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Work and Wellbeing Gaele Lalahy · 11 May 2021
Make Menopause Matter in the Workplace
The past week has been a monumental week for Menopause awareness. Although the growing activist movement has been on the rise for sometime, over the past week, the #MakeMenopauseMatter change petition has over 133,000 signatures signed, and that number is on the rise. It is also the week that Davina McCall’s Channel 4 documentary, Davina McCall: Sex, Myths and the Menopause aired. Menopausal women make up the fastest growing demographic in the workplace, while nine out of 10 say the menopause has adversely affected their work. Chief Operating Officer of the leading free menopause support app for women, balance-app.com, Gaele Lalahy talks us through how SMEs can make menopause matter, for good. By 2030, the world’s population of postmenopausal women will be approximately 1.2 billion, with another 47 million women reaching menopause each year; the equivalent of a country the size of Spain. The menopause does not simply mean hot sweats and absence of periods – 25% of women suffer with severe symptoms from the array of 37 physical and psychological menopausal symptoms due to low hormone levels. There are also serious long term health risks associated with living with a lack of hormones that affect all women, such as increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and type 2 diabetes. Despite this shocking truth, 77% of women do not realise their symptoms are due to the menopause – and unfortunately many healthcare professionals don’t either. This lack of understanding often leads to devastating consequences on women’s lives, families and careers as they are left to struggle along without the right help. Coming from a global blue-chip company, I am particularly sensitive to the fact that 20% of menopausal women stop working, often at the peak of their careers, because of debilitating menopausal symptoms, and the fact that in the UK, a third of women do not receive a correct diagnosis for at least three years. The Global Gender Gap report, recently published by the World Economic Forum, highlights that stunted progress has been made in terms of the limited presence of women in senior roles, even in some of the most advanced economies. For instance, in the United States, women are in just 42% of senior and managerial positions; in the United Kingdom, 36.8%; in France, 34.6%; in Germany, 29%; in Korea, 15.6%; and in Japan, 14.7%. Since I joined the balance team, I have been asking myself whether there is a correlation between these two findings and (among other factors) what impact untreated menopause has on gender disparity in senior roles across the globe? It is heart-breaking to read the stories every day in the app community from women who have to leave their jobs because they just cannot cope with their symptoms or find the treatment they need. This leads to devastating consequences, not only economically, but on their children and families too. As a menopause support company, we are often contacted by large corporates who are beginning to recognise the menopause as a key factor in loss of female talent. Some companies are now making genuine attempts to close the gender gap, especially in senior positions. We are working with them to ensure they have concrete and evidence-based solutions in place to support female talent during their perimenopausal and menopausal years. A very common but unknown consequence of the perimenopause and menopause is the impact on a woman’s emotional and mental health. Common symptoms such as low mood, low energy, brain fog and low self-confidence lead women to think they have lost their edge, lost a sense of self-worth and cannot cope anymore with high demanding jobs. It is a particularly troubling fact that women aged 50 – 54 have the highest suicide rate in the UK, and no coincidence that this is also the average age of the menopause. Dr Louise Newson, menopause specialist and founder of the balance menopause app comments: “In a recent survey of over 300 GPs, 1 out of 3 declared they did not feel confident to deal with the menopause and sadly 2 out of 3 women are prescribed antidepressants, which has no beneficial effect on menopausal symptoms. There really is a crisis out there; not only women aren’t diagnosed and offered the right treatment, but the ones who realise what they need and ask for treatment are denied it. I cannot think of any area of medicine where patients are let down to such a high degree.” Louise is already working to support other healthcare professionals with menopause education, but the demand for menopause support and treatment is so overwhelming that I think the fastest way to make change and improve lives is to lift the taboos, democratise the conversations and empower women themselves with unbiased, evidence-based information and knowledge so they can push for the right diagnosis and demand access to appropriate treatment. This is my mission. To fast track a diagnosis and get women their jobs & their lives back. Our free balance app allows women to do just that: have access to personalised expert information, track their symptoms, download a health report to take to their GP or healthcare professional as evidence of what they’re going through, and have access to a support community of like-minded women. Since launch, the response has been phenomenal. Over 140 000 women in 150 countries have already downloaded the app and been empowered with the courage and the knowledge to go and seek the right treatment for themselves and truly change their lives. I wake up every morning to help these women, and although most of the stories are really alarming, we are encouraged by the women who come back to the app and tell us they have their lives back! The energy from these women willing to help others is electric, and I am already gathering volunteers who have come forward to translate some of our content into their native language. My dream is to empower more women around the world with evidence-based information, diagnosis and treatment for their menopause. For women who need it the most, in countries where the menopause is even more of a taboo, in countries where women have less access to medical treatment, and in countries where women have less of a voice. I am also seeking partners to create awareness around the menopause and help lift the taboos. Women have been very much let down and we are feeling the start of a change and willingness to have brave conversations, necessary conversations – which is very encouraging. The latest Global Gender Gap report, recently published by the World Economic Forum states that at the current relative pace, gender gaps can potentially be closed in 52.1 years in Western Europe, 61.5 years in North America, and 68.9 years in Latin America and the Caribbean. In all other regions it will take over 100 years to close the gender gap. Will gender inequalities be closed before or after all women are properly diagnosed and treated for their perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms? Or is it one and the same issue that must be tackled hand in hand?
ABOUT THE EXPERTGaele Lalahy
Digital media, integrated marketing and brand strategy expert, Gaele Lalahy, is the Chief Operating Officer for progressive menopause health app 'balance', developed by leading menopause expert Dr Louise Newson.