” Ms Moore posited. 

From generation to generation, we have never spoken about menstrual cycles or menopause, and women have gone through life having to hide, suffer in silence and struggle because [of] societal perceptions around ageing, gender, sexism, and physical looks.” 

In legal workplaces, there are low retention rates for women in senior positions; this may be in part due to the nature of the work being particularly troubling for women who are dealing with menopausal symptoms, Ms Moore observed

What changes are needed?

Currently, there is no legislation around women in menopause; however, in the UK, there have been several litigation cases brought by women who have been “performance managed out”, discriminated against, or harassed. 

The new psychosocial regulations could provide a starting point to bring these topics to light, Ms Moore suggested, and there is a rise in menstrual and menopause policies, which give the opportunity for women to take days off work if they are feeling symptoms.

Yet, there is apprehension to introduce such policies, noted Ms Moore; businesses are concerned women will take advantage of the policies, or on the flip side, that women will not use them for fear of being singled out, especially if going through menopause. 

There is an opportunity for workplaces to embed such phases of life in existing policies or do a complete review of how they can support all employees, particularly through aging,” Ms Moore advised.

“Like many taboo topics before it, workplace initiatives are desperately needed to support women at this time in their lives.

“By shifting mindsets, employers can continue to shine a light on menopausal women as an important asset and leadership group that will bring distinctive and valuable experience and expertise to their age-diverse organisations.”