Menopause in the Workplace: How To Beat the Stigma

Reading: Menopause in the Workplace: How To Beat the Stigma

Covey Podcast

Menopause in the Workplace: How To Beat the Stigma

A professor shares facts, fiction, and tips for moving forward

with Dr. Alicia Grande

“If a woman drops a tampon versus drops a pencil, there’s a very different reaction,” says psychologist Dr. Alicia Grandey, Professor of Psychology at Penn State University, whose research is reshaping perceptions of the “three Ms” (menstruation, maternity, and menopause) in the workplace. In this episode, Dr. Grandey discusses the challenges women face during these stages, and how they impact careers and self-perception. “In addition to the challenge of trying to do your work, you’re also trying to hide your symptoms,” she says, “which is a double whammy in terms of effort expended.” Listen in to learn the importance of self-advocacy, embracing menopause as a transformative stage, and fostering a more inclusive environment in the workplace. 


Articles by Dr. Grandey mentioned in the interview:

Dr. Alicia Grandey is an industrial-organizational psychologist, and was named Liberal Arts Professor of Psychology at Penn State University. Dr. Grandey has published over 60 articles and a book on workplace emotions, diversity, and health, as highlighted in Harvard Business Review, The New Yorker, NPR, and BBC. She started the H.I.P. (Healthy-Inclusive-Productive) Workplace Initiative to ensure impactful science for industry.  

LJS: So, Dr. Grandey, I’m so excited to have you after tracking you down, god, I think it was like six months ago.

AG: Yeah, life got in the way.

LJS: Yes, I understand how that works. What I love is that you are an expert on women in the workplace and looking at women over time in the workplace. So, since we’re going to talk about how to reinvent the workplace for women and their place in it, maybe let’s talk a little bit about the three Ms in working women’s lives, because we’ve all been through it, and who knew that it’s actually been studied and people understand what’s going on.

AG: Yeah, I reached out to some really good friends and colleagues of mine who I knew were doing some work on the three M’s. And I invite your listeners right now to think about, well, what are the three Ms that are taboo topics for working women’s lives? And when I give this talk to audiences, often people will say marriage or money or men. And it’s like no female bodily specific experiences. And then we usually get there. So, menstruation, maternity, meaning pregnancy and lactation, as well as miscarriage, and menopause. And I reached out to some friends of mine who I knew were doing a few early studies on the first two Ms. And I was like, isn’t it interesting how little attention we pay to women’s bodies at work? Because we’re kind of at our stage of our career where we can take a few risks. We can push the envelope a little bit. What if we thought about this as a whole thing across women’s careers, and think about how that might help explain some of the disparities we see in terms of pay and promotion. And they were on board, and it was just a wonderful process to write that paper.

LJS: So let’s talk a little bit about, because we’ve all been through all of those. If you’re listening, you’re probably at the last M. But quickly, do you want to go through the first two? And then we’ll sort of dig into the last M?

AG: Yeah, I can summarize. So there’s been some work about menstruation in the workplace, and it’s certainly still a taboo topic. I know there’s some studies that show if a woman drops a tampon versus drops a pencil, there’s a very different kind of avoidance reaction. The stigma means that there’s a little taboo, there’s a little disgust, there’s a little avoidance response.

LJS: I remember sticking the tampon up my sleeve to go to the bathroom because I was afraid of the male boss seeing me walk by with it.

AG: Right. And for a good reason, given some of this research, although it’s so interesting how younger women have a very different view of this. It’s like, here’s my tampon. What are you going to do about it?

LJS: Are they? I feel like we’ve raised these girls right. I feel like the Gen Z girls and right below them and above them. They’re very different. I think we have raised them differently. Is that what you saw?

AG: Yeah, well, and I’m going to take some credit for that. My daughter is a Gen Z girl. So I have a 17-year-old daughter who would very much be like “Hey, if my tampon makes you uncomfortable, that’s a you problem.”

LJS: Love. I think they’ve got it right. So much better than us.

AG: So there’s some research on that. But then, one of my colleagues, Ellie Gabriel, and her students did research on pain, menstrual pain. And there’s more and more attention to this: on menstrual leave being something that’s talked about in the workplace and recognizing that this is a source of pain. I think it’s been compared to a heart attack; it’s been compared to a variety of other types of bodily pain. And, I know there’s been some work on helping men understand what it feels like by giving them some kind of a simulator. And they double over like they have no idea. Right? And of course, pregnancy and childbirth pain as well. So pain is something that we should take time to address, whether that’s with relaxation or meditation or deep breathing or whatever it is that works best for us. But we often feel we have to power through, we have to show that we are not female bodies, to prove that we are strong. But of course, by not saying anything about it, we’re also not letting people know that we’re powering through it. And so then that resilience and strength isn’t seen. Instead, the times where women do have to say, I need to take a break because, or I need an hour, my menstrual cramps are really bad. That would be something that would seem like a weakness because people don’t know how often we power through. And it’s just part of what we’re dealing with in addition to everything else.

LJS: Totally with you on that as well. It’s funny, I haven’t thought about this in so long, but when I was a writer at Harper’s Bazaar, I just started there. This is pre-ibuprofen, which really changed the world if you had menstrual cramps. And I remember my boss coming in because I couldn’t work, because I was in the bathroom doubled over, and she’s like – and then we had a male boss – and she said, “I’ll let you go home, but you can’t let him see you go.” And I never thought about how ashamed I was. I had to squeeze myself out behind whatever, somebody walked in front of me. So we didn’t walk in front of his door or whatever. And this was a women’s magazine.

AG: Oh, interesting.

LJS: By a man.

AG: I have a student studying this exact topic right now. And, what would allow women to take breaks and not feel the stigma, because even if there’s menstrual leave available in an organization, women may not feel they can take it for this exact reason. Right. So she’s exactly studying that, and that’s exactly her perception… that even if you don’t tell anyone what it’s for, it might be construed as a sign of weakness or a reminder that you have a female body and are therefore somehow inferior.

LJS: Yes. That’s still so interesting. Okay. Phenomenal, right?

AG: Well, of course, the idea of pregnancy and lactation, too. I’ll go straight to pumping or breastfeeding or nursing: these aren’t breaks. These aren’t like I’m sitting and relaxing. Any of your listeners that have ever pumped know that you feel like, first of all, a cow, right. And it’s very mechanistic. I know that some of the current tools are a bit better, a little bit more organic, but, it doesn’t feel fun and pleasant and relaxing. And it’s very stressful if you can’t get enough milk for your child. And, of course, stress contributes to that. Not having a good work arrangement or accommodation to that. There’s been more attention to that in the workplace than in terms of having accommodations. And of course, now seeing breastfeeding or nursing or pumping pods in airports and public places is a nice change. so that’s actually the topic we see the most research on. Recognizing it’s not an accommodation because of a disability, it’s not an illness, and it’s certainly not a break.

LJS: As in, yeah, that’s like saying that your maternity leave is a vacation, right?

AG: I remember my maternity leave. I thought, oh, I’m going to get so much reading done.

LJS: Please.

AG: Isn’t that a laugh?

LJS: Hilarious.

AG: Yeah. The second child, I got smart and was like, all I need to do is take a walk, take a shower, and take a nap every day and I’m good.

LJS: That’s it.

AG: That’s all I could do.

LJS: I remember being in my nightgown at 4 when my husband came home early to help me out. I was still in the nightgown and he was, “You haven’t gotten out of your nightgown.” I’m like, no, I have not. I can’t figure this out. It’s impossible.

AG: Yeah. And you feel so inadequate. Like, of course it’s supposed to be so natural, right? And supposed to be so easy. Which is interesting, right? Because there’s also this sense that women’s bodily pain is natural. Like, they’re supposed to feel pain, right? Because of Adam and Eve or whatever, pain is supposed to be part of the experience in terms of [menstruation] and in terms of pregnancy. And at the same time, we’re not supposed to admit we’re feeling pain because it’s supposed to be this natural female experience, especially in terms of pregnancy.

LJS: Well, and you probably grew up around when I did, which was this whole thing of, well, you’re not really a woman if you get any kind of pain relief during birth.

AG: Oh, my gosh. Yeah, I did the Bradley lesson, I did the Bradley classes, which was all about that. And so how inadequate did I feel when I needed every intervention possible?

LJS: Well, you really weren’t a very good woman then, clearly.

AG: Clearly I had produced a human, but very adequate, right?

LJS: Exactly.

AG: Yeah. So research has mostly been done in the maternity stage, and then some early stuff on, menstrual cycles and pain. And then I was like, gosh, that’s really interesting that there’s so little on menopause. And if we think about all three of those in this paper, the big idea that I had was mapping them onto women’s careers. So usually, menstrual pain is the worst early in our lives, like when we’re still kind of adjusting and figuring it out, figuring out what ibuprofen or whatever it is that we need. Maybe we need to be on the pill, something that helps us manage that discomfort. And so if that’s when you start working, say you get your first job when you’re 16 or something, that’s when you’re most likely to have these kinds of potentially disruptive experiences. And then, as you move into the early to middle career stage, you might be thinking about getting pregnant. And if you’re dealing with trying to get pregnant and perhaps losing a baby, like trying to get pregnant with the hormone treatments and then any miscarriages, all of [those] are things you’re not supposed to talk about at work, but are incredibly disruptive and distracting and uncomfortable. [They] can also make you less of an ideal worker. Right. You’re not fully available at all times of day and night for your organization. And then you’re moving, now [that] you have children, of course. We know a lot about work, family balance, and conflicts and all that, and how most of the work, housework and childcare falls to the woman of the household.

LJS: Is that still happening, Dr. Grandey, with young people? I was very hopeful that our kids might see it differently. I feel like the young boys today are much more aware and want to be much more involved. Have you seen any research on that?

AG: Yes, there’s tons of research, but the young boys, of course, don’t know yet. So I have a 14-year-old son. I hope he sees us trying to have an egalitarian relationship, but he’s also attuned to the fact that sometimes we still fall under those gender roles. So our children still see, even if they’re kind of seeing and believing differently than we believed as young people, they’re still seeing how we play out gender roles as their parents. You know what I mean?

LJS: So it’s not as I say, it’s as I do. They’re still seeing it.

AG: My son was like, how come dad always drives? And it was like I’d never thought about it, right. And it was just a small thing. And I’m thinking, oh, but he does the dishes and I do the grill. We’re so egalitarian. And then there was one thing that he totally noticed that I missed.

LJS: They pick up stuff. Yeah. That you don’t know. Yeah.

AG: So I think that the gender norms are still there and we still see. And when we look at gender stereotypes, the difference is getting smaller in terms of competence. Like, men and women are stereotyped, equally competent and intelligent, but we still see the difference in terms of who is overconfident and assertive.

LJS: We know who that is.

AG: We know who that is. And we also see the difference in warmth. Women are still stereotyped as being the ones that are relational and kind. Even if that’s changing, that’s still a stereotype that is strongly held, which can help us in the workplace. We’re good colleagues. We’re good mentors. We want to help others. That stereotype is a good thing. It’s called the warmth bonus at work. Right. That’s the kind of leader you want, one who is competent and warm. Right. But sometimes that’s used against us.

LJS: As I saw that.

AG: Too emotional.

LJS: Well, I saw that research also, that said later on when women go through menopause, that if they’re not warm anymore, it’s a negative.

AG: Right. Well, there was a study recently. Now let’s talk about the menopause research. This would be at a career stage. So again, we’re moving through the career. If you think about a linear career, which, of course, not everyone has. Similarly, not everyone has kids at the same time, and so on. But just on average, thinking about this linearity, if you think about when menopause starts, and this is, I’m assuming, [where] most of your listeners are past or in the throes.

LJS: Or in the throes. Yeah.

AG: So much earlier than we think. Right. So when it starts in our early 40s, early to mid 40s, we have no idea what’s happening to us. Right. And I remember going to see my doctor because I was having symptoms, and my doctor didn’t even mention it. I finally had to figure it out.

LJS: It’s amazing. They say that doctors, even today, only get… like, a day or a half a day on menopause. It’s like nothing.

AG: And I was actually working with a group of Ob/gyn doctors in training, and I asked three of them, how much have you gotten [on] menopause? And one was like, oh, yeah, I’ve gotten a whole thing on it. And the other two were like, really? We haven’t gotten anything. So it’s very variable and limited, which is amazing when you think about the fact that pretty much anyone with a uterus is going to go through this at some point.

LJS: That’s right.

AG: And it’s like half our life, right?

LJS: Yes.

AG: Half our lives.

LJS: Yes. Correct.

AG: So here we are in our early, mid to late career. Now [in our] mid to late 40s… we might start moving into leadership roles. We might start getting promotions and kind of seeing ways. We’re now the experts on the team and so on. So it’s a really interesting paradox, because we have this expertise, we have this knowledge, we maybe are very motivated to give back to the organization or to influence others through our work. And yet we’re having these symptoms that we know are stigmatized and that we are concerned about people seeing, and crazily also mimic anxiety and embarrassment and things that are the antithesis of a good leader. Right. Because the leader is strong and confident and assertive and so on and so forth. This was the thing that I was observing in this paper., Wow. The stereotypes of menopause, and some of the symptoms look like the opposite of the career stage you should be at, which is the expert and the leader of the room.

LJS: Correct.

AG: So I went to look at the evidence to see, well, does the evidence show that’s true? Is there something that’s happening during menopause that keeps women from being good leaders?  There’s objective evidence in labs, studies looking at menopausal stage. Like, if you’re pre-menopausal, perimenopausal, or postmenopausal, does that seem to have different cognitive abilities? And it does not. Beyond age, generally, aging, we get more of that knowledge kind of cognitive ability, but less of this processing speed. That’s just natural for everyone. Right. So no difference there. No difference in terms of memory? Some studies would find a difference. Other studies would find the opposite. Right. So nothing consistent. And then the stereotypes, though. Sorry. And I should mention the studies also show a lot of benefits. Like, women feel relief, no longer having a period. It’s great.

LJS: Oh, my god. It’s wonderful. A relief of not having to worry. That worry is gone. I think it’s fabulous.

AG: Well, and if you think about what we’ve already talked about, right, at menopause, we’re removing the concern and pain and stigma of menstrual cycles, and we’re no longer able to have children or have to have children, however you want to think about it. And the stigma around, oh, maybe she’s going to go get pregnant and not be available to lead the team. Right. So those two things have now been removed, so we should be golden.

LJS: We should get a bonus because we’re more like men now. Right? Should we make up? They should be giving us, what is it, 22% bonus to make up for everything we lost.

AG: Exactly. What you’ve just said is so true. It’s actually our hormones, right, are changing such that we are more like each other. Right. Men are losing testosterone, and we’re losing estradiol, and they’re evening out our hormones. Basically.

LJS: They should actually lose 10%, and then we can pick up that missing 20, whatever it is, 12%, we’ve missed out on. Right.

AG: Well, what’s interesting is that men respond to the… testosterone loss, and the fear, the masculinity threat. They respond by trying to find ways of rediscovering their masculinity and their power.

LJS: Hence the convertible car and all the weird stuff. Right.

AG: And the younger woman, and wanting to move into power roles. Right. There’s a motivation to seek out position.

LJS: Interesting.

AG: Revert one’s power. And this is somewhat conjecture. I’m building on a study that was done showing men and women have different reactions to the threat to their power and to their sense of self. But I think it applies here, where if men are aware, gosh, I’m losing testosterone. Testosterone. I’m getting weaker when I do my workouts. I can’t run as far. I better prove that I’m still a masculine guy. Right. So I’m going to go do these things. Whereas with women, we see these changes happening, and what do we do? We get embarrassed.

LJS: We feel shame, and we’re told to feel embarrassed. Yeah.

AG: And those action tendencies that are associated with shame and [embarrassment] are [to] …hide and avoid.

LJS: Do we find that women are doing that? Are they hiding and avoiding?

AG: Yes. So there’s been a fair amount of research…, surveys and interviews with women in the workplace [in which they] describe themselves. So this is all from their own perspective. The more that they have symptoms such as hot flashes, trouble sleeping, feel like they have brain fog. When they perceive they’re having these symptoms in their [menopause], they also feel less efficacious at work. They feel like they’re less productive. They feel like they can’t do as good of a job, and so they avoid leadership positions. Or they’re concerned that if anyone were to know about these symptoms, that it will undermine their authority over others.

LJS: I can understand.

AG: In addition to the challenge of trying to do your work, you’re also trying to hide your symptoms, which is a double whammy in terms of effort expended.

LJS: Wow.

AG: But keep in mind what I just said. That’s all self-reported evidence. Right? So women have internalized the stigma. They’ve internalized the belief that this is a shameful thing, just as you said about the tampon. Right. Oh, I should hide this.

LJS: Right?

AG: But what my research recently found was that while, yes, there is some stigma attached to these symptoms. So we had a series of studies, and we found that when describing a woman having a hot flash, not saying what it was, people saw her as less competent and less confident and less able to be a leader. But when she confidently said, oh, it’s just a hot flash, I’m menopausal, and named it just matter of factly, that cost to her leadership went away.

LJS: That was amazing. That was the study. That’s why I reached out to you, because I was like, oh, my god, that’s huge.

AG: It is. And so we were skeptical. We were like, this can’t be right. That’s not what we were expecting. We thought by naming it, it’s going to make people uncomfortable, and they’re going to respond even worse. Right. Saying the word – one of the Ms – in a work context is going to make it worse. So we ran some more studies, and this time we used an image where we showed a woman sweating and looking uncomfortable to kind of like, well, maybe we didn’t describe it graphically enough. Right. So here she is really having this full on hot flash. And, we also looked at whether it mattered. Was it saying, I’m menopausal? Was that better than the alternative? Like, she’s having a panic attack. Right? Is that the problem? And it’s just better than that. Right. So to tease that apart, we also had a condition where someone else said, oh, it’s okay, she’s having a hot flash, she’s menopausal.

LJS: Oh, interesting. So someone else says it versus you yourself owning it. Okay.

AG: Right. And so you’ve got two conditions where the information is being shared. So is it better than not knowing? Or then it could be an anxiety attack or whatever. And really where you get that benefit is the self-disclosure – is just saying, this is what it is, nothing to worry about. I’ve got this right now. That’s easier said than done. And I can say that as someone who has had them at work. Now, thankfully, I’m in a psychology department where people are fairly informed and, it’s a lot of women around me, so it seems like maybe it’s easier for me to say, oh, I’m having a hot flash right now.

But our study also found it didn’t matter if the respondents were male or female. It didn’t matter whether we described the work context as being construction engineers or being a mixed gender context, being able to just say it and move on. And I should say the performance was always the same. So we were controlling every other thing except for the […] disclosure. So, we definitely know that there are beliefs about menopausal women that are mostly unfavorable. But we also know that menopause can be both a favorable and unfavorable experience for women. And so what we need to do is communicate when it’s happening so that people understand what’s happening. It’s not mysterious, it’s not stigmatized, it’s just a natural life stage. And then learn from that and understand we’re still performing. I mean, we know on average, men and women perform at equal levels. It’s not the problem.

LJS: Right.

AG: So if we’re still performing and we’re also saying, yeah, I’ve got this thing going on in my body, but I’m fine and I will handle it. And I just need to step out for a moment and then I’ll be back.

LJS: That’s great info. Great information.So taking it further than that, what’s your opinion? Or do you have an opinion? Or have you read any more research about various workplace legislation? I know that the Brits were trying to do this to create legislation for menopausal women that was equal to when you have pregnancy. I think it was shot down. Right. It got shot down in the end, even though they had… I had posted some cute little pictures. They had some of their male MPs wear hot jackets to get an idea of what it was like. I really thought they were going to get it.

AG: I read that it was shot down because it was seen as gender inequitable. Oh, I thought that’s what I saw, that it was seen as being unfair to men, basically, to have this leave policy for women… I guess because if it’s a parental leave, then it can apply to both.

LJS: Interesting. I didn’t know why it got shot down. Interesting. Okay.

AG: That’s what I saw. I think it’s the UK that also has menstrual leave now. I mean, they’re just so ahead of the curve.

LJS: They’re very ahead of us, and I don’t know why they’re so far ahead of us, but they are. Yeah.

AG: I mean, we can go back to the history of the US, of how it was puritans that came over. So maybe we’re less ingrained in talking about these bodily functions than the people that we left behind.

LJS: Well, and the rugged individual. Right. Even the women. I mean, like I said, I could have never been in one of those wagons making it over the mountains. I would have definitely not made it. But yeah, maybe it’s the rugged individual. Even the women, they were.

AG: Yeah, I don’t know. So, yeah, there’s policies around. I don’t know that there’s legislation right now for those kinds of policies.

LJS: I don’t see anything here, but there’s people talking about it because of what was going on in England, but I don’t think anything’s actually happening.

AG: So there’s absolutely more conversation and I never quite know, is this because I’m studying it, so I see it everywhere? One of those biases of attention, or is it? But, like, people send me… New York Times, just like yesterday, published an article on menopausal support at work. Right?

LJS: Yes, it is happening. It is out there. I feel like we are on a very slow upward climb. Martha Stewart [on the] cover… of Sports Illustrated at 81. Unfortunately, they are usually stunts. And then we retreat back into the old stereotypes. But the stunts seem to be happening more frequently.

AG: It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, and I’ve heard this discussed… So, for example, did you see during the Super Bowl, the ad for hot flash medication?

LJS: No, I didn’t. I missed that.

AG: It was during the Super Bowl.

LJS: Oh, fabulous.

AG: Like, woman on the street talking to women about what’s vasomotor symptoms? And people saying they had no idea, and then her defining it, and then here’s a medication to try. So, on the one hand, it’s great that we’re talking about it, and it’s normalizing it, reducing the stigma, but the focus is on the symptoms. Right. So most of the attention, because it’s medicalized, it’s been medicalized in our society, the midlife transition is medicalized for women. So then that kind of amplifies the weaker body. Oh, it’s a disability. Or we’re then kind of playing into that, which we’ve had to do legally. I think that’s part of how pregnancy leave was made possible.

LJS: Well, it’s disability. When I went out on pregnancy, it’s actually disability for the first six weeks, and then whatever you’re… And this was a long time ago, but it was called disability back then.

AG: Right. And so if you start thinking about menstrual cramps, pregnancy, lactation, and menopausal signs, discomfort, as disabilities, then we are disabled.

LJS: Okay.

AG: As women.

LJS: Yes, correct.

AG: That’s what I meant by a double-edged sword. And in fact, I gave this talk. I was on a panel at a conference, and we were talking about both menstrual and menopausal stigma at work. And I had one woman come up, and we were really engaging and excited at the side. I saw this older woman… older, like my age, come up to the panel leader and say, are we setting the women’s movement back by talking about this?

LJS: Oh, so interesting. Oh, my goodness.

AG: By pointing out our bodily weaknesses. Now, I would say that makes sense from her vantage point, right. Because we have had to fit our bodies.

LJS: That’s right.

AG: Into the design of work. That was male-led. Right.

LJS: That’s why we wore those stupid little suits with the fake bow tie and the whole thing. Yes. I went through that. The shoulder pads, the shoulder pads, everything to look like so that it would forget that you were a woman.

AG: Yeah. Right. So now what we have to do broadly is change the culture, which is so hard to do, but basically not start with the assumption that we’ve always started with about what’s a traditional workplace look, we need to undermine that. What is the prototypical ideal worker? It’s not people that have other needs that they’re caring for. The ideal worker is someone who’s available all the time, who will drop anything and be focused and dedicated. Right?

LJS: Correct.

AG: Our society doesn’t allow women to do that because of all the other things we’re expected to do. and the way work is designed in terms of nine to five work and so on, so remote work and flexible work that was created during the pandemic is one potential solution. But if women are still expected to do all this work at home more so, then that doesn’t help, right? Because then we’re trying to balance those both, but just from a different environment.

LJS: Correct. Well, you got to go onward. More research.

AG: Yeah, well, for sure. So, like I said, I have one student working on the recovery breaks. How can we make sure we’re addressing the pain as needed? Because what could happen is if we’re not addressing the pain, I don’t have research to show this. I’m trying to figure out how to study it. If we’re not addressing the pain from any of those three Ms and we’re still working, my guess is we’re making more mistakes, on average, than someone that doesn’t have pain.

Or we’re not necessarily working as efficiently. So that could lead into a self-fulfilling prophecy of women not performing as well or as effectively as we could be. Right. So what if we did things that would allow for supports? Like, all I needed to get through my menopausal hot flashes was a little fan on my desk.

All I need. I mean, I don’t have them maybe as severe as other people. I understand. Some people can have it so bad they have to change their clothes, right?

LJS: Yeah.

AG: Well, I have the privilege of my own office, so I could change my clothes. I can turn on a fan. I have talked to women who’ve said they are not allowed to have any personal objects on their desk.

LJS: Oh, yes, those old workplaces. I can’t believe that still goes on. 

AG: Even in tech, this isn’t like… It’s like a $5 fan from a corner store.

LJS: Oh, for god’s sake.

AG: And that’s all I need. Just as soon as it hits and all it takes is someone walking in my office and the temperature in the room goes up by a degree and boom. Right, right. I just turn on the fan. Why can’t that be standard? Right, exactly. I don’t know why that can’t be standard.

LJS: Okay, go ahead.

AG: We want to end on a positive note, right?

LJS: Yes.

AG: All right. I was thinking about this because it’s so easy to get dark. When I practice my talk, I’ve shared it with my brother and men, and they’re like, man, it sucks to be a woman.

LJS: No, it does not. No, it does not. Right?

AG: That’s not the message that I want to share.

LJS: I mean, it’s amazing.

AG: All the things we’re describing as disability is because of our ability to do incredible [things] with our bodies.

LJS: That’s right.

AG: Okay, so the first thing is we all have to educate ourselves. We have to take time. As soon as you’re, like, 40, you got to start reading up on what’s happening to our bodies and then beyond. Because, of course, there’s all sorts of changes that happen. Like, I had to start doing weights because I know about bone density.

LJS: That’s right.

AG: Got my cholesterol checked, and guess what? It’s sky high.

LJS: Oh, I know.

AG: I do all the good stuff, but that means I’m at a risk for heart disease, which is more likely for women [who are] postmenopausal.

LJS: That’s right.

AG: We don’t get educated…t proactively by our medical providers. And if you do, listener, you’re lucky, because that’s not the norm. So there’s a great couple of books, one in particular I’m going to promote, and I have no connection to this person at all, but I just thought it was wonderful. And it’s The Menopause Manifesto.

LJS: Oh, I don’t know that one.

AG: So, Dr. Jennifer Gunter. And it does a history of… It’s a feminist view and a medical view. So it has that balance between, instead of medical, like, a lot of books are out there about all the symptoms.

LJS: And, the problem. Okay, fantastic.

AG: One balances that with the feminist view of, this is something that was named by men and focused on as a way to make money, because you can make medications that help make money for healthcare industry providers. Okay. So instead, there’s a lot of things that can happen at this midlife stage, and menopause is our body saying, hey, wake up. This is a time to reinvent yourself.

LJS: This is a time. That’s right.

AG: Think, like, what’s happening right now and advocating for ourselves, as our study showed, and saying, I’m in menopause right now can actually help let people know this is normal. That means your more junior female colleagues now are hearing that and knowing this is a thing and understanding that it’s normal and natural, and there’s some things that go along with that, but also, they see you as this really competent, amazing woman. And those two things can go together.

LJS: Correct. Not hiding it. Yes, I think you’re right. So people can have a visual of what goes on, and it’s not this dreaded thing.

AG: Well, we know that people assume a menopausal woman is a lot older than she actually is. They picture a white-haired, 75-year-old woman. That’s right. When it’s actually happening, which is 45 to 51.

LJS: Correct.

AG: Yeah. And then, figuring out ways to know yourself and your own. I personally journal. I’ve journaled my whole life, and that has allowed me to keep track of the reality of my experience. So it’s not all bad. It’s just the symptoms can make us feel like it’s all bad because that’s what we focus on and what we remember. But there’s also that moment of realizing, I mean, I had so much energy as I was in the perimenopausal process, I felt like all my cylinders were firing. Like it was incredible.

LJS: Yes.

AG: And that’s probably because my body was putting less energy into reproductive system work. Right? Correct. So having a way to self-reflect. So that might be journaling, it might be therapy. It might be a really good friend that you can bounce things off of. Reading books was a way that I did it as well.

Thinking of it then as a chance to reinvest in yourself, and this, I feel like it seems obvious, and you probably talk about it all the time, but we spend so much of our time focusing on others in our [lives]. That’s right. Give and give and give to our kids and our spouse and our partners and our work. And then menopause is your body’s saying, hey, pay attention to me. Yeah, I said this once, and I can’t remember if I said it to you, that Menarche is when a girl becomes a woman. Right. Quote, unquote. Maternity is when a woman becomes a mom. And what’s menopause? Menopause is when a woman becomes herself, becomes me. I get to figure out what that means.

LJS: Right.

AG: And so figuring that out, what brings you joy, what fills your tank, however you want to think about it, it’s your body saying, hey, come back to me. Come back to giving back to yourself. And that gives you energy, then, to go out and do this amazing work that I know your listeners are doing, whether that’s in the workplace or at home or in the community. Filling that tank back up is so critical.

LJS: You are talking the CoveyClub manifesto right there. All about that. That’s exactly what Covey Club is all about, is filling you back up and helping you figure out what’s next for you. So, where can people find you? I will put those two articles, the Harvard Business Review and then the sage publication journal that I can pull up the text for, into the show notes. But where can people find you and find your work?

AG: I’m on Twitter. I post a lot of my updates. So Twitter @ AliciaGrandey. And then I have a book I’m working on with a friend of mine that’s about emotional upskilling for today’s leaders.

LJS: When does that come out?

AG: Well, our first draft is due February.

LJS: Oh, you’ve got a while. Okay.

AG: Shortly after that. Well, we just started it this year. It’s my side hustle, basically.

LJS: Your side hustle. Okay. When you’re ready, then come back to us. We’re a bunch of readers and book buyers, so these are the right women to speak to.

AG: But there’s definitely a book that needs to be on menopause at work. And I know there’s been some cool ones that have come out. I haven’t had a chance to look at them yet, but if I can find one, I’ll send it along to you.

LJS: Great. Wonderful. Thank you so much for your time, and I so appreciate all your research. And keep at it. We need you, and we need that insight. And everybody out there now knows: Own it when it happens and you’re in your corporate life, own it. Doesn’t matter whether it’s men or women. That’s actually the perfect approach. That’s huge information.

AG: The men in the room that might never go through it talk about it comfortably, too, because you’ve just owned it. Now they know it’s okay to talk about it with you and be your ally, right?

LJS: Thank you so much, Alicia.

AG: Thank you, Lesley. Thank you for the work you do.


Tell us what you think.
Leave your comments below