There is clear incentive at the national, organisational and individual levels for more research to be conducted around the health and well-being of older women and for organisations to consider age and gender-appropriate occupational health policies and procedures. Outlined below are some of the compelling reasons for thinking about Women Work and the Menopause:
- The Ageing Workforce: 40% of the Australian workforce is aged 45 years or above – up from 33% a decade ago and expected to rise (ABS, 2013). It is estimated that increasing labour participation rates among ageing women so that they are equal with men will result in raising per capita GDP growth by 1.5% by 2044-45 (Productivity Commission, 2013). These demographic and labour market patterns are repeated in many OECD countries (Jaumotte, 2003). At the organisational level, older workers are valued for characteristics such as reliability, loyalty, commitment to quality and practical knowledge (Berkowitz & Borus, 1988).
- Older Women are a Growing Labour Pool: 78% of women aged between 45 and 54 participate in the labour market, with 65% from this age group currently in employment (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2013). This represents over one million women who are experiencing or have recently experienced menopause within a work context.
- Menopause and Working Environments are Related: Women, Work and the Menopause suggests that menopausal status in itself does not impact productivity; however, organisational support and workplace cultures that stigmatise and problematise older women or menopausal stereotypes, may exacerbate menopause-related symptoms. These kinds of experiences may influence women’s engagement and enjoyment of work.
- Supporting Women means they Stay Longer in the Labour Market: Employers need to ensure that their workplace environment is inclusive of older female workers and that there is investment in the specific health-related needs of older working women (Tilly et al., 2013). Should women enjoy good health and well-being after menopause, they can potentially contribute an additional 15-20 years of productive, creative labour to organisations.
- Benefits to Older Women: For older women themselves, the benefits of employment can be extensive. For example, among older women, paid work has been associated with improved mental and physical health, and is known to be a source of self-esteem and social support (Doyal & Payne, 2006; Klumb & Lampert, 2004).