While the age of Covid and the Great Resignation proved that employee offerings and benefits can no longer stay on the backburner, we still have a long way to go when it comes to supporting mothers and women in the workplace.
Motherly’s 2022 State of Motherhood Survey revealed the tip of a colossal iceberg: women are seldom offered the proper support they need by their employers. The survey revealed that one of the major things mothers yearn for is better workplace support—55% of working mothers wanted longer, paid maternity leave, 48% called for increased position flexibility and 44% wanted support for either on-site or subsidiary childcare.
And if you’re thinking that this changes as you get older and your kids become more self-sufficient and independent—you’d be wrong. Older mothers are still longing for that support from their employers, but for a whole new reason: menopause. In the U.S., about 1.3 million women become menopausal each year. That’s 1.3 million women who are stepping into a new phase of health and wellness with little to no support. We are stuck in a place where women’s health topics like this are seen as taboo and unfit to discuss, especially in a workplace setting.
Recently, my startup Elektra Health—which provides a next-gen digital health platform that empowers women via evidence-based menopause education, care, and community—completed a Menopause In The Workplace (2022) report. We surveyed 2,000 employees between the ages of 40-55 and among different racial and ethnic groups. We found that the lack of support from employers is negatively affecting women, often mothers, at the height of their careers.
No woman should be held back by the natural and necessary changes taking place in their bodies, the same way no woman should be held back simply for being a mother. Being a good employer means supporting your employees, all of them, through the stages of their professional and personal lives.
From our report, here are some of the biggest things women want from their employers as they embark on this new, often overlooked, phase of their lives. Whether this speaks directly to you as a woman at the height of your career, or as a team leader, executive, or Human Resource Director who makes benefit decisions for your company, this is for you.
The most important thing a woman can have when going through 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, then let employees utilize it. Offer additional PTO or sick days to accommodate employees feeling unwell and needing additional time off.
Other changes called for by the women we surveyed include uniform variations that allow you to dress according to your temperature, unlimited bathroom breaks, designated resting spaces, and the personalization of workspaces (i.e. being able to have a fan on your desk).
Plus, these offerings extend far beyond the needs of menopausal women. All employees can benefit when these types of rules and practices are implemented. For instance, designated resting spaces can also serve as a private and comfortable place for new mothers to pump. Additional sick days can go far for women who suffer from severe period symptoms and dread getting out of bed some days. Minor changes in flexibility like these apply to women in every stage of life, especially in menopause.
Inform & educate
Women’s health, especially menopause, is often treated as taboo and shameful. But this stigma can be broken within your workplace by making it an educated and spoken-about topic. It’s important for employers to raise awareness training across all levels of employees—from the recent college grad to the 75-year-old VP. We all know a woman—in fact, many women—who is going through or is about to be going through menopause. By educating our workforces, we’re creating an open line of communication and understanding that employees will carry through their lives.
You can get started today by organizing an educational event with experts, or adding information to your company's health & benefits wiki. If public channels aren’t as easily accessible or developed, consider designating an internal menopause champion who can offer a trusted, one-on-one channel to share employees’ needs and requests to HR.
Additionally, employers can advertise the availability of women’s support groups, or even implement one internally consisting of the women in their own company. Create a sense of connection and community so women don’t feel so alone amidst all of these changes they’re going through. Women are looking for support and having a group of women who understand exactly what you’re going through can mean a lot. Employers can also take the step to connect women to an expert or company like Elektra, which offers much-needed resources to women during this time.
Last but certainly not least, employee health benefits should actually meet individual needs, including menopause. A majority of women we surveyed stated that they would find menopause support helpful from their employer (62%) and insurance providers (73%).
While many health plans and employee benefits address fertility and/or pregnancy needs, in the US they rarely address other forms of women’s health concerns. In 2022, it’s imperative that employers expand their plans to offer menopause-specific treatments and benefits. In fact, a majority of respondents in our recent study indicated that they felt “left out” of their company’s women’s health benefits because they focus so narrowly on fertility.
If there’s one thing women of all ages need more of, it's support from their employers. Women’s health is too often overlooked and stigmatized when in actuality it’s something that affects half the global population. Hearing from the women in our report, there is such an overwhelming desire for more support and care.
It’s high time we smash the menopause taboo and start having this long-overdue conversation. HR teams are here to help—I invite you to ask for the care you deserve, even if it’s something as simple and inexpensive as having brochures available for women. Not every step is going to be a leap, but regardless you’ll be moving in the right direction. And hopefully, that means a world of change for every woman and mother, that comes after us.
Motherly designed and administered the State of Motherhood survey through Motherly’s subscribers list, social media and partner channels, resulting in more than 17,000 responses creating a clean, unweighted base of 10,001 responses. This report focuses on the Gen X cohort of 1197 respondents, Millennial cohort of 8,558 respondents, and a Gen Z cohort of 246 respondents. Edge Research weighted the data to reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the US female millennial cohort based on US Census data.
This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective 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 offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please email Collective@ .