A new study has found that a quarter of women are more likely to leave the financial services workforce due to their menopause experience. It’s time to end the stigma and break the silence. 

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Attracting women to join the ranks of the financial services sector is an ongoing focus, an area that banks want to get right and which has driven a lot of diversity and inclusion (D&I) policies now in place. However, despite greater efforts over recent years which has ensured a healthy pipeline of female recruits and junior staff, there is still a woeful number of women in senior management and at board level.

Many put this down to the “mat gap”, when women don’t return to the workforce following maternity leave, which does have a significant impact. However, an important new study by Standard Chartered Bank and the UK’s Financial Services Skills Commission (FSSC) shows that the impact of menopausal symptoms is another factor that can drive women out of the industry at later stages in their careers.

The report, ‘Menopause in the workplace: impact on women in financial services’, reveals how women’s experiences of the menopause can impact their confidence in the workplace. This will have a long-term effect on female retention and the leadership pipeline across financial services, as well as exacerbate the skills shortage the industry faces.

In the UK, it is estimated that one in 10 employees in the financial services sector are currently going through the menopause.

A culture of silence means the impact of the menopause is hidden

The survey of 2400 financial services workers in the UK, conducted by the Fawcett Society, found that around half of employees experiencing the menopause says it makes them less likely to want to progress in their role, apply for a promotion or take on extra responsibilities due to their experiences with the menopause. This is despite almost two in five (38%) stating they want to progress to a more senior role.

Additionally, a culture of silence means the impact of the menopause is hidden. Only 22% of women and trans men currently experiencing the menopause disclose their status at work.

According to Claire Tunley, FSSC CEO: “For too long the menopause has been a taboo subject in the workplace. Our research indicates the financial services sector could lose tens of thousands of women due to their experience of the menopause at work. From senior leaders to customer service and call centre staff, everyone, regardless of age or gender, has the potential to benefit from greater menopause awareness.”

In addition to raising awareness through training, campaigns and dedicated support systems, the report also recommends simple changes to the workplace environment, flexible working and embedding menopause support in D&I strategies.

At an event in London to launch the report, Tanuj Kapilashrami, group head of human resources at Standard Chartered, gave the audience an assignment: go back to your office/teams, break the taboo and start a conversation about the menopause. So, let’s start talking.

Joy Macknight is editor of The Banker. Follow her on Twitter @joymacknight

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