In the United Kingdom, women over 50 are the fastest-growing sector of the workforce yet over the next 12 months, nearly one million women are expected to leave their job because of menopause.
This is something Bev Thorogood knows about first-hand. At 50, the civil servant experienced her first hot flash which led to two years of memory loss, poor concentration, and brain fog so debilitating she made the decision to quit after her request for unpaid leave was refused.
“I didn’t ever [say] that the reason I left my job was menopause, partly because I didn’t realize it was and partly because I was never asked ‘what’s going on? why are you leaving after this amount of time’?”
The move out of her job ultimately led Thorogood to an entirely new career as a menopause trainer. Today, she works with companies to help raise awareness about the impact of menopause on their workforce and understand what their legal obligations are (in the UK). She also trains managers to have supportive conversations with women who may be experiencing symptoms that are impacting their work. She also recently authored a book, The Business of Menopause: A Guide for Working Women which offers advice to help women manage their symptoms get more support from their workplace.
“There’s still this pervading sense of taboo and stigma around menopause. A lack of awareness means women don’t feel that they can ask for small, short term, reasonable workplace adjustments that might help them to stay productive and performing at their best,” she says. “The sooner workplaces can change the culture around their perception of menopause and the perception of older women, the more likely they are to really hang onto that valuable female experience, talent, skill, and knowledge.”
Thorogood works to help employers understand that they can help retain midlife women in many ways including considering the fabrics of uniforms (polyester is less breathable, for example), adjusting workplace heating and air conditioning levels, and offering access to sanitary products, flexible schedules, work from home options, and EAP/counselling programs.
Despite the fear and uncertainty that can come with menopause, Thorogood believes strongly that it can be a very positive transition in a woman’s life, personally and professionally. “I changed my career and started my own business at the age of 52 and I’m absolutely loving life,” she says. “It’s definitely not the end. It’s the start of a new chapter, and the best way to overcome that fear is through education. Find out before you get there what it is you can expect and be ready for it.”