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Data suggests many women experience negative effects from menopausal symptoms and often do not know how to seek support in the workplace – or they remain silent, fearing they will be stigmatized.

Published Sep 28th, 2023

By Casandra Andrews

With a goal of better supporting more than a billion members of the workforce, researchers in Berlin and Mobile are joining forces to understand how menopause may impact women in the workplace through a new survey.

“Our hope is that this research can provide insight into how to better equip managers to understand the impact that menopause has on their employees,” said Alana Bell, Ph.D., an instructor at the Mitchell College of Business at the University of South Alabama. “These insights have the potential to influence policies and procedures for organizations in America and around the world.”

Menopausal symptoms, which can range from moderate to severe, may have a lasting impact on a woman’s career trajectory, and, in many cases, lead women to reduce working hours or to leave their jobs prematurely. That is significant for many reasons, including the fact that women make up almost half of the workforce in the United States. Research from Statista found that about 74.09 million women were employed in the U.S. in 2022, compared with 74.48 million men. Globally, estimates from Statista show that more than a billion women work outside the home.

The project is a collaboration among colleagues at the University of South Alabama and the Berlin School of Economics and Law. Collaborators include Tracy Y. Roth, M.D., an OB-GYN at USA Health and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Whiddon College of Medicine, and Bell; along with Andrea Rumler, Ph.D., a professor at the Berlin School of Economics and Law, and her colleague Julia Memmert.

How you can help

Those best suited to take the survey, said Bell, are women who are entering menopause, those who have completed menopause and those who think they may be going through it.

Take the online survey.

Understanding menopause

The onset of menopause is typically described as a point in time 12 months after a woman's last menstrual cycle, according to the National Institute on Aging, noting that the years leading up to that point — when women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes or other symptoms — are called the menopausal transition or perimenopause.

For many women, the menopausal transition often begins between ages 45 and 55. It typically lasts seven years but can be 14 years, research indicates. The menopausal transition affects each woman uniquely and in numerous ways. The body begins to use energy differently, fat cells change, and women may gain weight more easily. Woman can also experience changes in their bone or heart health, body shape and composition.

Why more research is needed

Aside from the topic of maternity leave, women's health in the workplace has received little attention, the researchers noted. Unfortunately, most women suffer from at least one menopausal symptom during their lifetime, such as hot flashes, night sweats that cause sleep disturbances, trouble concentrating, anxiety, or mood swings.

“Few studies have analyzed the needs and expectations of menopausal women for effective workplace health management,” the survey’s authors said. “Data from the United Kingdom suggest that many women experience negative effects from menopausal symptoms and do not know how to seek support in their workplaces or remain silent due to the fear of being stigmatized.”

Objectives of the study include obtaining a broad picture of the level of noticing individual symptoms in the work context and a possible corresponding need for assistance. In addition to the physical effects of menopause, the study also aims to shed light on psychological factors, such as workplace stigma and emotional well-being.

“We are trying to see if going through this experience impacts how comfortable (or uncomfortable) women are at work,” Bell said, “and how it may impact job performance so we can potentially influence policies and other decisions that can better support women at work.”

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