Women undergoing menopause face a unique set of circumstances which employers should be mindful of. But, alas, not all are.
Typically, menopause begins at the culmination of a woman’s menstrual cycle, about one year after her last menstrual period. Natural menopause happens with age (usually around 51 years old), but menopause can naturally occur even before the age of 40 for some women. Other women may go into early menopause because of their genetics, or a health-induced reason.
Whenever menopause strikes, women often deal with hot flashes in the middle of the workday, mood changes, fatigue, brain fog and difficulty concentrating — among other menopause symptoms. All of these can affect their productivity, and performance at work.
While not all employers are aware of every woman going through menopause in their office, those who are aware (or who suspect that any female talent are going through menopause) should be thoughtful.
That said, here are five microaggressions that suggest they aren't paying mind to your situation.
1. They blast the heat.
Women undergoing menopause may experience changes in body temperature and hot flashes (the most common symptom of menopause and perimenopause, which occurs three to five years before menopause when your estrogen and hormone levels start to drop).
More than two-thirds of North American women heading into menopause have hot flashes, according to Web MD.
A hot flash is described as "a sudden feeling of heat and sometimes a red, flushed face and sweating," Web MD reports. While no one knows for sure what causes hot flashes, they may be related to changes in circulation and are often accompanied with a rapid heart rate and chills.
So, if your boss is constantly blasting the heat or is not mindful of your requests for temperature changes in the office, he or she is not being mindful of your menopausal symptoms.
2. They comment on your "moodiness."
Mood swings during menopause are common. After all, menopause is a time of change, and your emotions play a substantial part in that. According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), nearly 23 percent of women go through mood swings before, during or after menopause.
Because during perimenopause estrogen levels in the body start to drop, the change in hormones can affect your mood. Add to that the fact that menopause signifies the end of your childbearing years and the start of a new chapter, and emotions may naturally be high.
If your employer comments on your "moodiness," he or she may not be mindful of your current situation — or they're choosing to comment on it anyway, which is uncalled for. If your attitude is affecting your work, that's a conversation that your employer should have with you in private, and it should be a professional conversation expressing concern.
3. They ask you why you're sweating.
A lot of women sweat when they go through menopause. After all, you may be experiencing hot flashes and other bodily changes that affect your overall body temperature.
If you're sweating at your desk, your boss shouldn't be making comments that "it's not even hot" in the office or anything other than "can I get you a water or fan?"
4. They're impatient with your cognitive symptoms.
When women go through menopause, many of them experience brain fog.
In fact, in one study, researchers suggest that some 60 percent of middle-aged women report difficulty concentrating and other cognitive issues, which spike when they go through perimenopause. And another study found that women in the first year of their last menstrual period scored the lowest on tests evaluating verbal learning, memory, motor function, attention and working memory tasks.
That's because your hormones — estrogen, progesterone, follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone — are responsible for different processes in the body, which includes cognition.
If your employer seems to be impatient with you, rest assured that research suggests your cognitive condition may improve as you move through menopause. And do your best to make mental notes for yourself. As for your boss, they should pull you into a private and professional meeting if their concern goes beyond general frustration with you. What they shouldn't do is call you out in meetings or on the office floor in front of others for being "so forgetful."
5. They don't respect your work-life balance.
We all need self-care, and women going through menopause need a little extra. You're going through a lot of physical, mental and emotional changes, and it's okay to want to spend time working on yourself in any capacity — whether you want time to rest or time with your family.
Whatever the case, your employer should respect a work-life balance. It's important that you do your job and do it well, but it's equally important that you're not burning yourself out. Here are 13 self-care tips for working women to get you started.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.