What Universities Don’t Understand About Menopause

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From Linda Nordling, Why Menopause Matters in the Academic Workplace, Nature (May 11, 2022):

In Australia, where women make up 57% of the higher-education workforce and 78% of the health and social-care sector, a survey last year of menopausal women working in health care and universities discovered that many felt guilty about their perceived underperformance3. Many of the respondents also said they wished to cut down on their working hours to improve their health and work–life balance. And a 2019 UK survey of 1,400 women experiencing menopause symptoms found that nearly two-thirds were less able to concentrate at work, more than half experienced more stress and nearly one-third took sick leave because of symptoms (see go.nature.com/3lrkjxc).

Brewis has found that many women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), are reluctant to discuss menopause with their bosses and colleagues. She suspects they fear it becoming another source of bias against women. “Anything that affects your ability to process information, your decision making, your focus — that’s not a good look for an academic,” she says.

She would know. Her own menopause symptoms have made it difficult for her to concentrate, with spells of forgetfulness. She recalls her embarrassment sitting down next to a colleague at a conference, only to draw a complete blank on her name. “We had a very warm professional relationship. And I could not remember her name.”

So, what can academic and private-sector scientific workplaces do to help staff navigate this time? Brewis, who has written guidelines for UK higher-education institutions on how and why they should support staff during their menopause journeys (see go.nature.com/3yuf5r7), says the most important thing is to raise awareness of what menopause is, and isn’t (see ‘Menopause resources’). “Menopause is still quite widely misunderstood,” she says. “There’s this assumption that suddenly you are a flushing, incapable mess.”

The full piece is here.

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