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Henley Leadership Group Blog

Stigmatizing This In The Workplace Is Bad For Everyone


It's well past time to address the elephant in the room: the stigma around menopause and aging at work. 

Menopause isn't just a personal milestone—it's a big deal in the workforce too. It coincides with a crucial time in many women’s careers when they’re at their professional peak. Imagine hitting this life stage right as you're ready to step into a top leadership position. Meanwhile, the silence and shame around menopause—whether at work, at the doctor’s office, or even among friends—can leave many women feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed, and less confident. 

It's well past time to address the elephant in the room: the stigma around menopause and aging at work. 

And it's not just up to menopausal women to deal with it. Senior leaders can work to create a workplace where everyone feels understood and supported.

Let's talk numbers. There are more than 15 million women aged 45 to 60 in the working world. That's roughly 30% of the workforce. The menopausal transition typically lasts around seven years, beginning between ages 45 and 55. It brings a variety of symptoms, from the subtle, like mood swings, to the not-so-subtle—hot flashes. In addition, Dr. Juliana Kling of the Mayo Clinic points out that Black and Hispanic women often face more severe symptoms in menopause.

But the biggest worry for menopausal women is ageism, which compounds the hurdles faced by menopausal women at work. A recent report on menopause in the workplace found nearly half of survey respondents experienced instances of age-based discrimination.

Since people often associate menopause with aging, they may project their stigma against aging onto team members experiencing menopause. Many of those women experiencing menopause are therefore hesitant to reveal their symptoms, fearing being labelled “hysterical,” “incompetent,” or a “nuisance.” 

But here's a twist: Recent studies show that being open about menopausal symptoms can actually boost how others see you. I’m a big fan of openness and candor as an element of building trust on teams. Talking about hot flashes as a leader can make you seem more confident. It's all about owning it and showing that it's a very natural part of life. 

What can you do to break the stigma of menopause? It starts with changing how you do things at work. Healthy workplaces are places where people feel safe to talk about what's going on without feeling judged. Leaders set the tone by being open, encouraging conversations, and making sure everyone's included and supported.

Building fair workplaces is smart business. By investing in wellness programs and making sure all team members feel valued, organizations create cultures where everyone can thrive. Focus on building strong, diverse teams that can tackle anything that comes their way. It is up to you to create a more compassionate culture that supports your employees’ well-being and takes pride in developing cross-generational teams within your organization.

Previously published by Forbes