Why you shouldn’t shy away from hiring those on their menopause journeys

18 Oct 2022

Why you shouldn’t shy away from hiring those on their menopause journeys

We share our experience and guidance for hiring women on their menopause journey and the benefits of doing so.

Hot flushes, poor sleep, anxiety, brain fog, joint pain, and irregular periods cause one million women every year to quit their jobs. That’s one million women who could be in your talent pool. 

The menopause’s symptoms are one of the most common conditions affecting employees (nearly half the global workforce will experience it), yet it is still one of the most poorly supported by employers; nearly three-quarters of UK businesses still have no menopause policy, let alone offer targeted support.   

This is not only the cause of a workforce brain drain, but often means employers miss out on the best candidate for the job. Too often, interviews will not be sufficiently adapted or a candidate will drop out of the recruitment process because of her symptoms.

As headhunters, it is an area we understand well. Most women (but not all) experience perimenopause and menopause between the ages of 45 and 60, around the time when they would be in or stepping into a senior leadership or board role. We are the only executive search firm to be part of the menopause workforce partnership: GenM, and we have won an award for our involvement.

Given this experience, we’ve set out below our guide for hiring women who are on their menopause journey and outline the benefits of doing so.

Steps to hiring someone who is menopausal

Hiring someone going through the menopause requires adaptations to the recruitment process, menopause education on the part of those hiring, and a clear menopause support policy.

While not always easy, internal recruiters and HR teams should be able to recognise menopausal traits and be skilled in opening a sensitive dialogue around the topic. Many women pull out of interviews because of their symptoms when really they should be actively encouraged to stay in the application process.    

Interviews themselves may need adapting. For video interviews, allowing candidates to turn off their camera will help those suffering from hot flushes (and minimise the associated anxiety).

If the interview is in-person, then other adaptations are required. Ensuring there is iced or cold water available, allowing candidates to bring hot water bottles (filled with cold water), and conducting the interview in a cooler room or a room where the temperature can be controlled with low light will provide candidates with an environment that can greatly ease their symptoms. These adaptations should be clearly communicated and advertised on an employer’s website and in the candidate pack, giving applicants the confidence to apply.

Organisations must have an internal menopause policy which should also be clearly communicated in the recruitment process and one which is menopause sensitive may retain a candidate and encourage them to stay the course if they see menopause support within the client organisation.

In its most basic form, this support should include three elements. The menopause can cause poor sleep and so flexible working hours will mean employees can start later in the day (if diaries allow), and still maintain good performance. Physical symptoms like hot flushes and anxiety can be alleviated by adapting workspaces – placing desks near windows, providing fans, or moving desks to low-light spaces. And finally, offering safe spaces/a Quiet Room for women to talk about their menopause challenges or simply relax for a short while, is an effective way to make them feel accepted and supported at work. Manufacturing and retail sectors could even change the fabric of their uniforms to more breathable material.

Offering information and support about the menopause at work and training line managers to recognise the signs and signpost those affected to appropriate advice and guidance can encourage women to take ownership of their symptoms, empowering them to make self-help choices. Control leads to confidence and empowerment which in turn translates into better ability and productivity at work – a win-win for employees and employers.

Why you should hire someone going through the menopause

Retaining quality people, broadening talent pools, and creating a diverse and inclusive workplace are the three primary benefits of hiring women on their menopause journey.  

A quarter of all women who go through the menopause consider quitting their jobs. From our perspective as headhunters, we see first-hand many of these women opting for early retirement. Because of embarrassment, almost all will hide the reason for leaving, meaning employers aren’t aware of how much talent they are losing to a lack of menopause support and training. The sad irony is that with the right support and education, a lot of these women overcome or adjust to their symptoms and then deeply regret leaving their jobs. With simple adaptations to the work environment, employers can therefore retain some of their most valuable assets.

What’s more, in the age of the great resignation (which has seen a disproportionate number of people retire), high-quality senior leaders are in short supply. Organisations with a clear menopause policy and sympathetic recruitment process will be able to tap into an additional talent pool and therefore be better equipped to fill senior leadership positions.

Finally, hiring someone going through the menopause will create a more inclusive culture. Where there are others like ourselves, we feel more accepted. The challenge around the menopause is it is perhaps a less obvious diversity trait. Candidates can’t look at pictures of their senior leadership team and see someone who is also going through the menopause in the same way that someone can identify with another from a particular racial group. But senior leadership candidates often have a large and well-maintained network who they share information with. At this level, word of mouth is exceptionally powerful and it is almost a given that employers providing strong menopause support will be talked about positively. They will also attract the talent and keep the talent other organisations unnecessarily and cruelly lose.

To discuss how we can advise with setting up your own internal menopause policy, please do get in touch with us or your local Odgers Berndtson contact.

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