Culture of silence around menopause blocks female career progression and talent retention
The impact of menopausal symptoms is creating a blockage in the female retention and leadership pipeline across financial services, according to new research published by Standard Chartered Bank and the Financial Services Skills Commission (FSSC).
The report, Menopause in the Workplace: Impact on Women in Financial Services, reveals women’s experiences of the menopause impacts their confidence to perform their role. Additionally, a lack of awareness and support from employers and colleagues to help manage their symptoms means women are less keen to progress into more senior roles and may leave work altogether.
One quarter (25 per cent) of research participants who are currently experiencing the menopause said it made them more likely to leave the workforce, in addition to 22 per cent stating it made them more likely to retire early. Furthermore, almost half (47 per cent) of those surveyed said they were less likely to apply for a promotion because of their experiences with the menopause, with over half (52 per cent) stating it made them less likely to take on extra responsibilities. This is despite almost two in five (38 per cent) stating they want to progress to a more senior role.
The large-scale survey of around 2,400 employees of all ages from over 100 different organisations in the financial services sector, was conducted by the Fawcett Society and sought to understand how the menopause impacts female progression. In a sector facing a skills gap, the research shows employers risk losing talent if they aren’t responding well to the menopause.
Tanuj Kapilashrami, Group Head of Human Resources at Standard Chartered comments: “There’s a culture of silence around the menopause in financial services, with many women taking it on themselves to absorb the impacts of their experiences. A lack of understanding and support is impacting female progression and at times leading to women opting out of the workforce altogether.
“We are proud to raise the awareness that’s needed to further create a more inclusive and supportive workplace for all employees. It’s time we shine a spotlight on the menopause; acknowledge we can talk about it openly and accept this directly impacts someone’s wellbeing and their career.”
Claire Tunley, Chief Executive at the Financial Services Skills Commission says: “For too long the menopause has been a taboo subject in the workplace. Our research indicates the financial services sector could lose tens of thousands of women due to their experience of the menopause at work. From senior leaders to customer service and call centre staff, everyone, regardless of age or gender, has the potential to benefit from greater menopause awareness.
“To do this successfully, the sector needs to foster a supportive and inclusive dialogue, breaking the culture of silence around the menopause. This will ultimately help the industry retain and progress talent to help drive innovation and productivity and deliver greater organisational strength and resilience.”
The research also highlights the symptoms associated with menopause vary, however, non-physical symptoms were reported to be just as, or more, bothersome as physical ones, with difficulty sleeping (69 per cent), anxiety and worry (63 per cent) and problems with recall (58 per cent) reported most often.
Over half (53 per cent) of those surveyed currently experiencing the menopause said these impacts made it difficult to feel confident at work, and four in ten (40 per cent) stated their experience made it ‘extremely’ or ‘quite’ difficult to enjoy work. Compared to peers, those going through the menopause are less likely to feel heard when offering ideas at work and feel less of a valued team member when compared to others.
In response to the research, Standard Chartered is changing its guidance to provide dedicated support and workplace adjustments for employees managing the menopause. This includes flexible working, access to counselling, education and awareness resources for all employees through the launch of a menopause guide, dedicated advice for line managers and peer-to-peer support groups. The Bank is also a recent signatory of the Wellbeing of Women’s Menopause Workplace Pledge.
These are among key actions the report identifies that other organisations can also take to better address the barriers faced and create a workplace culture where the menopause is better understood, so employees can request support and workplace adjustments. Actions specifically include additional training, awareness raising activity and greater flexibility in working arrangements.
About the research:
To understand how the menopause transition affects women working in financial services, how this affects the pipeline of female talent, and how women experiencing menopause transition can be better supported, a mixed-methods study was conducted:
- A survey of financial services sector employees in the UK was carried out from May 2021 to June 2021, resulting in 2,376 respondents from over 100 different organisations, of which 2,089 were women and 287 were men.
- To understand how all employees could be better supported to address the menopause, seven focus groups and ten in-depth interviews with men and women were conducted. Focus groups were conducted along different strands of diversity (e.g. ethnicity, disability, LGBQ+) to capture any intersectional nuances that might exist to ensure recommendations addressed all needs.
Source: Standard Chartered