Break the Silence, Bridge the Gap | Prioritize Women's Health at Work

/ By Cowan Insurance Group

Women's health is a multifaceted topic that deserves our attention. On average, women tend to outlive men. However, this extended lifespan is not without its challenges. Despite their longer life expectancy, women spend approximately 25% more of their lives in poor health.1 Four areas are noteworthy when comparing women's health to men's:

  • Science: Many studies and research efforts default to the male body, obstructing our understanding of biological differences; consequently, fewer effective treatments are available for women
  • Data: Existing health data focuses on men, leading to systematic underestimation of women's health conditions
  • Care Delivery: Women often encounter barriers to care, diagnostic delays, and suboptimal treatment
  • Investment: Historically, there has been less investment in women's health conditions, resulting in inadequate scientific data and a poor understanding of women's health needs2

Understanding women's health better can help close the gender health gap (or the disparity in health outcomes and access to healthcare between genders), reducing the time women spend in poor health by nearly two-thirds.3

Menopause, as an example, is a natural phase of life that directly affects more than half of the Canadian population, yet it remains a taboo topic.4 Reproductive health is stigmatized, and menopause is no exception. Due to a lack of awareness and understanding, women's menopausal symptoms may be dismissed or attributed to other causes. As a result, women deal with menopause symptoms with little to no support. According to the Menopause Foundation of Canada (MFC), four in 10 women report feeling alone during their menopausal journey, which can have a substantial impact on their well-being and overall quality of life.5 As an employer, you have the power to improve this statistic.

By acknowledging and addressing menopause, you can create a more compassionate and understanding workplace that supports employees through this significant life transition.

Help your employees live healthier lives.

Why menopause support matters

Menopause consists of several stages, including perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Women will spend up to half their lives navigating these hormonal changes, highlighting the need for comprehensive support.6

Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, coinciding with when women are more likely to hold leadership positions in the workplace.7 The average age for a CEO is 53.46 years.8 The menopausal journey generally spans seven to 14 years, during which women experience symptoms.9 Nine out of 10 women experience menopausal symptoms, with one in 10 leaving the workforce due to unmanaged symptoms.10 While hot flashes, night sweats, joint pain, and skin changes are commonly known, there are other less commonly known symptoms, including lack of energy, depression, insomnia, and bladder control challenges. This results in an overwhelming $237 million in lost productivity and 540,000 workdays annually.11

Studies reveal that companies with more women in executive roles tend to achieve higher returns, and, in Canada, advancing gender equality and women's economic participation could potentially contribute up to $150 billion to the GDP, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing women's health in the workplace.12

How can I support employees experiencing menopause?

Flexible work arrangements. Menopause symptoms can be uncomfortable and painful, which can pose challenges in a traditional working environment. Organizations can work towards creating an inclusive environment that acknowledges the difficulties faced by menopausal employees by offering hybrid or flexible work schedules to help employees manage their symptoms more effectively.

Education and awareness. Consider appointing a menopause champion to actively promote understanding and advocacy for menopausal employees and drive positive change. Education helps build a culture of transparency and encourages people to talk about women's unique health experiences. Encourage employees to share personal stories and experiences related to menopause. Storytelling is a powerful tool to increase awareness and foster empathy among colleagues.

Updated employee benefits and services. Employers could consider broadening their benefits and service offerings to be more inclusive, including those related to family planning, menopause, and comprehensive health and mental health services. Menopause leave has emerged as the top trending perk over the past five years, shedding light on the importance of reviewing existing policies to be more reflective and responsive to current demographics.13

Workplace accommodations. Menopausal symptoms like hot flashes can be challenging. Employers may consider adjusting dress codes to allow for lighter clothing or layers. You can also consider offering personal days to accommodate menopausal symptoms or heavy menstrual days.

The benefits of menopausal support

Menopause support can offer several benefits, including:

Workforce well-being. Companies can significantly enhance workforce well-being by addressing menopause-related challenges and supporting employees during this transition. When organizations actively acknowledge menopause and provide appropriate accommodations, they contribute to a healthier, more resilient team.

Retention and productivity. Supporting employees through menopause positively impacts talent retention. Experienced employees who feel understood and supported during this stage of life will likely remain engaged and productive. Menopause often occurs during mid-career, making it more expensive to replace experienced workers. Retaining these employees benefits the organization in the long run.

Reduced stigma. Employees experiencing menopause should feel comfortable discussing their needs without fear of judgment. When menopause is openly acknowledged and discussed, it becomes a normal part of life, leading to greater understanding and empathy among colleagues.

Fostering a menopause-friendly work environment promotes inclusivity and recognizes the immense value experienced employees navigating menopause bring. Their knowledge, leadership abilities, and critical skills are irreplaceable. By acknowledging their unique needs and challenges, organizations can empower menopausal employees to thrive and contribute effectively—a win-win for everyone involved.

If you have any additional questions on how to support your menopausal employees, please reach out to a Cowan benefits consultant.

Sources

  1. Ellingrud, K., Pérez, L., Peterson, A., Sartori, V. (January 2024). Closing the Women's Health Gap: A $1 Trillion Opportunity to Improve Lives and Economies. Retrieved from URL.
  2. Ellingrud, K., Pérez, L., Peterson, A., Sartori, V. (January 2024). Closing the Women's Health Gap: A $1 Trillion Opportunity to Improve Lives and Economies. Retrieved from URL.
  3. Ellingrud, K., Pérez, L., Peterson, A., Sartori, V. (January 2024). Closing the Women's Health Gap: A $1 Trillion Opportunity to Improve Lives and Economies. Retrieved from URL.
  4. Menopause Foundation of Canada. (October 16, 2023). Menopause Inclusive Workplace Playbook. Retrieved from URL.
  5. Menopause Foundation of Canada. (October 16, 2023). Menopause Inclusive Workplace Playbook. Retrieved from URL.
  6. Menopause Foundation of Canada. (October 16, 2023). Menopause Inclusive Workplace Playbook. Retrieved from URL.
  7. Patterson, J. (February 24, 2020). It’s Time to Start Talking About Menopause at Work. Retrieved from URL.
  8. Patterson, J. (February 24, 2020). It’s Time to Start Talking About Menopause at Work. Retrieved from URL.
  9. Patterson, J. (February 24, 2020). It’s Time to Start Talking About Menopause at Work. Retrieved from URL.
  10. Menopause Foundation of Canada. (October 16, 2023). Menopause Inclusive Workplace Playbook. Retrieved from URL.
  11. Menopause Foundation of Canada. (October 16, 2023). Menopause Inclusive Workplace Playbook. Retrieved from URL.
  12. Anstey, T. (September 18, 2023). Women’s health in the workplace. Here’s why businesses should care. Retrieved from URL.
  13. Douglas, E. (November 4, 2022). The ‘menopause tax’: supporting employees without breaking the bank. Retrieved from URL. 
 

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