The Countess of Wessex has spoken about the “tragic” impact the menopause is having for some women in the workplace – with too many employers not understanding the debilitating effect it can have.
It is not a topic you would necessarily expect a member of the Royal Family to talk about, but it is an issue Sophie has taken up after becoming patron of the women’s health charity, Wellbeing of Women.
She’s now backing their campaign to get more businesses to support women and staff going through menopause in the workplace.
Estimates from the healthcare company Bupa suggest 900,000 women in the UK have quit their jobs due to the menopause.
Speaking during a virtual roundtable event to launch the campaign Sophie said: “Women having to leave the workplace because of the menopause is tragic.
“We are fabulous in our 40s, and we are even more fabulous in our 50s, 60s and 70s and we need to celebrate that and keep opportunities going for women.
“Together, we can support the thousands of women out there who form the backbone of our workforce.
“We cannot let anyone leave the workplace, feeling that they have got to slope off into the shadows. We have to be able to change that.”
Three in four women will experience menopause symptoms and one in four will experience severe symptoms, such as anxiety, brain fog, poor concentration, fatigue, hot flushes and irregular and heavy bleeding.
Wellbeing of Women is now calling on all companies to sign their Menopause Workplace Pledge as part of World Menopause Awareness Month.
Bupa, PwC, HarperCollins UK, Santander UK and Tesco are some of the companies who have already signed up.
Professor Dame Lesley Regan, the chair of Wellbeing of Women Chair, said: “In the UK, there are nearly five million women working aged between 45-60 years.
“The majority of these women will go through the menopause, which frequently coincides with the peak of their careers, a time when they are at their most successful and productive.
“Through supporting women, employers can help to attract and improve retention of staff, ensure a diverse and inclusive workforce, increase productivity, maximise employee wellbeing and address the gender pay gap.
“When we get it right for women, everyone benefits, both in the workplace and beyond.”
Barbara Claypole described at the virtual launch event how she eventually quit her job because of a lack of support at work.
She explained: “There is a real need for education and awareness within organisations to ensure no employee feels as isolated as I did when I went through the menopause at work.
“Businesses need to value the women they have in their workforce who are going through the menopause, otherwise many will continue to leave.
“I now know your career doesn’t have to end as your menopause starts.”
In May the Countess of Wessex, who is 56, became the first member of the Royal Family to talk openly about her experience of the menopause.
In a surprisingly candid video call she said: “You suddenly can’t remember what on earth it was you were talking about.
“Try being on an engagement when that happens, your words just go. And you’re standing there going, ‘Hang on, I thought I was a reasonably intelligent person. What has just happened to me?’.
“It’s like someone has just gone and taken your brain out for however long before they pop it back in again, and you try and pick up the pieces and carry on.”
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