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While the era of Covid and the Great Resignation have proven that employee offers and benefits can no longer remain on the back burner, we still have a long way to go in supporting mothers and women in the workplace.
Motherly’s 2022 State of Motherhood Survey revealed the tip of a colossal iceberg: women are rarely offered the support they need from their employers. The survey found that one of the main things mothers want is better support in the workplace: 55% of working mothers want longer paid maternity leave, 48% want more flexibility position and 44% want support for on-site or subsidiary childcare.
Related: Here’s Why The Great Resignation Was So Much More Complicated For Moms
And if you think that changes as you get older and your kids become more self-sufficient and independent, you’re wrong. Older mothers still yearn for that support from their employers, but for a whole new reason: menopause. In the United States, approximately 1.3 million women go through menopause each year. That’s 1.3 million women entering a new phase of health and wellness with little or no support. We’re stuck in a place where women’s health topics like this are considered taboo and unsuitable to discuss, especially in the workplace.
Recently, my startup Elektra Health, which provides a next-generation digital health platform that empowers women through evidence-based menopause education, care, and community, completed a report on menopause at work ( 2022). We surveyed 2,000 employees between the ages of 40 and 55 and across different racial and ethnic groups. We have found that lack of employer support negatively affects women, often mothers, at the peak of their careers.
No woman should be held back by the natural and necessary changes that occur in her body, just as no woman should be held back just because she is a mother. Being a good employer means supporting your employees, all of them, in the stages of their professional and personal life.
Related: My Career Priorities Have Changed Since I Became a Parent, But Not the Way I Expected
According to our report, here are some of the most important things women want from their employers as they embark on this new, often overlooked phase of their lives. Whether it’s directly relevant to you as a woman at the peak of your career, or as a team leader, executive, or human resources manager making decisions about benefits for your business, this is for you.
The most important thing a woman can have during menopause is flexibility. This includes everything from where she works to what she wears and more. If remote or hybrid work is conducive to your workplace, let employees use it. Offer extra PTO or sick days to accommodate employees who are feeling unwell and need more time off.
Other changes called for by the women we interviewed include uniform variations that allow you to dress according to your temperature, unlimited bathroom breaks, designated rest areas, and customization of workspaces (i.e. i.e. the possibility of having a fan on your desk).
Moreover, these offers go far beyond the needs of postmenopausal women. All employees can benefit from implementing these types of rules and practices. For example, designated rest areas can also serve as a private and comfortable place for new mothers to pump. Extra sick days can go a long way for women who suffer from severe menstrual symptoms and dread getting out of bed on certain days. Minor changes in flexibility like these apply to women at all stages of life, especially menopause.
Inform & educate
Women’s health, especially menopause, is often considered taboo and shameful. But that stigma can be broken within your workplace by making it an educated and talked about topic. It’s important for employers to increase awareness training for all levels of employees, from the recent college graduate to the 75-year-old vice president. We all know a woman—in fact, many women—who are going through or about to go through menopause. By educating our workforce, we create an open line of communication and understanding that employees will carry throughout their lives.
You can get started today by hosting an educational event with experts or adding information to your company’s health and benefits wiki. If public channels are not as easily accessible or developed, consider designating an internal menopause champion who can provide a trusted, one-on-one channel to share employee needs and requests with HR.
Related: 6 Common Myths About Workplace Flexibility – Debunked
Additionally, employers can advertise the availability of women’s support groups, or even set up one in-house staffed by women in their own company. Create a sense of connection and community so that women don’t feel so alone in the midst of all these changes they are going through. Women are looking for support and having a group of women who understand exactly what you are going through can mean a lot. Employers can also make the decision to connect women with an expert or company like Elektra, which offers much-needed resources for women during this time.
Last but not least, employee health benefits must meet individual needs, including menopause. The majority of women surveyed said they would find menopause support from their employer (62%) and insurers (73%) helpful.
While many health and benefits plans address fertility and/or pregnancy needs, in the United States they rarely address other forms of women’s health issues. In 2022, it is imperative that employers expand their plans to provide menopause-specific treatments and benefits. In fact, the majority of respondents in our recent study indicated that they felt “left out” of their company’s women’s health benefits because they focused so narrowly on fertility.
Related: It’s Time to Stop Calling Infertility a Women’s Health Issue
If there’s one thing women of all ages need most, it’s support from their employers. Women’s health is too often overlooked and stigmatized when in reality it is something that affects half of the world’s population. Hearing from the women in our report, there is such an overwhelming desire for more support and care.
It’s high time to break the menopause taboo and start having that long-awaited conversation. The HR teams are there to help you. I invite you to seek the care you deserve, even if it’s something as simple and inexpensive as having brochures available for women. Not every step will be a leap, but regardless, you will be moving in the right direction. And I hope that means a world of change for every woman and mother who comes after us.
STATEMENT OF METHODOLOGY
Motherly designed and administered the State of Motherhood survey through Motherly’s subscriber list, social media and partner channels resulting in over 17,000 responses creating a clean and unweighted of 10,001 responses. This report focuses on the Gen X cohort of 1,197 respondents, the Millennial cohort of 8,558 respondents, and a Gen Z cohort of 246 respondents. Edge Research weighted the data to reflect race and the ethnic composition of the US female millennial cohort based on US Census data.
This story is part of The Motherly Collective network of contributors where we feature stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their views with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and providing expert-led content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you would like to contribute to The Motherly Collective, please email [email protected].