Why are women missing from senior leadership roles?

25 July 2022

New research has shown the impact hormonal issues have on women as they hit their 40s – and Perimenopause is a major culprit. Hormonal swings during Peri and Menopause will see many of our mentors, our emerging leaders and our most vital talent bow out of the workforce.

If they do stay, their performance and confidence can take a nosedive. Without support, these women sidestep the board room and believe high pressure work just isn’t for them. What a waste!

Sure, Peri and Menopause might be a breeze for some women. But for others, it causes a range of symptoms that wreak havoc throughout their personal and working lives. It can detrimentally affect their work performance, motivation and relations with employers and colleagues.

The symptoms of Perimenopause include tiredness and low energy levels, difficulty sleeping, hot flushes, irritability, feeling unable to concentrate, brain fog and mood changes (including anxiety or depression).

And we’re not talking 75-year-olds here. The average age of Menopause in Australia is 51. Perimenopause can start up to ten years earlier.

These are the years where men are hitting their strides and taking on C suite roles. But women are hitting a hormonal glass ceiling. 

Women who have Peri and Menopause symptoms are impacted at home but also at work. A UK study found that 40% of women felt that Peri and Menopause symptoms negatively affected their performance at work.

One in four women takes time off during their Peri years due to a Peri or Menopause problem, but only one in three of these women discloses that problem. A staggering 10% of women leave the workforce altogether because of their symptoms. And according to a survey by the Fawcett Society, 14% go part time or reduce their hours and 8% sidestep a promotion.

Most women who took part in one UK study reported their Peri and Menopause symptoms were an unwelcome shock. They’d had no idea what would happen. Most felt unsupported at work and wanted specific awareness, support and policies to support them at this time of their lives.

Ironically, Australian research reveals that employers are less likely to invest in their older female workers because they think they’re on the verge of retirement anyway. And data from 2006 confirms that employers see older women as less productive. Now we’re in a vicious cycle.

Shelly and I speak to women about this every day. I chat to my patients, Shelly speaks to her girlfriends and her social media followers, and we both speak to our Don’t Sweat It community. A number of women we chatted to at the recent HR Summit Melbourne, on the day we in fact launched Don’t Sweat It, revealed they had just been considering quitting or going part time themselves. “I just thought ‘I’m not cut out for this role’,” one in particular confided in us. 

Shelly and I are dedicated to giving our Peri and Menopausal sisters the choice to stay in the workforce and kick their careers out of the ballpark. And we’re committed to making workplaces more equitable and inclusive for EVERYONE – that’s Menopausal women, as well as their colleagues, bosses, direct reports and customers. It’s why we’ve put our blood, sweat and tears (plus our dough!) into Don’t Sweat It.

Why do a Menopause in the workplace program like Don’t Sweat It?

If diversity and inclusion matters to your organisation, if retaining your mentors, creative talent and all of their corporate knowledge matters, if having more women in senior leadership roles is important, then getting your ENTIRE organisation Peri and Menopause friendly should be a high priority.

Research tells us what women want:

  1. Management to be aware that Menopause can be a possible health issue
  2. Flexible working hours
  3. Information on how to cope with Menopause and work
  4. Better control over the temperature and ventilation while working
  5. Access to informal sources of support, such as women’s networks or telephone helplines
  6. More support in general, as well as for senior leaders to have good communication skills 

In addition, the European Menopause and Andropause Society has called for workplaces to provide a supportive and responsive work environment, whether or not they’ve become aware of a staff member going through Peri or Menopause. By doing so, the EMAS says, “they strengthen corporate reputation, recruitment and retention of talent.”

They urged organisations to:  

  • Create an open, inclusive and supportive culture
  • Address and prevent discrimination of employees on the basis of Menopausal symptoms
  • Help reduce the stigma and emotional burden associated with Menopause
  • Strengthen corporate reputation, recruitment and retention of talent

What are your thoughts?


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