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The economic cost of menopause transition

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 06 Jul 2021

It has been described as the last great taboo, despite being a natural part of a woman’s life – but a new research project is looking to explore how the experience of going through the menopause affects women working in financial services and their progression to senior roles.

Standard Chartered Bank has partnered with the Financial Services Skills Commission (FSSC) to better understand the challenges faced by women going through the menopause transition at work and how this impacts the talent pipeline across the UK's financial services industry. The research, conducted by gender equality charity the Fawcett Society, will also try to put a figure on the economic cost of the menopause on women’s economic participation. 

According to Government analysis, menopausal women are the fastest growing workforce demographic. However, for many, the point at which they have the opportunity to step into critical senior management roles coincides with the menopause, typically between the ages of 45 and 55. Around 75% of women experience menopause symptoms and a reported 25% experience serious symptoms, which can include low mood or anxiety and problems with memory and concentration. 

Worryingly, one in four menopausal women consider leaving their jobs due to the severity of menopausal symptoms and the workplace experience, according to the Wellbeing of Women survey in 2016. According to ONS data, approximately 13% of the UK workforce are women over 50. This could equate to more than 130,000 women in financial services dealing with the menopause transition at any one time.

Lauren Verner, Head of Communications, Europe at Standard Chartered Bank, said that proactively addressing some of the issues could lead to positive gains for organisations, the industry and economy: “We’re interested in exploring the impact the menopause is having on the ability for women to take on those top positions, particularly in financial services where gender imbalances are so deep-rooted.” 

Verner said education was needed to help people to boost awareness of menopause symptoms, among line managers, business leaders and employers generally who may report into someone going through the menopause. “We’re hoping the toolkit that emerges from the research findings will be used across other industries too to highlight the steps organisations should take to offer more support.”

In 2019 HR industry body the CIPD launched a policy manifesto for menopause at work and called on the Government to support an employer-led campaign to raise awareness of the menopause as a workplace issue. A recent CIPD poll found that the proportion of employers offering support for the menopause has more than doubled since then, however it also suggests that the majority of employers still don't have a policy, framework or guidance in place. 

Philippa Kelly, Director of ICAEW’s Technical Strategy Business Group, said “This sort of research is vital to understand the practical considerations needed when building diversity and inclusion initiatives that make a meaningful difference, and can help drive greater representation in senior levels of financial services. Better information will also enable organisations to approach the subject of menopause confidently and constructively as it continues to affect a growing proportion of the workforce.”

The findings, due to be reported in the Autumn, will identify actions organisations can take to better address the barriers women experience and provide practical advice on how employees can be better supported. “General wellbeing policies are great but the question is, is what organisations doing now enough or do we need more targeted support for those going through the menopause? Verner added.