While more and more workplaces have started implementing period-leave policies, many employers have yet to consider how to support employees through another, totally natural, stage of life: menopause. With October World Menopause Month, we connected with Dr. Sarah Saska, CEO and co-founder of Feminuity, to discuss how organizations can support their teams. —Noa Nichol
Hi Dr. Saska! Please tell us a bit about yourself and Feminuity to start.
Hi! I’m Dr. Sarah Saska, CEO and Co-Founder of Feminuity, a Canadian full-service diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consulting firm. Our work includes supporting organizations in building diverse teams, equitable systems, and inclusive products and workplaces. We work with clients from around the world and of all sizes—from startups to Fortune 500 organizations—helping them align their good intentions with meaningful impact. At Feminuity, we are on a mission to challenge the status quo and use our industry expertise, lived experiences, and values to transform workplaces because we know there is potential for widespread change.
Recently, there have been a lot of important conversations around how workplaces can best support people that menstruate, yet little talk about those experiencing menopause. Why do you think this is?
We’re glad that many workplaces now consider how to support their team members by introducing things like period leave or menstruation support policies. However, we’ve noticed that organizations often leave menopause out of the conversation and do not provide support for people experiencing menopause. A blend of ageism and sexism undoubtedly contributes to organizations leaving menopause out of policies, programs, and processes. Since we often associate menopause with women of advanced age, workplaces may project ageist (the stereotypes we apply or the prejudice we may have towards others or ourselves based on age) views onto team members experiencing menopause. Unfortunately, many of us engage in ageism without realizing it. We might compliment people on how young and vibrant we perceive them to be (“Doesn’t she look amazing for her age?”), or give team members ageist birthday cards. This may further incentivize team members experiencing menopause to hide their symptoms.
What meaningful actions can workplaces take to support team members experiencing menopause?
When workplaces consider developing policies, processes, and programs to support team members experiencing menopause, we suggest they keep a few key factors top of mind, such as:
- Using gender-inclusive language. Not all who experience menopause are women, and not all women experience menopause!
- Bringing an intersectional approach. For example, consider the racial and ethnic disparities in menopause. Did you know that Black women may have a longer transition and increased symptoms?
- Creating a culture of trust. Do not require team members to prove why, when, or how they navigate their physical health. Instead, offer paid menstrual and menopause leave for team members to use when they want.
- Ensuring Privacy. Being open about menopause can be a safety issue for genderqueer or trans men and can also dissuade women who want to fit in with “the boys club.” Will leaves be shared on a community calendar, or is the process more covert?
Why are workplace policies, processes, and programs that outline menopause support important?
Menopause is like any other workplace health issue; leaders must recognize this and provide intentional support and accommodations. A significant group of marginalized folks are left out when we exclude menopause-specific support in workplace policies.
Are there any challenges employers may encounter while implementing menopause-specific policies?
When implementing menopause-specific policies, organizations may encounter a common challenge: stigma. Training is critical to disrupt stigma. Accompany new policies, processes, or programs—such as a leave or a community budget—with training on why it benefits the organization. Develop culturally aware support for your team members to help them understand that everyone experiences and perceives menopause differently.
Can you share some top tips/advice for employers looking to implement more inclusive policies and practices in general?
Before implementing new policies and introducing new processes or programs, we recommend first getting a sense of where you’re currently positioned by taking stock of what your people need and evaluating existing practices and policies. A great way to do this is through a company-wide survey where the team can provide input on their specific needs and individual experiences. Once your team has completed the survey, you can begin analyzing the results and working towards developing the appropriate policies. We also recommend bringing third-party experts on board—like us at Feminuity—to help lead and guide them through this process. Creating a more inclusive workplace environment is a journey; organizations like ours are here to help workplaces align positive intentions with meaningful impacts. To learn more, check out our website, Feminuity.org, for resources and to learn about our services.
Where can we find more information on this topic?
We wrote a blog post all about supporting employees experiencing menopause, which is available on the Feminity website.