Brooke Quinn is chief customer officer at Carrot Fertility, a global fertility healthcare company. She is a trusted advisor and executive strategy leader with deep expertise in operational management, customer success and retention, and sales strategy and execution.
They say life gets better after forty, and I believe that’s mostly true. But there’s one big exception for me: menopause.
Menopause impacts women more than starting a new job, being promoted, or starting a family, as 79% of women describe working during menopause as challenging. After moving into menopause myself, I agree. I am 47 years old, blessed with a loving and supportive partner, three wonderful stepchildren, a caring network of friends, and a rewarding career. I’m fortunate to have rich opportunities for service work and connection in my community. So from the outside looking in, I am thriving.
But no one sees the struggles I face daily with menopause.
A healthcare expert’s struggle
Even as a healthcare expert, I’ve struggled to understand the symptoms and the impact of menopause on my mind, body, and relationships. Attempting to find adequate medical guidance for dealing with these symptoms and their long-term impacts has been a hurdle. With a large part of our population directly impacted by menopause, it’s time employers stepped into the gap to help find a solution.
Menopause impacts women in all different ways, and they may experience dozens of symptoms over several years, including hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, and changes in mood. Many women suffer silently when they don’t receive the care they need, impacting their personal lives and careers.
The costs of ignoring menopause
There’s a systemic problem in how menopause is discussed, prioritized, and supported from a medical, societal, and business perspective in the US. While the UK has made progress, the challenges for women are numerous. Research has shown that new-onset sleep problems in midlife women are associated with significant increases in unemployment and approximately $2 billion a year in lost productivity nationwide.
Ignoring menopause’s impact at work comes with a staggering and often hidden impact. An estimated 1.1 billion women worldwide will have experience menopause by 2025. Statistics show that 7% of women will enter menopause earlier than expected, leading to an increased risk for heart disease and osteoporosis. And despite this real and detrimental effect on women’s health, fewer than 1 in 5 obstetrics and gynecology medical residents receive formal training in menopause, and less than 9% of primary care physicians discuss it proactively with patients.
Beyond the personal toll, menopause impacts women at a key time in their careers and significantly impacts employers. Between productivity loss and healthcare costs, menopause’s economic impact is estimated at over $150 billion globally annually. Unfortunately, the workplace stigma means many women suffer in silence. While 40% of women report taking time off work due to perimenopause or menopause symptoms, 59% felt they needed to hide the reason for their time away.
Even more concerning for employers is that 1 in 5 women have considered leaving their job or retiring early due to a lack of support during their menopausal years—often the same years that correspond with women taking on more challenging projects or advancing through leadership positions.
3 ways companies and employees can take action
As a healthcare expert and menopausal woman, I’m drawn to three key areas of focus to address menopause in the workplace: education, community, and access to care.
Education: Preparing all employees and leaders on what to expect for menopause, options for care, and resources.
Most menopausal women aren’t prepared for the changes. In a recent survey, only 8% of respondents felt very prepared and informed about the overall menopause experience. To increase awareness, an employer can provide access to educational resources on what to expect and how to manage menopause symptoms. In addition, companies can leverage this education for a larger win by incorporating age-inclusivity into their diversity, equity, and inclusion training to create more awareness of the experiences of all aging employees, not just those impacted by menopause.
Community: Building and nurturing a community that supports, listens, and understands matters.
Menopause can often feel isolating, so finding others that know what you’re experiencing is essential. At work, that could mean tapping one of your existing employee resource groups (ERGs) or creating a new one focused on people aged 40+. Not only is this a way to engage others with shared experiences, but you could invite external speakers who are experts on menopause and involve your other colleagues who identify as allies.
Creating a Slack channel for your ERG is a way to share resources and connect. Options allow people to opt-in as they’re comfortable, whether in-person events, online or both.
Access to care: Access to resources and providers trained to treat menopause must become as common as having dental or vision coverage. Yet, research shows that only a tiny minority of menopausal women receive the medical care they need, exacerbated by the reality that many OB/GYNs do not receive any clinical training in menopause.
In many ways, employers have already taken on the responsibility of keeping their employees healthy—56% of people receive health insurance through their jobs. It’s in employers’ best interest to respond to this significant part of their workforce that isn’t receiving the healthcare they need. When we keep our employees healthy, we minimize healthcare costs to the company, avoid large increases to the premiums employees pay, and attract and retain talent with lower healthcare costs.
Women make up more than half of the U.S. workforce, and each will experience this life-changing transition. Employers are uniquely positioned to quickly and dramatically change the face of menopause care. Change is possible, and the time is now to accelerate access to menopause benefits and create supportive workplaces for women—no matter their age.