Welcome to Glorious & Cash – Les Glorieuses launched this newsletter to talk about why money is power and matters for gender equality. It’s written by Arièle Bonte and the translation is made by Stephanie Williamson.
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Menopause: another taboo that jeopardizes women’s careers, by Arièle Bonte
Half of the French population is or will be affected by menopause, yet this topic remains a taboo in the working world and therefore jeopardizes women’s careers.
Hot flushes, fatigue, sleep and concentration problems, irritable moods and even loss of memory and risk of depression…In France, 83% of women age 50-54 are menopausal, according to a study by Kantar for the Fondation des femmes and the group MGEN, published in December 2019. “The symptoms and their duration vary from woman to woman,” says Anne Gompel, professor of medical gynaecology at the University of Paris and member of the GEMVI, a research group studying menopause and
hormonal ageing. One in two women claim that menopause has made their daily lives “quite difficult” and one in five “very difficult”, reports another study that appeared in Maturitas in 2013 and relayed by Le Figaro.
What’s the issue?
We often say that nature does things well, but in a world where the patriarchy is in power, the laws of the game are changing…especially for women. Because if menopause starts at 51 on average, says Anne Gompel, this is also the age when most women are more able to land jobs in positions of responsibility: they can no longer be “faulted” for their motherhood or their lack of experience. They have the chance to prove themselves when suddenly, they’re hit by this biological transition: the end of their menstrual cycle.
So, the society in which we live has built up the following myth: that menopausal women are old and disposable as they can no longer bear children. “But at 50, we’re still young! Menopause is not synonymous of ageing and it’s precisely this type of outdated discourse we need to speak out against,” exclaims the professor of medical genecology, before reminding us that treatments exist that can “considerably improve” symptoms. Problem: it’s difficult for women to find doctors who can treat them, explains the specialist.
Hence the importance of informing not only women on solutions that exist but also businesses, so they can create environments in which women currently going through this season of life can thrive.
What solutions are available?
So as not to force women to divulge the details of their sex lives at work, it’s the responsibility of businesses to take the first step. How? By breaking the taboo, says Jeneva Patterson– professor at the Center for Creative Leadership– in an article published in the Harvard Business Review. “If you are a leader going through menopause, try to normalize your challenges, so that other women can feel empowered to speak in the future.” Jeneva Patterson also suggests including menopause in global reflection on well-being at work and enlisting her team to come up with some alternatives together.
More flexible working hours, working from home and the opportunity to participate in information sessions, for example. The European Menopause and Andropause Society, quoted in Le Figaro, published a list of recommendations “on the working conditions of menopausal women.” Among the solutions suggested by a dozen European experts, there are other measures such as the possibility for women to adjust the temperature and ventilation of their workspaces and easy access to fresh water and toilet facilities.
In England, businesses have already begun paving the way. Last October, the television channel Channel 4 offered– on top of the already mentioned solutions– paid holiday in the case of severe symptoms, France Info reports. Two Labour Mps are working on a law proposal that would require businesses to recognise menopause in the same way they do pregnancy and illness. But even then, women won’t be spared stigmatisation. This is why it’s important to change attitudes towards menopause on all levels.
The crisis will be harder on women. Anne-Sophie Panseri, president of Femmes cheffes d’entreprise (Women Business Executives) raises the alarm in the opinion columns of Challenges. This employer organisation published a poll in which 30% of subscribers question whether to continue with their professional activity. How can we help them? By listening to and supporting them by putting in place indicators that will evaluate the place of women in entrepreneurship.
The fourth edition of the guide “Egalité, mixité, diversités” is available for free on the site News RSE. The goal? To help employers progress by learning new practices already put in place by their peers, reports L’Express.
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Arièle Bonte is a French journalist specialized in equality, gender and sexuality. For three years she was leading RTL Girls, for RTL.fr. Today she’s an independent journalist but she still has the same goal: spread the news through the gender prism. She also wrote a novel « Le Chaos des décibels » (Librinova), and she’s the author of the newsletter « Spell it out » about modern witchcraft. Her dream is to meet Lana Del Rey, to travel around the world and to have a green thumb.
A MESSAGE FROM OUR PARTNER
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