Written evidence from Name Withheld [MEW0060]
I left a senior role in 2021. I was one of 5 people made redundant at the same time, 4 were women, 3 of us were over 50. My employer employed approx. 70 staff from approx. 18 to 65. I don’t know the age or gender split. But there was a pervading attitude that young people (under 25) are dynamic and “with it” whilst older women in particular were taken for granted. I directly challenged the male CEO once when he said we wanted “young dynamic people”. We were loyal, extremely hardworking, and juggled caring responsibilities for children, parents and partners with demanding roles. But when it came to a restructure, we were in the firing line. We were disposable.
I wasn’t made redundant because I was menopausal, but losing my job has significantly impacted on my financially. I was a sole earner. I have lost my employment rights, healthcare and pension at a critical point in life. I still have a significant mortgage and a young teenager who may go to university in a few years’ time. I have skills and resources and have set up my own business but it is very tough starting out. I am worried about my financial future.
Realities of perimenopause/ menopause
Perimenopause and menopause are really tough on the body. I have haemorrhaged twice whilst travelling for work. I once had to wash my dress in the public toilet of a hotel and dry it under the hand dryer before a full day presentation. This was mortifying and distressing – yet I still had to perform at the top of my game. I’ve completely blanked in presentations – I had to jokingly ask the audience “what was I talking about”? Again, really embarrassing. I’ve fainted at work several times – we never got to the bottom of that. My hormones have been all over the place and so have my moods – I get very emotional which is embarrassing in a workplace. A man will never experience menopause this so cannot understand the effect these physical symptoms have on performance. Yet as women we feel we cannot let ourselves or the side down and have to constantly outperform men just to prove our worth.
Practical issues in an office
Yes, menopause is a taboo in an office – despite being a senior member of staff, very good at my job I have challenged young male colleagues about comments and behaviour in the office – I actually heard them discussing how a colleague was probably having her period because we was quite grumpy. I could do this because I was a senior manager and felt I had a responsibility towards other women in the office who were younger and less confident but I shouldn’t have to. Apart from me, I don’t know if anyone else ever pulled them up.
I have no idea what government plans to assist older women in the workforce. Progress has been poor on so many fronts. I fear menopause is becoming a fashionable topic for employers to think about but given the lack of progress on pay, and other diversity matters, I expect little real support from employers or government. They will pay it lip service, have a policy, but no actual understanding of what it means. In practical terms we need spaces which are cool and quiet. We need to be appraised on results, not the hours of work.
I realise I offer little in terms of critique of legislation – in fact legislation is not the answer by itself. This is about a fundamental consideration of what women have to deal with in the workplace – menopause is just issue. I know I come across quite angry, because I am. There is little respect shown to older women in the workplace but we are a huge resource, have a lot to give and want to work.