The Prime Project – Methodology

The Prime Project targeted women aged 25 and over, in academic, administrative and executive level roles at two Australian Universities.  Data were collected via face-to-face interviews over a period between November 2013 and March 2014. Data collection occurred through a mixture of purposive and targeted sampling, to ensure a diversity of staff across disciplines and faculties, as well as both research and professional and administrative staff. The study was promoted through the universities’ communication channels, including all-staff emails and advertisements on staff intranet homepages. Direct recruitment also occurred through the researchers’ networks within their respective institutions.

The interview was semi-structured in order to provide some basis for comparisons across participants, whilst allowing for individualised and personal experiences to emerge during the interview conversations.  The interview schedule included questions related to women’s perceptions of menopause at work and in general, possible challenges or affirming experiences surrounding ageing and reproductive lives; the relationship between organisational cultures and practices; and individual body, health and well-being episodes. In particular, questions were phrased in a way that allowed women to give first-hand accounts of their experiences and/or attitudes towards menopause at work. In light of research noting the importance of gender dynamics (e.g., Oakley, 1981), particularly when discussing intimate or body-related phenomena, interviews were conducted by female researchers. The interviews lasted between 30 and 70 minutes.

The demographic details of the 48 participants in each position type from each participating university are presented below in Table 1. Participants’ job titles, type of work and Faculty/disciplinary location varied, with a majority who responded to our call for participation having personal experience of going through menopause. Pseudonyms were assigned to participants immediately after the interview and prior to transcription to preserve anonymity. Transcripts were then loaded into NVivo 10 software to enable analysis, which identified key patterns, themes and ideas shared across the data corpus. Codes were applied both in-vivo (i.e., directly emerging from the data inductively), and emerged through exploring key debates in the extant literature surrounding the social, cultural and biological aspects of menopause.  The findings are presented according to key themes: job enjoyment and engagement at work; health and well-being; menopause; menopause symptoms; menopause and work; recommendations and suggestions.

Ethics approval for this project were obtained from both institutions.

Table 1 – Participant Profile

Uni A Uni B Total
Number of Interviewees 26 22 48
Academic/Professional (Aca/Pro) 12/14 15/7 27/21
N = Self-identified peri-(or ‘on the horizon of’) or post menopause 22 18 40
N = Arts, Education or Social Sciences (ArtEdSS) 11 11 22
N = Science, Engineering or Medicine (SciEngMed) 5 6 11
N = Central Services (CenSer) 10 5 15


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