Fostering Workplace Diversity Through Inclusion
A couple weeks ago, I brought to the evolving #menopauseatwork conversation the overt absence of #DEI* policies supporting women as we transition through our menopause. (*DEI = Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in case that acronym isn’t familiar.)
The title spoke for itself, “We Need More Women In Leadership. So Why Do We Ignore Their Needs In Perimenopause And Beyond?”
It also spoke to many a woman’s heart who reached out asking me to expand upon the topic. Something I am more than happy to do.
Shunned, Ridiculed and Dismissed
Some of these women hadn’t even heard of #perimenopause. Until my correlation with leadership illuminated the impact this natural life stage could have on their professional trajectory, it wasn’t something they gave any thought to.
Since this is one topic on a long list of things we just don’t talk about, I’m happy to expand upon it in this post.
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The issue isn’t in the fact that we transition through perimenopause. The issue is in the fact that we are shunned, ridiculed and dismissed for doing so.
Now, I have a great sense of humor. I can kick it with the best of them and I love to have a good time.
But the jokes focused on women and our hormonal shifts, from the monthly cycle to the most major of them all, our menopause; these jokes have got to go. They’re not funny when their payoff (the laugh) is collected at our expense.
These shifts affect us enough personally. We don’t need others in our professional sphere throwing what is mistakenly perceived as a weakness in our collective face.
What we are experiencing in perimenopause and beyond is not a show of weakness. The entire experience is one long masterclass in adaptation. In resilience. A hard-earned lesson in leaning into change and listening to what it brings along with it.
We’ve been conditioned to fight it and to fear it.
It’s Not Forever
Here are some of the things I hear from women on the regular. I’ve said some of them myself a time or several:
“My nerves are shot and everyone’s on that ONE I’ve got left.”
“I am so freaking hot, I cannot stand anything (or anyone) touching me!”
“Either my clothes are shrinking, or I’m expanding! I can’t ‘lose weight’ no matter how little I eat or how much I exercise.”
“Another night of tossing and turning. Where’s my caffeine drip?”
“I am so angry all the time. My poor partner! I can’t keep a lid on my emotions, I’m snapping at everyone! Our golden retriever won’t even come near me!”
If you’ve muttered any variation of these phrases and questions, please know that the way you’re feeling right now is not the way you have to feel forever. And if any of the things I just shared has been voiced by someone you know, they too don’t have to feel this way forever.
The experiences I just mentioned, in any combination, are often part of the collective experience of perimenopause.
Nothing To Do With “Health”
But in our over-medicalized conditions-based “health” care system, women experiencing this built-in shift in hormones are often shuttled down the “here, try this” path that can lead to medication after medication. Some of these meds bring with them the possibility of dependence and all too often, that is underemphasized as a risk.
In my humble and 30-year-seasoned opinion, referring to “health” when speaking about those who have worn a path in the “here, try this” lane is incorrect. It’s more often disease- or symptom-management at best, and drug pushing at its unfortunate worst.
[[ I am so not going to run wildly down the rabbit hole I am being drawn into like a black hole…but I will come back to this topic another time. Pinky swear! ]]
The Technical Side
Perimenopause or peri-, as you’ll hear me refer to it, is the period of time before we have our menopause.
There is no definitive timeframe for perimenopause, nor is there a lab test we can take (blood, urine, saliva or otherwise) that will show “Perimenopause: Positive or Negative” across the page.
There are lab tests that can help point the finger at perimenopause. But when our hormone cycle is not all that predictable, a classic indicator of perimenopause, testing can lead us down a never-ending path of doctor after doctor, test after test, prescription after prescription.
Any labs run need to be evaluated by a professional who is aware of the nuances women experience during our perimenopause phase of life. Sadly, too many professionals are not up to the challenge. And their ignorance leads to a fair amount of collateral damage.
Our menopause is an event. It occurs when we go 365 days without a period. And brace yourself…perimenopause can last upwards of 10-15 years for some women. On average, I’ve seen somewhere between 5 and 10 years.
Now some women say, “Peri- what?” Because they just all of a sudden realize they’ve not had a period in some time, they do the math and voila they’re postmenopausal. Their last period came and went without much fanfare.
Perimenopause can start in a woman’s late 30s, but seems to more commonly come on scene in her early 40s. The average age at menopause is 51.
That’s the technical side to it, in a nutshell.
The More Relatable Side
I like to describe perimenopause as the time before your menopause when you experience what we consider menopausal symptoms like those I just mentioned. But you are still having periods. Though they’ve most likely changed from your “normal”.
Now, don’t fret and really tune in here…you can have a tremendous effect on how you go through perimenopause, by doing and not doing specific things.
I know this because I’ve worked through close to every single thing I mentioned above and have walked alongside countless women on their journeys.
Bridging The Impact Gap
I am a holistic (peri-)menopause coach for busy female leaders and a consultant for the companies that value them.
My express purpose for honing in on this niche?
To help women scale their wellbeing as they scale the businesses they lead.
I used to work solely 1:1 with busy leaders in the nonprofit, private, and public sectors. I still provide this level of coaching, but I’ve realized there is a cap on the positive impact my work could have working solely within that model. The reality that I can only work 1:1 with a very limited number of people at a time greatly limits my impact.
To bridge the impact gap, I’ve expanded my services by creating a free information hub and paid online group coaching platform. I call it a CoWorking Community because it’s where we put in the work on ourselves, yet not by ourselves.
The Info hub is open to all and the paid platform is available in a B2C and a B2B model. Therefore you can join us solo as an individual (B2C or B2B), or as individuals in a group from the same organization (B2B).
Companies can expense it through their corporate wellness or leadership development programs , and some individuals can expense it as well. Please talk to your tax professional for those details. That is not my wheelhouse.
I Am Part Of Your Holistic, Whole-Self Team
As noted in the previously mentioned post, one in 5 working women will experience perimenopause this year.
Some will barely notice the changes. While others will be completely derailed by perimenopause.
Thing is, you can stack the deck in favor of a more favorable experience when you address specific lifestyle changes or enhancements prior to the natural hormonal transition.
Assembling a holistic, whole-self team is the way to do it.
Recall the average age at menopause is 51. Smack dab in the middle of the fastest growing workforce demographic which I’ve seen noted as between 45 and 55 years of age .
Making Good Business Sense
It makes good business sense to create an environment in which women feel valued, engaged, as well as seen and understood. And one in which they are able to continue performing the way they want to through this temporary, natural experience.
Not every woman will experience pregnancy, or be a mother. But every single woman blessed to live long enough will experience perimenopause and the mother of all hormonal shifts, her menopause.
Company leaders who prioritize women through all stages of their evolution will reap the rewards from hiring the best people.
Whether a company of one or one hundred thousand-plus, if you employ women, this is an opportunity to not only support, but to champion for them. Implementing a DEI policy including menopause by name is a great addition to any DEI policy you’ve already started.
Companies That “Get It”
My goal isn’t to convince companies that diversity, equity and inclusion are principles on which they need to focus. If they’re not already part of that conversation, there’s little hope they’ll see what menopause inclusion can bring to the table. Retaining the talent, experienced leadership, and collective wisdom of women in their workforce is probably not all that high on their list of priorities.
I serve as a resource for companies that “get it”. Companies that prioritize women and champion their bringing of their whole selves to work: body, mind, emotions, and hormones.
A truly collaborative environment incorporates all four.
Unacceptable And Unnecessary
I leave you with this take home message: the more stressed a woman is about the changes happening during the natural and temporary transition of perimenopause, and how these changes affect her career, her relationships, her overall wellbeing, the more difficulty she will have going through it.
At a time when the business climate is crying out for more women who embrace their feminine power in leadership roles, women who have hit the pinnacle of their careers are closing their businesses and quitting jobs as a result of their internal struggle with these hormonal changes.
This is unacceptable. And completely unnecessary.
I provide companies of one to companies of 100,000-plus with online resources and small group coaching along with corporate policy creation and review. In turn lending to organizations an assist, if you will, in cementing their positions as an ally so they can retain the talent, experienced leadership, and collective wisdom of women in their workforce.
The ROI You May Not Have Thought Of
There is an ROI on both leadership development and talent retention that you may not have given much thought to.
Seeing that you’ve invested heavily into hiring, training, and the professional development of the women in your company, when they stay and grow with your company that can add zeros with commas to the company’s bottom line.
Think of that number for a moment. Drink it in. Swish it around in your mouth to get the full flavor profile.
Here’s another thing to think about… how many women between the ages of 45 and 60 are leaving your company?
How many of them might be leaving because they feel like they were shunned, ridiculed, or dismissed as they navigated their menopause transition?
I can pretty much guarantee that even if you have an exit interview they won’t tell you the truth if they’re leaving for that reason. They’ll tell someone like me, but not you.
More food for thought: How much do you spend on an annual basis replacing employees that leave?
Women are fiercely loyal to companies that are loyal to them. We stay when we know you not only care, but that you put your money where your mouth is by supporting us during this phase of life each and every one of us will experience.
Do you really want to risk losing this incredible talent pool along with their wisdom and leadership experience because they don’t have the support they need to navigate this natural, and temporary experience?
Of course you don’t.
If you want to hear concrete ways you can support yourself and/or the women in your life and in your business, connect with me in the comments below or DM me on LinkedIn. Let me know you read this blog post and you would like more information.
I look forward to hearing from you and anyone you know who wants to retain the talent, wisdom and leadership of women in their workforce.
Difficult Until You Start
Please don’t hesitate to reach out. This is a topic that’s difficult to talk about because we shame everything about growing older, especially as women. It’s time to shift the narrative and take control of the dialogue proactively.
I for one am thankful for the privilege of being able to transition into my wisdom years. Sure beats the alternative.