International Women’s Day #Breakthebias

Today is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The campaign theme for this year is #breakthebias. Whether it’s deliberate or unconscious, bias can make it difficult for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough. Action is required to level the playing field.  

To help break the bias, today we’re focusing on perimenopause and menopause in the workplace. Why is a food packaging company talking about periods stopping? It’s something that affects all of us, not just women, and something Vegware have worked hard to get right for our staff. 

The insights  

Perimenopause and menopause are major parts of womanhood. Some women embrace them; some struggle with them. There needs to be more discussion by those affected and by health professionals. This means that many people don’t realise it can all start as early as 40 years of age, or younger. 

The perimenopause and menopause are natural stages of life, and they affect around half of the population. This can include: 

  • Women 
  • Trans people – ‘trans’ is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth 
  • Intersex people – some people prefer the term ‘differences in sex development’ (DSD

It’s important that everyone understands perimenopause and menopause, whatever their age. People should be medically informed and empowered to approach it positively. 

What is menopause? 

Menopause signifies the end of a woman’s reproductive years. It’s generally complete after a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 consecutive months. Once a woman reaches menopause, her ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and produce a minimal amount of oestrogen. 

What is perimenopause? 

Perimenopause is the time a woman starts having menopausal symptoms, but she is continuing her menstrual flow. Many women reach perimenopause in their 40s and will experience a gradual decrease in oestrogen production during this time. 

Perimenopause & menopause – it a business issue? 

So, why should companies be taking action to support both at work? Is it really their concern? One positive thing to come out of the pandemic is a change in workplace attitudes. Flexible working is more readily available. The focus on wellbeing has increased. Employees’ expectations have changed.  People are actively seeking out employers who take wellbeing seriously. 

Women in their 40s are usually hitting the peak of their careers, so having to deal with perimenopause and menopause can really throw them off balance.  A survey run by Fertifa and The Latte Lounge revealed that the most common symptoms relate to cognitive function, with ‘brain fog’ affecting 9 out 10 women going through menopause or perimenopause.  Other common complaints were anxiety (84%) and depression (77%). 

Studies have shown that perimenopause and menopause can have a significant impact on attendance and performance in the workplace. Many women have even reported a misdiagnosis of mental ill health. Untreated symptoms can be wrongly identified as a performance issue. 

It’s about numbers, too.  According to a government report, women aged 45 and over are the fastest-growing demographic in the workplace.  33% of our workforce will be aged 50 or above.  And if we consider that perimenopause starts as young as 40, it means there’s a huge proportion of the population potentially affected. 

What Vegware are doing to support our staff 

Did you know that approximately 1.3 million people in the US enter menopause every year? We are one of few companies that have a policy on paid menopause leave.

At Vegware we continue to strive to make our business inclusive – menopause is one element of that inclusivity. Our menopause policy aims to: 

  • Ensure everyone understands what exactly menopause is and can talk comfortably about it  
  • Educate managers about symptoms women can experience and how to support them  
  • Allow women to make reasonable adjustments so they can continue successfully within work 
  • Reduce absence due to menopause  
  • Show that Vegware is committed to making its team feel secure at work and understand everyone‘s needs 

Vegware also offers health insurance to all our staff and through that women can access Peppy, an online tool and a safe space where people can talk about all their menopause symptoms, concerns and treatment options with highly trained and accredited expert menopause practitioners. 

We know there is more we can be doing to support our staff. We are running workshops with a menopause expert which will educate and support our staff.

How can we #breakthebias    

Being part of an informed community can help women feel more supported. Shared knowledge and experiences can help with overcoming challenges. Also, talking through issues can sometimes help with worries and can unite through shared knowledge. 

Let’s also all talk openly about the menopause, let’s educate ourselves and raise awareness with our friends, partners, colleagues and employers.  Let’s shift the shame and stigma and break this long-held taboo that discriminates against mid age women, enabling and empowering this group to fully thrive in our workplaces and contribute to our society.