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International Women’s Day 2024

Lifting the Second Glass Ceiling.

On International Women’s Day last year, we at BSI said we wanted to start a conversation around menopause, and build understanding of the impact this might be having on individual lives, organizational productivity and talent retention.

A year on, I am proud to say we made progress on this. Last May, we published landmark guidance on menstrual health and menopause at work. The standard (BS 30416) was published following extensive consultation with experts and the public and set out practical recommendations for workplace adjustments, as well as strategies to sit alongside existing well-being initiatives, to help organizations meet the needs of employees experiencing menopause or menstruation.

The reaction to this was fantastic, as we heard from people globally about how important it was for organizations to address this topic. Spurred on by this, we sought to interrogate this topic more deeply, by conducting research into the experiences of women across five major economies (the UK, US, China, Japan, Australia).

What we found was evidence of a “Second Glass Ceiling”, whereby women are leaving the workforce early and for reasons other than personal preference. When the modern workplace was developed female employees were in the minority, now however women make up a significant portion of the workforce in most countries. Yet according to our research, a fifth of women expect to retire before the official retirement age, with 42% expecting this to be due to health or well-being, while another fifth specifically cite menopause. Even after lengthy careers, even after flourishing at work, women are leaving the workforce early and not because they want to.

Menopause is only one component of that, but it’s an important one. We found that 58% of women felt it would be difficult for them to raise issues, including menopause, with their employers.

Our view is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Through use of the standard and by generally opening up this conversation, we have the opportunity to better support workers experiencing menopause.

To take one example, last year the Welsh Parliament (Senedd) became the first public body in Wales to adopt the standard into their updated menopause policy – offering the potential to bring a tangible difference to their employees.

Of course, this is an issue that affects every organization – BSI included. Earlier this year we were delighted to announce a partnership with Maven Clinic, the world's largest virtual clinic for women and families, to provide BSI’s employees worldwide with access to industry-leading menopause support through Maven’s Menopause and Ongoing Care program.

Through Maven, BSI employees have 24/7 unlimited access to dedicated Care Advocates and menopause specialists—including OBGYNs, nutritionists, mental health providers, pelvic floor physical therapists, and career coaches — as well as clinically-sound education and provider-moderated drop-in groups to support members throughout their journey. Virtual care with specialists across more than 35 languages is available to members within an hour through video or message chat.

These are small steps, but working collaboratively across society we have an enormous opportunity to shift how menopause is perceived and the impact it has on individual careers, shaping a future of work that is more inclusive and retains experience and expertise.

The theme of IWD this year is Inspire Inclusion. With more than a billion people expected to be experiencing menopause globally by 2025, we all stand to gain by lifting the Second Glass Ceiling and seeing this as an investment in current and future generations. Ultimately, including employees of all stages of life in the workforce is an opportunity to boost growth, enhance innovation and accelerate progress towards a fair society and a sustainable world (8th March 2024).