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Written by:
Christine Christodoulou

How the menopause adds to the UK tech skills shortage

I think it’s fair to say, women in the workplace have enough to deal with.

Unequal pay, limited part-time opportunities, and a lack of flexibility, to name a few. But guess what? There’s another one to add to the list: employers failing to support staff through the menopause.

With tech talent in such short supply in the UK, you’d think retention of experienced staff would be high on the list of employer priorities. But the figures suggest otherwise.

A 2019 BUPA/CIPD survey found that around 60% of menopausal women were negatively affected at work and around 900,000 women in the UK had actually left their jobs due to symptoms.

Almost a million women.

And what’s more, only a quarter of those who took sick leave because of their symptoms said they felt able to tell their manager the real reason for their absence.

Not only is this devastating for the women involved, but it also impacts workplace diversity and wastes valuable expertise – just at a point in their careers where women could be reaching more senior positions.

What can companies do to attract and retain women in tech?

Employers need to take action. And when I say that, I mean more than just an attractive pay packet. Don’t get me wrong, remuneration right now is fantastic and at its highest levels for years, but female tech professionals are looking for more.

To some degree, the pandemic helped change attitudes towards employment. We’ve seen a lot more companies offering greater flexibility, remote working opportunities and support. However, there’s still a long way to go.

The last thing any of us in the tech space need right now is experienced female workers exiting an organisation (or leaving their career entirely) because menopause is not yet on the business agenda.

And remember we’re not just talking about the over 50s here. One in hundred women experience menopause under the age of 40. And perimenopausal symptoms often start between the ages of 40 and 44.

Like so many things, breaking the stigma surrounding a subject starts by talking about it. Opening up the conversation about menopause and creating a more inclusive culture is the first step of the process.

For example, leaders going through menopause can help normalise the issue. “Hold that thought, while I have this hot flush.” Or, “Menopause has given me serious brain fog, let me double-check that info for you.”

OK, so you might not confront it in such a direct or humorous way, but the simple act of speaking openly about menopause means other women don’t have to suffer in silence.

So, here are a few more actions employers can consider:

  • Make flexible working available to all, including the option to reduce hours
  • Offer health insurance that covers all aspects of health and wellbeing
  • Provide access to a support helpline for confidential advice and counselling
  • Give managers training about menopause and how it could affect their teams
  • Appoint a menopause champion to identify ways to support workers

Whatever your situation or life stage, you need an employer who values you and meets your needs.


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