: Menopause benefits can keep women in the workplace for longer — and save companies millions of dollars

A growing number of corporations are zeroing in on a new way to boost employee retention and productivity: by providing menopause benefits. 

Microsoft Corp.
and the education-technology company Udemy Inc.
have recently introduced menopause benefits for their employees — including cooling stations at the office, counseling on health and mental-health symptoms, and physical therapy for pelvic-floor issues.  

In addition to helping women battle symptoms such as brain fog, hot flashes and night sweats, some businesses are becoming more aware that providing such benefits can help their bottom line. These benefits are just the latest addition to some companies’ offerings, which can include retirement plans with automatic enrollment, family caregiving assistance or help with student loans.

“Women are leaving the workforce because of menopause and symptoms they don’t understand,” said Donna Klassen, cofounder and CEO of Let’s Talk Menopause, an education and advocacy nonprofit. “It’s becoming known that there’s a lot of symptoms and disruptions that can interfere with work. And there’s such a stigma to it that people don’t talk about it and don’t know the reasons the symptoms are happening.”

About 20% of the workforce is in some stage of menopause transition, according to Let’s Talk Menopause. The number of postmenopausal women is expected to reach 1.1 billion by 2025 globally, according to the North American Menopause Society.

Meanwhile, the share of organizations with 500 or more employees that offered or planned to offer a menopause-specific benefit increased from 4% in 2022 to 15% this year, surveys by the consulting firm Mercer show.

An ‘unsupported and overlooked’ area of care

Menopause has a high cost beyond the personal toll it can take: It costs the U.S. economy $1.8 billion in lost work time each year and adds another $26.6 billion a year in medical expenses, a recent study by the Mayo Clinic estimated.

Keeping menopausal women at work is crucial for the business world because those women are leaders and mentors of the workforce, Klassen said. The average age for menopause in the United States is 51, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“It’s smart for businesses to invest in their workforce,” Klassen said. “We should be educating men at the same time.” 

From the archives (December 2022): Why are celebrities talking about menopause? Once taboo, the topic moves into mainstream conversation.

Maven Clinic, a virtual clinic for women’s and family health, launched a menopause benefit package last year that has become the fastest-growing product at the company, according to Isha Vij, the clinic’s vice president of employer sales. 

“Menopause is the next frontier of corporate benefits,” said Vij, who added that about 6,000 women a day enter menopause in the United States. 

Through Maven, employees get a care advocate who will talk to them about physical or mental-health symptoms they are experiencing and match them with the best provider to help manage or treat them.

“If you get menopause care right, women can spend years on their own terms and get ownership over their careers, and not leave prematurely due to symptoms they’re not getting care for,” Vij said. “It’s a hot topic not because it’s a trend, but because it’s the best way to support employees and their families.”

More from the archives (December 2022): Managing your menopause symptoms: tips from women’s health experts

Karen Fascenda, the chief people officer at Udemy, said the company began offering menopause benefits in January of this year to ensure “that we are providing true, comprehensive reproductive care that is inclusive of all employees no matter where they are in their reproductive health journey.”

“Menopause has long been an unsupported and overlooked area of reproductive care,” Fascenda said. 

Almost two-thirds of women (64%) say they want menopause-specific benefits at work, according to a recent Bank of America survey, but 80% of women consider the topic to be too personal to discuss. Other concerns include being perceived as old, being treated differently by peers and not being respected by male peers, the survey found.

‘Lack of shared knowledge’

Workplace menopause benefits are a start, but more research and public-policy measures are needed to advance women’s health, said Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, the executive director of the New York University School of Law’s Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Center.

“Living with the status quo and companies putting a few Band-Aids on it is not where I want us to go as a country. I don’t want companies checking a box and thinking they’re done,” Weiss-Wolf said. “Menopause is not a blip in life. The idea that there are a couple interventions that can be done is a little naive.”

Weiss-Wolf stressed the need to encourage federally funded research that would support laws to advance women’s health. To that end, Rep. Yvette Clarke, a New York Democrat, aims to introduce a bill that would require the National Institutes of Health to evaluate current menopause research and recommend new studies about perimenopause, menopause, and midlife women’s health.

The bill would also call on the NIH to issue updated guidance about the safety and effectiveness of menopause hormone treatments.

“What we need is a clear, shared understanding of what women need,” Weiss-Wolf said. “The heart of it is the lack of shared knowledge we all have.”

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