Time & Attendance
By Sarah Sipek
Aug. 25, 2015
Workplace health and wellness programs are based on providing solutions to what-if questions, such as: “What if my employee wants to stop smoking?” While it’s important to be proactive in addressing known health threats, these ailments will likely not affect all employees. On the other hand, most female employees will go through menopause. In her book, “Menopause or Lunacy … That Is the Question,” Donna Faye Randall shares anecdotes about dealing with menopause and the potential for bias against menopausal women. Sarah Sipek, a Workforce associate editor, spoke with Randall via email.
Workforce: What does workplace discrimination against menopausal women look like?
Donna Faye Randall: Like many forms of discrimination, it isn’t overt. As is the case with menstruation in the workplace, the symptoms of these ‘women’s issues’ are not taken seriously, causing the affected women to try to work through their symptoms as best as they can, or fabricate other health conditions so they can take care of themselves.
WF: What are the top symptoms of menopause that may interfere with a woman’s performance in the workplace?
Randall: When I refer to ‘menopause,’ I include perimenopause, menopause and postmenopause. For many women who don’t know what is happening to them as they continue to menstruate through these changes, fear accompanies the symptoms. They feel they can tough it out without confiding in anyone. Symptoms include headaches, cramps, the beginning of hot flashes, night sweats, major sleep deprivation and alarming mood swings. Women often report memory loss and confusion, which they don’t want to reveal to co-workers, let alone bosses, and so they tend to work extra hours to appear productive. To top it all off, often in this stage women experience major hemorrhaging, resulting in urgent trips to the restroom.
WF: What can women do to remedy these symptoms?
Randall: There is no one-size-fits-all solution for women. Best-case scenario, women will be fortunate enough to find guidance in women who have already gone through menopause. Open dialogue will help younger women learn their options for alleviating symptoms.
WF: Where can women go to get help for symptoms they can’t control?
Randall: A combination of Western and Eastern approaches is ideal, but it is often difficult to find a Western medical doctor with knowledge and belief in other therapies.
WF: What type of support should employers have in place?
Randall: I recommend information sessions for employers and employees to ensure everyone gets the same information. Provide sessions for females, for males and then a session with all female employees without the supervisors to give them a chance to ask questions and voice opinions as a group. The facilitators of these group sessions should then synthesize this information and provide recommendations.
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