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Podcast explores the importance of menopause-friendly work environments

Coverage of aging is supported in part by AARP Arizona

Since last fall at KJZZ News, we’ve been taking a closer look at something that often goes ignored in polite circles: menopause.

Senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has been deep in the world of menopause for her podcast,  Period. The End. (But Not Really).

She just wrapped up those episodes and joined The Show to talk more about what she learned about menopause in the workplace.

Interview highlights

Tell us a little bit about how women experience menopause at work.

You know, I think we still talk about women who are coming back to the workplace after they've had a baby. On the other end of that spectrum, you have women who are in their late 40s and early 50s who are experiencing sometimes very severe menopausal symptoms. You know, there are women who suffer from extreme bleeding, abnormal bleeding. You know, those are things that we don't often think about.

What are workplaces doing — maybe not here in the U.S. — to address this issue?

... I learned in the course of all of this reporting, in the United Kingdom, the National Health Service there, they're one of the largest employers of women, right? So it actually became imperative that they create a menopause-friendly work environment because it was critical to retaining staff.

And so, honestly, what they're doing could be done anywhere, in my opinion. You know, things like offering a flexible work schedule; providing fans; access to cold water; staff training — which I actually think is really important for managers to understand that this is a part of life. It's a part of reproductive health care. And offering cooler uniforms for certain staff members. Perhaps something that ... can wick away sweat if you're having a hot flash.

So, those are the things that they are doing and, and it's really critical, you know, to workforce stuff. And here in the U.S., haven't heard about too many places that are offering it.I'm sure there's maybe smaller conversations happening — I hope. And I think I think it's a fair question for staff, for an employer to say ...: "What is our policy when it comes to menopause?"

Because ultimately, you know, the Mayo Clinic did a study earlier this year, roughly 4,000 women. And we talk about this in the podcast. and what they found was that there are women who are not only just, you know, they're leaving the workforce. They're reducing their hours. They're perhaps changing jobs because ... it's just too much.

But that has consequences, Lauren, down the line when we start thinking about retirement, right? So, if you're in the prime of your career and you leave the workforce in your 50s, that has an impact on your 401(k), your ability to save for the future.

So I think those are conversations that we have to start having and, you know, I understand that sometimes these are uncomfortable conversations to have, but it is simply a fact of life. You know, menopause is a normal transition, and it's something that we should be talking about.

Learn more about menopause on  KJZZ's Period, The End podcast. Find it wherever you get your podcasts.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.