is it safe to share at my company’s “courageous conversation” on menopause?

A reader writes:

My company is proposing a workshop to have “courageous conversations” with colleagues about menopause. There is no professional facilitating this; it is an open discussion. The message about it says it will be “a safe space that is inclusive and supportive” and “an informal discussion among peers.”

My company is heavily promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) right now, but it’s through low-cost initiatives, like workshops, employee training, and the like. They haven’t taken concrete steps like pay transparency or strong HR support for those with DEI needs, and I’ve seen quite a few older colleagues forced out in the last few months.

Presumably, anything one says in this forum could be shared, i.e. if I were to go and share that I fear menopause is affecting my energy levels and memory, and that happened to be overheard by a more senior manager, might it subconsciously influence that manager’s decision on whether to choose me to lead challenging projects in future? And, maybe I am being paranoid here, but could something like this get me added to the list of who to cut in the next round of layoffs?

I am a woman in my 50s, and I do think that discussing menopause and age and gender discrimination is valuable, but this is setting off alarm bells for me. What do you think?

You’re not being paranoid.

Even at a company with a better track record on equity needs, I’d be concerned about sharing in a forum like this. Unconscious bias is a thing; people can discriminate against you without even being aware that they’re doing it — even very well-intentioned people — and it’s not unreasonable to worry that if you share a concern about your energy levels or memory, that could unconsciously factor into someone’s decisions about what projects and opportunities you’re given, whether to promote you, and so forth.

That said, these sorts of discussions are important to have! Work is just a really, really complicated place to have them.

Then add in that your company doesn’t really seem all that committed to the principles it’s giving lip service to — and the fact that a bunch of older coworkers appear to have been forced out recently — and this is not a safe place to share.

Organizations can’t just announce a space is safe! They need to actually do the work to ensure it is one. It doesn’t sound like they’ve done that. (Frankly, I’d argue work isn’t well-equipped to provide safe spaces anyway. Safe spaces require a large amount of unanimity, and at some point “inclusive” and “safe” end up at odds with each other.)

{ 361 comments… read them below }

  1. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Several years ago in the Harvard Business Review, there was a study that said the more an employer said they wanted and claimed to be a diverse workforce, the less diverse they actually were. I think the justification was that if they *say* it without actually doing it, the box was checked.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      I think another cause, at least with the claiming to be, is that the more aware of diversity you are, the more likely you are to notice what your company is doing wrong. If somebody thinks their company is completely inclusive, well, a) there’s a good chance they don’t see any need to actively improve then and b) honestly, it’s highly unlikely to be true of any workplace and the most likely reason somebody would say that is because their understanding of diversity is lacking and they think diversity just means “we don’t only hire middle-aged white cis men from upper-middle-class backgrounds with no disabilities or neuroatypicalities,” when it’s a lot more than that.

    2. birb*

      I never trust DEI initiatives that seem designed to be “photogenic”. I feel like companies really focus on DEI “events” and curating these pretty, shareable moments so they can show the world they’re good instead of doing the actual work… which is almost NEVER photogenic because in reality it’s enacting meaningful policies and difficult conversations and challenging trainings and consistency, and its HARD, and its ugly. No one wants to “air their dirty laundry” so all the DEI effort goes to creating proof that they’re good (or at least to cover up some of the bad).

      1. Girasol*

        What a good word, “photogenic.” The extent of previous employer’s DEI was just that: the “who we are” and recruitment web page photos were more diverse than the actual company.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          This reminds me of back when companies were first making websites 20+ years ago. Almost all of them had some beautiful non-white people posing as their employees. And they were obviously models. I got so tired of seeing that! Give me something real.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Always a black man and an Asian woman somehow. I have nothing against either, but it’s like when meat eaters tell vegetarians about plants having feelings too, they always talk about carrots for some reason. What’s wrong with spinach??

        2. stratospherica*

          Hah, I feel that. I work in HR and part of my role is in DEIB in our recruiting process, and I’m trying to make the most of my role (providing tools for our recruiters to improve candidates’ psychological safety etc.) but anything that has any kind of budget or requires buy-in from the executive level (that is, attracting diverse candidates through internal policies that allow a diverse range of people to work at my company comfortably, rather than just saying how diverse we are and promoting what we do have) is an uphill battle.

      2. Cam*

        I live in Europe and an Afrifcan American friend always used to say to me at events, if you want to be in all the pictures, stand next to me. It was unfortunately, true.

        1. Long Time Reader*

          Yeah- I entered a professional degree program at a younger-than-typical age, just when it was becoming fashionable in my industry to be “raising up the next generation of leaders.” Two photos of me were on the website, covers of recruiting brochures, etc for the next five years.

    3. CommanderBanana*

      Yes, kind of like managers asking for feedback. In my experience, they’re just checking the “good managers ask for feedback!” box, without any intention to act on it (best case) or getting furious that they got the feedback they asked for (worse case).

      1. OtterB*

        Or even (best case) they intend to act on it, but then don’t because (check one or more) they’re too busy with more urgent things, they disagree with the feedback but are afraid they’ll look unwelcoming to it if they say so, they didn’t mean *that* kind of feedback, etc.

    4. Antilles*

      That makes sense to me.
      The companies that are good at diversity don’t make a big deal out of how much you value DEI, since it’s already ingrained in the culture. You don’t need to tell employees how much you care; employees already know that you care based on your actions.

      1. Your Oxford Comma*

        This, 100%, all day.

        Talking about normal bodily functions in front of people whom I know only in a work context gives me the willies. No way, no how, no where, no when, NO.

    5. Artemesia*

      And there is no such thing as a ‘safe space’ at work for sharing things that if known might influence decision about you. Memory issues and energy levels are one of those. Mental illness is another — never disclose unless you need to for FMLA accommodation. Child care challenges. Chronic illness.

    6. H3llifIknow*

      I 100% agree. Like so many characteristics or qualities, if a person/a business has to ANNOUNCE “I am” or “we are” XYZ there’s a good chance they’re not at all. It should be self-evident in how the organization functions. Intelligent, or kind, or mannerly people don’t have to announce that they are intelligent, kind or have manners. It’s evident in their interactions. Likewise a company touting their DEI’ness, shouldn’t need to shout it from the rooftops. You should be able to observe a diverse workforce that’s treating each other with respect, empathy and professionalism.

  2. Saturday*

    I don’t know… I’m all for inclusivity, but I do not see the value in discussing menopause at work!

    1. Cicely*

      Yeah, same. Private conversations with work friends, sure, but in the workplace at large as a dedicated discussion is, I don’t know, trying too hard.

    2. Seashell*

      Me neither. I don’t have much to say about it, and I’ve been through it. If I had issues, I’d speak to my doctor.

    3. londonedit*

      I think there’s value in recognising that menopause is something that can really do a number on people’s mental health, physical health and ability to do their job – people have lost their jobs because of menopause-related performance issues or sick time, and I think it’s important for companies to recognise the issues that can come up, and offer support to anyone who needs it.

      But no, I don’t think there’s any benefit in anyone discussing their own personal situations at work, unless it’s something they need to bring to their boss or HR in order to ask for accommodations that will help them deal with symptoms while still being able to do their job effectively.

      1. Anonnynonny*

        “Recognizing the issues,” should a company decide to do that, would likely amount to greater scrutiny and suspicion of the work of middle-aged women.

        “You say Carol disagrees with my proposal. Hmm … isn’t she about 50 now? How do we know it’s not just her hormones talking?”

        Women still have to be careful what we emphasize. Remember the ’90s fad of emphasizing how “insane” women with PMS allegedly are? There were “funny” T-shirts and everything.

          1. Emily Byrd Starr*

            Which was offensive because it implied that PMS makes you act like a b*tch. It really doesn’t. It might make you tense, but it’s really no different from being tense for any other reason. You still have to regulate your emotions and actions even when you’re tense, and the notion that PMS makes you b*tchy is implying that women are incapable of self control.

            1. Anonnynonny*

              Exactly. That it’s normal for women to be b*tchy, out of control, and not responsible for what they say and do — for days at a time, once a month for decades — is a terrible thing to suggest.

              If “I’m not responsible: I have PMS!” (an actual T-shirt that existed) were true, who would put a woman in charge of anything that mattered? At least not during her childbearing years. (After that, I guess everything she says and does can be blamed on menopause.)

              1. Ally McBeal*

                We’d have to start a counter-campaign: “I’m not an asshole, I have too much testosterone!” and make the point that pretty much all wars – and the vast majority of murders – in human history have been instigated by angry men, therefore we should get rid of the status quo where men are in charge of everything.

        1. gollyj*

          1. “Jeez, I didn’t know Carol was THAT OLD,” thinks 30-year old male manager, “I best age discriminate in private” against her now.

          2. … Ridiculous co-workers who are small-minded (but believe their very own B.S.) will open their traps to say stupid crap to poor Carol

          3. who was naive enough to believe this was a good talk to participate in.

      2. Jaydee*

        There is absolutely value in recognizing the impact of menopause on employees’ wellbeing at work. But that should involve having external speakers/experts come in and do training rather than expecting employees to disclose things that might put them at a disadvantage at work.

        An individual employee can only talk about their own experience, which may or may not be representative of others. An expert who ideally has lived experience *and* has also done research, educated themselves on the topic, and talked to others with lived experience and curated things from their stories can provide a much broader picture and with it being less personal.

        1. Random Dice*

          I loved this statement by Alison:

          “Organizations can’t just announce a space is safe! They need to actually do the work to ensure it is one.”

          This org is pushing the work (and funding) of executives onto the vulnerable employees, and making them MORE vulnerable in the process.

          1. Lisa Simpson*

            Please tell this to every health teacher I had in school. “This classroom is a safe space and no one can discuss what anyone says in class, outside of class.”

            *everyone proceeds to bully each other over the tiniest thing mentioned in class*

            1. MigraineMonth*

              One of my friends had a health teacher who announced that 1 out of 10 people were homosexual, then pointed out which students in the class she thought were the gay ones. I’m sure that really made the space feel safe.

            2. Reluctant Mezzo*

              This reminds me of the Boggart lesson in Harry Potter where the nice teacher makes sure the whole school knows what everyone’s greatest fears are. Whee.

        2. Quill*

          A well done wellness initiative does not share any employees’ medical details. So yes, if the company was going to do a seminar on menopause they’d bring in an expert, or at least a medical communicator, with “these things are normal, these things are normal and inconvenient, these things are worth talking to a doctor about” and reiterate a commitment to people taking sufficient recovery and rest time even if it’s “only” insomnia, or whatever new symptom might be impacting people’s work.

          (Have to actually… staff and manage such that people can take time off for medical reasons. But that’s not going to be solved by the seminar.)

        3. Susannah*

          I’m creeped out by having outside speakers come in and talk to women – and of course, it would only be women and probably women of a certain age – as though they are all facing or about to face some debilitating condition by virtue of their sex and age.
          I had zero symptoms before and during menopause. ZERO. (Don’t hate me – I had decades of debilitating menstrual cramps, so I figure this was my payback). But I would not have wanted to talk about my menstrual cramps at work, and I sure as hell would not want to feed the idea that women are SO HORMONAL because of menstruation and menopause.
          This is between us and our doctors. The company needs to butt the hell out.

          1. Clisby*

            Same here – I had no symptoms before/during menopause, either. Well, I did have a total lack of menstrual periods, but that wasn’t anything new. I was 48 when my 2nd child was born, got Depo-Provera shots for a year after that, got a Mirena IUD when that made my estrogen level go too low, and that was it.

            I don’t know whether I was just lucky, or if women who don’t experience any problems with menopause don’t tend talk about it because … it’s not a problem? So we maybe don’t know how common that experience is?

            But I cannot imagine wanting to talk about this with work colleagues.

            1. UKDancer*

              I think this is it. If you don’t have a problem with something you don’t tend to talk about it. My periods starting were kind of ok, a bit achy and a bit annoying but nothing that bothered me. So when I started work at a company as a fairly young 20 something, where they wanted to arrange a seminar to help women with their distress / issues with menstruation and explore how work could be sympathetic, I opted right out. I just didn’t think there was anything I needed.

      3. UKDancer*

        I’d agree. I think recognising the issues, understanding that it may affect performance is a good thing. My work did a workshop on the issues with a professional facilitator which was useful for me as a manager.

        I also don’t really want to discuss personal situations (as someone who is probably hitting menopausal age). But then I don’t really like discussing my personal issues / feelings at work. My company has a menopause coffee meeting for women to share experiences and it’s the sort of thing I’d personally avoid like the plague.

      4. Cannibalqueen*

        I feel it would be more credible if they put out a call for anonymous feedback along the lines of “hey, we’re looking for practical ways to support employees going through menopause; let us know what would help”. But yeah, the way OP’s employer is going about it sounds performative at best.

      5. londonedit*

        Maybe I’m coming at this from a different cultural perspective – it’s been a big topic of conversation here in the UK for a few years now, and it’s actually just been announced today that employers will open themselves up to legal action if they don’t make reasonable adjustments to help employees struggling with symptoms of menopause ( Of course there are always bad employers, but I’m not sure the conversation here has been as negative as people in the comments are reporting/fearful of.

        1. JJ*

          Is this because you across the pond [I assume from the little I know] have better (meaning any) worker protections generally, and age discrimination laws specifically? No chance I’m giving any job any ammo against me as a woman on the wrong side of 45. Men face a lot of age discrimination too, but at least they don’t get their reproductive system dragged into it.

      6. Moo*

        yep – like a thing they could do is have flexible schedules (menopause is hell on sleep and many women drop out of senior posts due to lack of sleep) which support people going through menopause, but also a range of other things in the wide variety of life. While there isn’t a huge amount of research on menopause, there’s enough on symptoms and real life barriers out there for them not to have to ask their employees to make themselves vulnerable in this way.

    4. Friendo*

      Unfortunately, a lot of people do not have anywhere else to have peer relationships (especially these days).

      1. Tea Monk*

        yes, I think companies need to cut back hours to allow people to build better communities instead of having weird conversations at work

    5. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yes. Even if it’s a conversation you *do* want to participate in, this seems like something to talk about in a Facebook group or online forum about “Dealing With Menopause at Work,” not a workplace lunch and learn.

      1. LWH*

        I’ve never been a fan of workplaces leaning heavily into this kind of stuff to begin with. And by this kind of stuff I mean like the wellness workshops, the dieting/exercise stuff, any of that. It’s typically never that useful and just seems like an attempt to appear caring (or satisfy some kind of insurance incentive). It’s not that menopause workshops aren’t valuable, it’s that the kind of menopause workshop you are going to get in the workplace is almost never valuable.

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          I agree. It’s never useful, in my experience, because it always focuses on what an individual can do rather than how the workplace can actually support the end goals of such a workshop, e.g. if the workplace wants to reduce stress in their employees, a wellness workshop that teaches meditation techniques is going to be far less impactful than doing things like keeping adequate staffing levels and paying people well. But those things are more expensive than hiring a one-off workshop facilitator, so they don’t do it.

          1. House On The Rock*

            So, so much this. My work incentivizes us to take a yearly wellness survey with a (trivial) monetary award. The results are always the same: the individual employee should sleep more, eat better, avoid stress, cut back on X “unhealthy” activity, exercise more. What they don’t do is take all these results back to our leadership and say “a large percentage of your staff is stressed, eating poorly, doesn’t have time for exercise/sleep, etc. You need to cultivate an environment to address that”. because of course that would require more than paying a “wellness consultant” to conduct a survey!

          2. MigraineMonth*

            When I go to the ones about diet, I play “nutrition myths” bingo. Thus far, I’ve won in every training.

            The worst was definitely when a panel of doctors decided to recommend a low-carb diet for weight loss. One doctor was so excited to be presenting in front of a huge audience that he started riffing about meat being a good source of protein and ended up recommending that we eat bacon for every meal.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          And it’s often more sinister than “well meaning but failing to grasp.” This setup, like all those “wellness” initiatives, seems more like an info grab to focus on which employees to boot. Whether because of “unhealthy” habits or those darn ol’ hormones, the setup as describes is the opposite of reassuring.

          1. Helen Waite*

            That’s my assumption, too. My workplace has those kinds of programs and I avoid them. Those ones don’t tell you what the program entails until you sign up, and the signup includes a long survey with intrusive lifestyle questions. I noped out fast.

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        even better, a forum where you don’t have to reveal your true identity, because most people go by their real name on Facebook and you don’t want your manager to see you participating in a group discussion.

    6. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      “Wait. You were in THAT meeting? I didn’t know you were that old!”
      Well, ya do now. What are you going to do with that information?
      “Oh, nothing, I mean, you look great. I was just saying, I never thought about you being that old before.”
      So glad you can now.

      1. emmelemm*

        Yeah, I’m not trying to *hide* the fact that I’m 50 from my colleagues, but I’d prefer not to remind them if I can help it.

        1. allathian*

          Early menopause (last period at 40-45) and premature menopause (last period before 40) affect about 12 percent of uterus-having people.

          Never mind that actual menopause is usually preceded by years of perimenopause. I still have more or less regular periods at nearly 52, but I’m certainly experiencing perimenopause with intermittent insomnia, night terrors, an inability to focus, and my issues with remembering names (that I’ve had all my life) have got worse. But no hot flashes yet, and I hope to avoid them. My mom had medical menopause at 50 when she got put on estrogen blockers to treat her breast cancer and she tells me that she only had one hot flash.

    7. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, part of inclusiveness is letting me decide what I want to share. I have multiple chronic conditions and I don’t usually want to go into detail. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed, just private. Trust me to assess my own health needs and give me as much PTO as I need to deal with it. (FWIW, my employer is good about this. We have unlimited sick time which also covers all medical appointments including preventative or routine care.)

      1. FatiguedStingray*

        Is your company hiring? Mine seems to be cutting all the things like that, and the workforce is heavily inclined towards people with various mental/physical issues.

    8. JSPA*

      I can see non-sharing, non-courage-requiring versions that would be helpful, eg advocating for,

      having cooler and warmer areas of the office; the right to open certain windows; modification of dress code; alcohol cooling wipes supplied; silent personal fans; normalization of fans for the presenting speaker; pre-presentation temperature check of meeing rooms; increased emphasis of general wellness such that people can step out for brief breaks as needed, etc etc

      1. Might Be Spam*

        I agree, these seem like good ideas for everyone, not just someone with a particular health condition. People have different overlapping needs and universal accessibility helps most people. For the most part, it’s a matter of thoughfulness and welcoming flexibility.

    9. tree frog*

      What I would want to talk about in this context is the discrimination I’ve witnessed and how we can make the workplace culture a place where people are supported if they’re dealing with health or life stuff.

      1. LW*

        Absolutely. Sadly I can’t see that happening. They are good about talking about how we’re supported, but not so good on the practicalities.

        1. Working Class Lady*

          LW, that’s because talk is cheap and makes for great optics.
          Real, actionable solutions generally require adequate pay, staffing, reasonable workloads and expectations, as well as built-in flexibility that allows people to comfortably take sick time if needed to address a personal or medical issue.
          In other words, not operating as cheaply as they can get away with just to make bigger profits.

    10. pope suburban*

      This has no place at work, I agree. Perhaps there might be some value in a therapeutic or health-care setting, but even then, through the lens of connecting with patients and/or making sure the needs of whatever therapeutic population are being heard and met. At a normal job, and even at many health care/therapeutic jobs, there is just no need for this. I’m getting really tired of this trend of bringing your “whole self” to work, and being expected to share personal details like this. Jobs can be jobs, okay, and it’s possible to have strong, positive collegial relationships without talking about your current medical needs or childhood trauma or whatever else. Plus the potential for inadvertent discrimination or outright deliberate abuse from sharing that kind of information is huge.

    11. Fives*

      I’ve talked to a few folks one-on-one about it, just kind of as a heads-up. (Turns out *everything* I had going on health-wise for the last few years was menopause, even weird stuff.) But no, I wouldn’t want to do some huge, public discussion on it.

      I do think there should be more education about it though. It’s so much more than hot flashes.

    12. I Have RBF*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t even want to discuss it with my agemates at work. It varies so much from person to person, and can be used as an excuse for misogyny quite readily: “Oh, RBF? She’s just menopausal, ignore her.” (I’m enby and use they/them pronouns.) I don’t even want to go there, quite frankly.

    13. Dragon_Dreamer*

      Unless it’s to quietly identify those old enough to undergo menopause. They’ve already been forcing out older employees, according to OP.

      I can see more than one company I’ve worked for thinking they’re being clever by doing this.

  3. Veryanon*

    It’s important to demystify menopause and normalize it! However, no, I don’t think talking about it at a company-sponsored forum is the best way to do that, especially given the points the OP mentioned about older workers being forced out. As a fellow woman in my 50’s, I wouldn’t be comfortable with that either.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      No professional facilitator. No guarantee of confidentiality. Nope, nope, nope.

      Company needs to hear from Inigo Montoya. You keep using that word, I don’t think you know what it really means.

      1. Pizza Rat*

        You nailed this perfectly.

        The way the situation is described? That skips, “Hell no!” and goes right to “F*** no!”

      2. Fikly*

        Another word companies keep using and then claiming they are actually that: transparent!

        Yeah, no. There’s a reason the question I always ask is: “Can you tell me a concrete action you’ve taken on the DEI front that has helped employees?”

        And then when they answer with fake DEI, I say, that sounds great, but can you tell me a concrete action? And then there’s an awkward silence.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I mean, they’re pretty transparent in this Wile E Coyote-esque scheme to identify and force out older female employees, but I don’t think they meant to be.

      3. Flax Dancer*

        Even a guarantee of confidentiality is only as good as the consequences that come with breaking it. If a clinician breaks the HIPAA laws, they can lose their license, their livelihood and their reputation. If a colleague in a “confidentiality guaranteed” meeting gossips about what they heard in that meeting, what are the legally-mandated consequences for doing so? None! So take those workplace-sponsored guarantees of confidentiality with a very large truckload of salt.

    2. OrigCassandra*

      Also in my 50s, also would nope all the way out of this.

      My colleagues simply do not need to know, and it will help me in exactly no way at all if they do.

    3. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

      Yes, lots of things can be valuable conversations for people to have but not all of those conversations should be happening at work. Mental health is another one we see a lot- super important but work shouldn’t be trying to be your therapist.

      I think the only way I could see it working would be a third party coming in to do an educational presentation on menopause, then possibly inviting people to speak without upper management present (or having upper management be the speakers- if an executive level woman shared her experience with menopause it could help destigmatize for other employees), but that still doesn’t prevent bias against older women in the workplace (because again if they mention symptoms of memory loss and fatigue, who’s to say that managers won’t start questioning the abilities of all their older female employees?). Some conversations just aren’t meant to be had at work.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Why is this suddenly a thing? One of our male senior leaders was voluntold just months ago that he was now a “menopause ambassador” for affected staff to reach out to, and sure he’s a nice guy to talk to, but it was a record scratch moment when it was announced. Luckily, due to open mockery, it’s gone by the wayside since then.

      1. ChattyDelle*

        WHAT???? As an older woman. the LAST person I want to talk to about menopause is a high level male manager!

      2. RagingADHD*

        Is that like a brand ambassador?

        Does he go around asking people if they’ve tried menopause lately, and touting its USP?

        Passing out free samples of Premarin?

      3. Ellis Bell*

        The announcement was literally greeted with open laughter; I don’t know what else they were expecting. All I really know is that another leader, one with enough clout to pretty much say anything, later made a joke at a big meeting about how you shouldn’t wander into our head’s office at the wrong moment “or you might end up being made menopause ambassador” which was how we found out about the voluntold element.

    5. goddessoftransitory*

      Tell me you want to get rid of older women without saying you want to get rid of older women.

      This has “this way to the egress” written all over it.

    6. Girasol*

      I wonder if it can be normalized. “Middle aged women reach menopause, which involves these peri symptoms, and may need such and such very minor accommodations.” Seems like if you have open minded flexible managers, they wouldn’t need to change their methods much, and if you have closed minded brittle managers, they would think, “Memo to self: don’t hire middle aged women, and get rid of the ones we have; they’re too complicated.” Professional facilitators can rarely open a closed mind. In a company where older people are already being shoved out, I’d do all I could to evade any discussion of the topic and definitely not share anything personal.

    7. Lana Kane*

      Right – we demistify these things as a society, not as employees. Ideally when, as a society, we demistify things, the benefits extend to different areas of our lives. It’s not like Cisco or Mom and Pop Corrugated Cardboard Inc are going to be demistifying societal issues. But it looks good to say you are! /s

    8. Susannah*

      It *is* normal, which is why i don’t like having some kumbaya at work with the middle-aged women.
      Being female is not a disease to be cured or dealt with. Do they have facilitators talk to them men about keeping their aggression hormones from interfering with their jobs?

  4. Observer*

    if I were to go and share that I fear menopause is affecting my energy levels and memory, and that happened to be overheard by a more senior manager, might it subconsciously influence that manager’s decision on whether to choose me to lead challenging projects in future?

    Given the rest of what you write, I would not be worrying about *subconscious* bias, but explicit bias.

    They tell on themselves by call these “courageous” conversations. If they were doing their jobs right, the conversations would not need “courage”. And they are lying – about valuing DEI and about these being safe spaces.

    How do I know? Because they are not having facilitators at these “conversations”; they are not doing the things that would actually promote DEI – and which are not necessarily high cost, so that’s not even an excuse; and they are doing things that may be illegal and *certainly* not congruent with DEI.

    You are not being paranoid at ALL.

      1. Jam on Toast*

        Exactly! If they had organized a nurse or menopause expert to come and speak about the impact that menopause can have on employees, or put together a training session for managers to offer strategies and concrete support for staff who might be impacted by this issue, or heck, even just a ‘Menopause 101’, with a basic outline of symptoms and how to get support from their EAP, that would be one thing. But expecting employees to voluntarily share vulnerable medical details about their own menstruation and hormones experiences just because something-something DEI? Nope, nope, nopetity nope!

    1. She of Many Hats*

      If you do decide to attend, the first question should be “In light of recent management-led ouster of older employees, how can we ensure a common medical condition caused by age and gender or other medical events will not be used against protected classes of employees?” If the panel continues, I’d advise attendees to keep the conversation focused strictly on accommodations most likely to benefit those experiencing hormone based medical conditions, not just menopause.

    2. LW*

      I think you’ve perfectly articulated why this made me nervous in the first place. What is the purpose of having the conversation in the first place if there is no one there who can affect policy and seemingly no will/desire to retain older employees.

      1. Gozer (She/Her)*

        You’ve got it right. It’s somebody’s checkbox somewhere where they can feel good about ‘diversity’ but not actually DO anything.

    3. tree frog*

      The framing of “courageous conversations” struck me as gross as well, since the company seems to want to force employees to be courageous ans vulnerable for their own PR reasons. This is in the same ballpark as those managers who want to open every meeting with a group therapy session.

  5. birb*

    We see SO MANY letters about poorly thought out, ineffective, or downright harmful DEI initiatives, or companies who want employees to share BEFORE the space is safe… what does DEI done right look like?

    1. Trotwood*

      Just for an example…my Fortune 500 company engaged an external company to conduct meticulously anonymized interviews and focus groups with different populations of employees (women, African Americans, Latinos, LGBT+, etc.) and produced a series of reports highlighting the pain points that members of these groups can feel in their careers that may go unnoticed. The reports were insightful and informative and didn’t involve anyone standing up in front of their management and talking about their individual experiences of marginalization. I think taking a somewhat bureaucratic approach is necessary to avoid putting too much pressure on (often minority) individuals to “solve things” for the majority.

      1. Cynic*

        The anonymity is really interesting here. I’m not sure that any of my employer’s surveys are really anonymous, especially when you account for all the demographic questions. In my cases those questions probably narrow my survey down to just a handful of people. I don’t think for most employers that anonymizing is a high priority, especially if they really want to know who’s saying what.

        1. A. Nonymous*

          I can only speak for myself and my company, but when my company says “anonymous,” it really is anonymous. I’ve been “behind the curtain” for initiatives like this and you can’t access the info.

        2. Heidi*

          My company does this too. It’s supposed to be anonymous, but there are questions about how big our departments are, and how many people share my role in my department, and how long I’ve been at my role. It wouldn’t be that difficult to figure out who people are.

          1. Lis*

            A place I worked (a multinational) it was an external company who collected and collated the results and nothing identifying was shared for groups less than a certain size. So if there are 2 people at a site in a specific job function general results would be shared for the total site (like overall satisfaction all functions) then people were included in stats for groups in the same roles over a number of sites in the same geographic area or same function or whatever.

        3. Caramel & Cheddar*

          Also most demographic questions are only truly anonymous if you happen to already have a lot of folks in that demographic. I remember after my company did a survey like this, one of my colleagues pointed out that she was one of two members in a specific demographic in the entire company, so it would be really easy to narrow down her answers if someone wanted to.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            So, DEI done right means that there are already a lot of diverse hires. And then you can have an anonymous survey to find and ease the pain points.

            1. saskia*

              DEI done right also includes changing hiring and retention practices so you get that diverse applicant pool and group of employees in the first place.

          2. Green beans*

            there are ways to annonymize that, if it’s handled by an external company. you can, for instance, provide only aggregate data but pull out relevant points without connecting to a particular response or experience.

            you do lose some of the data’s richness but it is still quite valuable.

        4. Cyndi*

          I never answered the “anonymous” annual employee satisfaction survey at my old job because you had to enter your employee number at the beginning. They could at least pretend better?

        5. Trotwood*

          We have other surveys (general employee satisfaction stuff) that are “anonymous” but your written words get collected and seen by your manager, so if you write anything too specific you could be identified. But for these DEI reports, the third party was completely responsible for collecting the individual data and aggregating it into themes (i.e. “many women reported being passed over for opportunities based on assumptions about their commitments to their families”). Our company management never saw any of the individual data. Obviously this is easier in a company with thousands of employees than in one where you might be one of a single-digit number of members of your minority group.

        6. Girasol*

          This. I’ve been a member of IT, where the population is typically rather skewed to whites and men. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard of anonymous employee survey results mentioning either diversity in general or women’s experience in particular discussed among coworkers as “It was either Mary or Alice.” “Yeah, Alice, you know it was her!” It hardly mattered whether the managers had received the feedback as technically anonymous or not. The person who was thought to have written an unpopular opinion would be judged, even if the feedback actually came from someone else.

        7. Quill*

          The fact that it’s an outside company that has the info is probably your best bet. Competently done surveying will understand how to frame results so they’re not trackable.

          Got 50 employees from non-christian religions? “There’s been concern that it’s harder to get time off for non christian religious observances” doesn’t tell you which employee found this difficult. But if there’s only like five, you might chose to present it more generally, as in “People find it difficult to schedule time off outside of federal holidays and the december holiday season”

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      So I am by no means stating that our company is doing it right (I think those most in need of those initiatives should make that call) but to give an example of another way this can look:

      My organization has a DEIA committee that has been specifically curated to ensure multiple voices/points of view are given a spot at the table (I’m not on the committee myself, but the one area I do think they are lacking is in the accessibility side of things, though I also think they are aware of that blind spot).

      They grade our organization with an annual report card focused on multiple areas of our EDIA commitment. These grades are presented to all staff, highlighting both areas of improvement as well as areas in which we continue struggle, and are also posted on our organization’s website to allow our community to also continue holding us accountable on our goals.

      In addition, our organization has hired outside help to hold workshops with staff about combating our inner biases (which we ALL have) and steps we can take both personally and as a member of our organization to move forward toward our EDIA goals. We also have a staff member who’s job is partially to serve as an advocate for issues that may stem from EDIA conflicts and to help other staff find solutions to those problems.

      Again, not saying there isn’t more than can (and should!) be done, but I think the most important thing is making sure you’ve got a diversity in those leading these efforts (even if it means hiring outside help) and actually creating metrics for what success will look like.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      This was only a first step, but they did a comprehensive salary review across all locations and departments with the help of an external auditor. They looked at seniority of men and women and calculated the pay gap. The results were:
      – overall the average woman made less than the average man due to seniority and role
      – for men and women at equal levels and roles, they made the same amount
      – the most senior women were all in HR
      – in the tech/engineering departments, there were no women above a medium level of seniority

      This helped us identify that *recruiting* women in the engineering department was working, but *retaining* them wasn’t.

      Note: none of this was broken down by race bc most employees are in Europe & so that data wasn’t collected

      1. BubbleTea*

        I’m intrigued by the idea that being in Europe means race isn’t relevant. That… has not been my experience of Europe.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          There was some interesting discussion about race in Europe on the recent “my coworker blamed me for not being offended enough by a racist comment toward me” letter from January 31, 2024. My understanding (as a USian) is that race is relevant in many/all European countries but discussions about race or race-based data collection are different or don’t happen at all (in some countries).

          Links to two of the comments on the “coworker blamed me for not being offended” to follow.

          1. Tau*

            Speaking as someone from Germany, I think here one of the things that’s going on is that sorting human beings into strict categories based on something purportedly genetic has, uh, unfortunate historical echoes. So any sort of survey involving “tick a race: white, black, Asian, etc.” would raise a *lot* of hackles. The closest equivalent is probably the collection and analysis of data regarding, translated, “people with a background of migration” (generally noncitizens or where the person or recent ancestor – I think it goes back to the parent? – was not born with German citizenship). I’m assuming some data collection and analysis is also done based on what geographic region the person or a parent was from was from.

            Different European countries are different, though – when I was living in the UK in the early 2010s, there was a census asking for race. (Not the same categories as the US, mind you).

      2. birb*

        I feel like starting with a comprehensive salary review and actually addressing those issues FIRST definitely makes it feel like the company is taking it seriously and is acting in good faith. I honestly don’t think I could take any DEI effort seriously that DOESN’T start with righting pay wrongs.

    4. Jane Anonsten*

      I work for a utility that has several employee resource groups, as well as a DEI department. One thing that the ERG for disabled employees championed and successfully implemented with the DEI department was that every video and LMS course has professional captioning and transcripts.

    5. mreasy*

      Engaging external analysts, expanding recruitment channels, removing college degree requirements when experience is the real indicator of success, funding ERGs, actually hiring more BIPOC folks.

        1. Bumblebee*

          @mreasy didn’t say no degrees at all, just not where necessary. I can see where requiring degrees becomes an exercise in gatekeeping, and leads to the “everyone must go to college” mentality, when not everyone really needs to, or is happy, or does well in college. This is one reason we have a student loan crisis. We are now going down the road of “everyone must have a masters degree,” as I have personally witnessed; I for one have a couple very unhappy people in a class I’m teaching who neither want nor truly need the degree it’s for but are being told they must because of a “higher degrees initiative.”

        2. kt*

          “when experience is the real indicator of success”

          I know a healthcare org that requires a college degree to answer the phone or make phone calls and schedule appointments for folks. Not do triage, not provide healthcare, just literally call someone up after their physical to schedule a follow-up with a podiatrist, for instance.

          There’s a reason they can’t hire schedulers. And yes, it also disproportionately impacts demographic groups, without any benefit. Removing the college degree requirement would allow plenty of prospects to be interviewed and assessed on, oh, how well they actually talk with people and follow procedures.

          1. Cedrus Libani*

            Agreed. I’m in biotech, which has a vicious case of that. The most talented boss I ever worked for “only” had a Masters, and even he couldn’t make it work long-term; he has a PhD now, which he didn’t want or need apart from the credential.

            You’ll see people who can’t go back to school for privilege reasons stay as career technicians on paper, except they’re “allowed” to work at a much higher level because they’ve proven they can. They’re expected to be grateful for this. If they tried to get hired elsewhere, they’d have to go back to scrubbing incubators or whatever the actual job description says. It’s exploitative and gross and I don’t like it.

            1. Quill*

              Yeah, I’m a young enough millennial that I missed the window on not only an actual career in STEM with “only” a bachelor’s degree, but stable long term employment. It really feels like companies consider everything but their highest echelons to be permanently entry level positions, and that management, research, and everything that pays a living wage to be reserved for people who already have a degree of financial privilege.

              They need experienced people in the lab and in documentation but they don’t want to pay anyone more than what they could get any fresh graduate for a decade ago.

          2. Quill*

            As someone in a field where the same job title and duties varies wildly in whether a company thinks it requires a degree, I support the degree requirement removal where appropriate, but unfortunately it tends to come with companies offering even worse pay. Companies that think not requiring a degree to do QC, scheduling, or other tech / assistant roles means they can get away with paying those roles even less have featured really prominently in my most recent job search.

        3. ArtsNerd*

          A degree is necessary to be a medical doctor, probably also something like a civil engineer. But exceedingly few professions are taught in a classroom setting at all, and fewer still *exclusively* in a classroom setting without opportunities to acquire the skills in other ways.

          I have a masters degree and quietly remove the degree requirements whenever I’m in a position to hire. I care if you can write/design/code/problem-solve/run a department/adjust insurance/whatever I’m actually hiring for… whether or not you went to school for it.

        4. L*

          Something like a software developer doesn’t require a degree to be good at their job! Especially because there are no field-specific certifications or laws you need to know about building software. There are definitely professions where a degree should be mandatory, but a lot of places just use them as a filtering tool.

    6. saskia*

      In my old (small) company’s case, one of the important ones was hiring a diverse staff and committing to training. We trained people with no experience, so if you could pass the initial screening tests and had a relatively fine interview, you would typically be hired. When edge cases happened where people got just below the minimum test score but showed enthusiasm, interviewed well or seemed dedicated, we would often make a judgment call to hire them anyway. (Same thing with good test scores but slightly unprofessional/unpolished interviews. For example, at a lot of companies, being, say, black and having an unpolished interview might get you labeled ‘not a culture fit.’ We would take a chance on the person instead.)

      Then we committed to training and gave everyone a review X number of months in to discuss their progress. Then they had another month post-review to fix any issues. This created a more level playing field. All sorts of different types of people began getting promoted and moving up the pipeline, thus filling out the company with a more diverse staff and eventually leaders. So you also have to commit to hire from within and mentor people into those types of roles once you have diversity in staff positions.

      My original boss, who did the hiring, had an open-door policy and made an effort to get to know each employee, checking in on them regularly. She was just very hands-on. I think DEI initiatives are great, as is management training, as is all mandated training. But engagement and actual care is one of the most important aspects to me. You can hire to metrics (and should absolutely be keeping track of your metrics), but does that matter when layoffs come and all the ‘diverse’ people are the first ones cut? Every leader in the company needs to care about DEI, or else the initiatives will always be lacking because there’s no juice behind them.

      I live in one of the U.S.’s most diverse states, so I didn’t really notice this going on when I was at my old company. But once we were acquired and hiring responsibility was moved to an HR team, the diversity of the candidates and staff went waaaaaaaaaaaaay down. It was shocking.

    7. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I don’t know what it looks like when done right, but I do think that the first question for any DEI initiative should be: how are the people with the least amount of institutional power in the company impacted by this? If it’s going to disproportionately impact those people in a negative way, then maybe that’s a clue you shouldn’t do it.

    8. AceInPlainSight*

      This is a complicated one, and I’m not sure it’s quite right, but: I’ve been job hunting recently in the US, and every application form has you fill out the EEOC forms preemptively, including ticking your gender. Some of them include NB alongside M, F, and ‘Choose not to respond,’ even though they don’t have to. I’m cis, but it seems like this at least indicates that the company is open to NB folks, and is at least better than the alternative of leaving it as just M or F, even if it makes that particular calculation that much more complicated. It’s a small, form DEI thing, but it’s a start

    9. Chickadee*

      Data is a big part of it. Is pay equitable? Is the company diverse, and does that diversity extend to the top? Are underrepresented groups not just being hired, but retained and promoted? And if the answer to any question is no, what’s the source of the problem and what is being done to fix it?

      A zero tolerance policy for discrimination/harassment and solid training on how to identify/report discrimination/harassment is also helpful. I was pleasantly surprised by how comprehensive and helpful my org’s sexual harassment training was. (There was a big emphasis on unconscious bias and what to do as a bystander.)

    10. ArtsNerd*

      The absolute bottom line requirement is leadership that actually gets it.

      You can’t sprinkle DEI on top of an existing company and expect it to do anything but slough off. Everyone from the Board of Directors down to middle management needs to be willing to update their worldviews as well as their policies on an ongoing basis as they learn more about the variety of strengths and needs people with different experiences bring to their staff/community.

      It requires a flexibility in hiring requirements, and expansive idea of what constitutes “professional”, a clear understanding of what’s an actual business need vs. what’s someone’s personal preference, etc. Workshops and education can support DEI work in terms of deepening understanding of topics… but the actual DEI work is in the structure and operations of the workplace.

    11. Karma is My Boyfriend and so is Travis Kelce*

      Alison actually has quite a few articles from DEI experts on this:

      “how companies can build more equitable workplaces … and what’s getting in the way”

      “your culture does not include everyone … or what employers need to do for racial equity”

  6. Siege*

    The idea that sharing one’s personal experience on a medical topic promotes ending shame and stigma reeks heavily of “now that I have a daughter, I understand women are people”. Even aside from all the ways this is not a safe thing to participate in, a committees organization can build empathy, safety, and better practices around menstruation/menopause without an individual person needing to talk about their specific experience. This is neither safe nor necessary.

    1. Ink*

      Yeah, sharing this stuff CAN reduce stigma, but I don’t think that really happens if it isn’t voluntary and usually led by those affected. Work means there’s always competing pressure to speak up and to fear discrimination, so… not a great place for things like this!

      The irony being that being a safe enough place for participation to feel voluntary and positive usually means having the awareness not to set things up so clumsily :/

  7. too many dogs*

    If my company wanted to have a “courageous conversation” about time management, or handling difficult people, I’d be all for it. I have no interest in discussing what is a health issue with my coworkers. I must also ask, for the sake of their “inclusivity”: will men be allowed to participate and discuss depression, loss of energy, and other things that come with male menopause?

    1. kupo*

      Androgyn decline, while similar in some ways, is not a type of menopause, so I fail to see how this isn’t inclusive. If it was a workshop on diabetes would you be asking for inclusivity to discuss diseases of other glands?

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        On one hand, you’re entirely correct. On the other, holding a discussion solely on the problems of menopause reinforces the idea that only women experience hormone-related problems that make us worse employees, so not including comparable problems that effect men is a terrible idea from that perspective. (If the company wants to be extra inclusive, they can paint a target on the backs of trans men and afab nonbinary people, too!)

    2. WellRed*

      Please don’t denigrate the very real symptoms many experience with peri/menopause just to try and prove… something.

    3. All About That Smallmouth Bass*

      This is like the letter from the man who was upset he couldn’t participate in the women’s mentoring group. Not everything is for or about men!

    4. Indolent Libertine*

      Must you? Nah. This just reeks of “well, since those mean ladies made it so we can’t have the company-sponsored men-only golf or strip club outings any more, then by gum I’m gonna make sure there can never, ever be anything that happens at work that’s just for women because it’s not fair, boo-hoo.”

      Come back when we get to the point where there’s a long history of men being discriminated against in the workplace.

    5. ThatOtherClare*

      Allowed? I say sure, go for it! I’d be very happy to see a man join the discussion circle to share about his androgen decline at a menopause workshop, so long as it was in a “I can relate! Isn’t hormonal brain fog annoying? Want to swap strategies?” way and not a “What about meee? It isn’t fair!” way, and he didn’t dominate the conversation.

      But as you see from Alison’s reply and many of the comments, doing so comes with far more risks than benefits. I highly doubt many men would want to join, considering the potential for reputational damage.

  8. A. Nonymous*

    I can actually speak to this quite a bit — DO IT.

    I am the assistant to a woman who acts as Global Chair for our company DEI Council & as a managing director and Global Head of an entire analytical team. We had a Women’s Network call on menopause back in October, and the women’s network asked her to open the call with her own experiences with menopause.

    Her speaking got the ball rolling for other women in the meeting (about 200, if my memory serves) to share about their experiences of menopause and not feel ashamed about it. She got 7 emails (I went back to check!) from women in our company who said how much it meant to them that she spoke so openly and encouraged others to do the same. ERG engagement, and especially engagement with the Women’s Group, *shot* up after this call — three figures of new joiners and a marked uptick in DEI meetings among senior leadership, which then lead to wider spreading DEI initiatives across the company.


    **obfuscated a bit for anonymity, but I cannot stress enough how much good came as a direct result of one woman sharing her experience. If you can, share.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I think your boss’ job title and role are why she was successful here, as someone in a leadership position sharing is quite a bit different than your average colleague sharing, both in terms of comfort in sharing and potential blow back.

    2. Siege*

      So even in an organization forcing older workers out and all the other signs of unseriousness in this org’s DEI efforts, your advice is to share?

    3. Juicebox Hero*

      That’s good, but the huge, major, giant, flashing, gigantic distinction is that a woman who was already high up in your organization got the ball rolling. She was too senior and valuable to be touched. Of course other women felt safe confiding in her; since she was the one who started it she could be counted on to protect them from blowback.

      It’s different for LW, where there is already evidence of discrimination with the older employees being pushed out and no guarantee that someone senior to her will protect her.

      My assessment is that it’s highly likely that the company will just say “We did the thing! Yay us!” and nothing comes of it, good or bad; sorta likely that those who speak up will face some kind of conscious or unconscious prejudice; and a vanishingly slim chance that it will do something good. Not worth the risk in my opinion.

    4. Saturday*

      I just want to point out that if someone doesn’t talk about something at work, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re “ashamed.”

      There are a lot of things I don’t talk about at work, but a desire for privacy can be perfectly healthy and is not the same as shame.

      1. Siege*

        Seriously. I don’t discuss bedroom activities at work. That doesn’t mean I’m ashamed of them, it means they’re private.

    5. Clisby*

      What if her experience had been the same as mine? I had no idea I had gone through menopause until my doctor did a hormone check just to be sure before removing my IUD.

      If I had been a high-level exec talking about individual menopause experience, would it really have done any good for me to stand up in front of a group and say, “Hey – no big deal.”

    6. RagingADHD*

      Does your organization have a recent history of targeting and forcing out older workers? That really makes a difference.

      1. A. Nonymous*

        Ehhhh kind of hard to say — there is an initiative with LTIP for more senior team members to retire in order to create room for the next generation (this is a problem specific to my company, though), but that’s not how it’s presented. I can only speak for my company but people staying a very long time in senior positions (causing a exodus of skilled junior teammates) has been a concern for a few years.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      I imagine there must have been good general policies and practices in place for people in this situation too. No matter how inspirational or senior a woman may be, I’m never going to speak up in a company that’s forcing people to retire early, or which is passive about sexism, or which pressurises people for being ill. I think this kind of thing can be a nice cherry on the top, but when people are being asked to be “courageous”, they’re going to think about how safe they are generally. Words are nice, but actions talk louder.

    8. Roland*

      What are some of these other DEI initiatives? Are they just more things that get people engaging with ERGs or has there been any measurable improvement of DEI metrics? ERG engagement isn’t in and of itself peogress or a benefit, it’s pretty neutral.

    9. learnedthehardway*

      Well, that’s a great boost for the women’s group, but how does it affect the way that particular Executive is viewed by her own managers? Does the board now wonder whether she’s reliable or not? Does the CEO think, “Huh – Jane mentioned X. I wonder if that is going to affect her mental sharpness or decision making skills?” (Not that menopause does this, but people interpret things.)

      I think it was inappropriate of the women’s group to request her participation.

      1. A. Nonymous*

        Favorably, as a good leader. I realize my company appears to be an anomaly but I think I have a pretty good perspective on whether or not it benefitted her/the company.

      2. Jessica Clubber Lang*

        I don’t see why it was inappropriate. If she didn’t want participate to she didn’t have to.

        It doesn’t mean every company will be as good about these things as a.nonymous’, but no need to try and poke holes in a good outcome

  9. Gigi*

    This is the first I’ve heard of a workplace workshop discussing menopause. I could see it in connection to more general topics like ageism/seniors in the workplace or something with menstruation sick days, PMD, perimenopause and menopause – but just alone?

    1. Distracted Procrastinator*

      A few months ago, an organization that provides certifications in a very male dominated industry sent out a newsletter announcing they would have a webinar about supporting menopausal women at work. It was more “this is what managers can do to be supportive” in tone, but it was still very, very tone deaf. It read more like they were throwing darts at a board labeled “women stuff” when trying to come up with a topic.

      I a member of the organization, currently work in the associated industry, and have a certification from them. I am a woman going through menopause. I did not attend the webinar.

      1. Despachito*

        I would absolutely HATE anybody wanting to “support me as a menopausal woman”. I think I would probably get fired for telling them where exactly they can stuff these awful labels.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        I hope that it was pointed out in no uncertain terms just how tone deaf the communication was, and how it just promotes discrimination.

        Because seriously – ANY physical change can affect a person. Would it not be FAR more equitable to discuss “supporting workers experiencing health and physical issues”?

    2. Emily Byrd Starr*

      Most women hit menopause in their forties or fifties, so they aren’t senior citizens yet. Senior citizens are 65 and older.

  10. Sassparilla*

    Everything is all rainbows and unicorns with me!

    There is no way I would discuss my personal experience with menopause with coworkers in any setting.

  11. MsSolo (UK)*

    My organisation has been pretty good about menopause awareness, but a large chunk of the campaign is focused on the accommodations you can claim, like flexing your working hours, software to help with task tracking, having a fan provided, applying to work from home more often etc. There are facilitated discussions amongst people experience menopause as well, and it is clear from those that some managers are following the guidance and others are holding disclosures against staff (facilitators provide information on how to report your manager if you feel you’re being discriminated against, as well), so it’s not perfect, but it’s in line with other DEI initiatives. Like most of the DEI workshops here, the most useful aspect is finding out who the designated members of staff are that you can approach to find out your options, get support with exercising them, or vent to knowing they won’t tell your manager.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      I should add, the actual benefit to the organisation is reducing attrition of long serving staff with significant institutional knowledge due to the menopause interfering with their ability to work at the level they did previously. Recruitment is a lot more expensive than accommodations!

      1. Geeyourhairsmellsterrific*

        Sounds amazing and unusual! What type of an organization is it? Private, public, small, large, profit, non-profit, etc.??

  12. Jessica Clubber Lang*

    Is the topic about ageism in general, or is it really just about menopause only? I could see the benefit in a discussion of the former, but if it’s really only to share stories about menopause, that just sounds bizarre.

    1. LW*

      The topic is strictly menopause. I have never seen any acknowledgment of ageism in my workplace, but it does seem to be in force. There have been quite a few “retirements” lately of people not quite old enough to retire.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        How much should I bet that the “retirees” were mostly female-presenting?

        And speaking of, I can’t imagine being a trans woman and being expected to courageously share my menopause journey…

        1. a trans person*

          FWIW, I started feminizing hormones in my mid-30s, I’m in my early 40s now, and menopause is something I’m seriously considering. I could choose to discontinue hormones when I’m ~50 and experience a pretty normal menopause. Current medical guidance is a big shrug emoji, so I’m going off my feelings, and I’m feeling that I want to experience menopause.

          OTOH, I’m also over 40, so I’m all on board with the ageism concerns!

          1. Siege*

            One of my trans colleagues was pretty pleased she experienced menopause. She described it as feeling very affirming.

  13. CommanderBanana*

    My company is heavily promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) right now, but it’s through low-cost initiatives, like workshops, employee training, and the like. They haven’t taken concrete steps like pay transparency or strong HR support for those with DEI needs, and I’ve seen quite a few older colleagues forced out in the last few months.

    Yeah, no. This is lip service. I wouldn’t touch this with a ten foot pole. My last (horrible) org did similar things, like hiring a DEI position and then sabotaging anything she tried to do, or putting up posters about diversity and then retaliating against employees who did stuff like point out that required all-staff events shouldn’t be scheduled on Yom Kippur or report being sexually assaulted at this company’s events.

    1. ferrina*

      Exactly. They claim they are supporting DEIJ, but won’t put their money where their mouth is. They aren’t going for salary transparency because they benefit from the current opaqueness. They aren’t ensuring people’s safety in their efforts, which completely ignores the whole reason why DEIJ efforts are necessary (yah know, the discrimination in both large and small ways, making certain spaces uncomfortable for certain groups and just “coincidentally” having similar people slotted into similar roles). It’s very easy to hire a DEIJ consultant and/or moderator to ensure that they are taking steps to do the thing right.

      Another good call out from OP:
      The message about it says it will be “a safe space that is inclusive and supportive” and “an informal discussion among peers.”
      Yep, this is a red flag. These two statements are contradictory. I’m a trained moderator and have experience creating safe spaces. Safe spaces don’t magically happen. We spend a lot of time setting ground rules and expectations. We have experienced, trained moderators who are there to enforce the rules in a way that provides maximum consideration for all involved. It’s not stuffy, but it definitely isn’t “informal”. You also need a neutral party (i.e., not a peer) who can help redirect conversation and whose only skin in the game is to ensure that the conversation follows the ground rules- who doesn’t need to worry about “if I say the wrong thing, will my coworker ice me out of this project?”

      1. LW*

        Yes, exactly this. I considered going and trying to make a case that some of our corporate policies are harmful to women in general and particularly older women (pay inequity, below-average benefits, lack of HR support and the like). But, I don’t want to be disruptive or assertive with a peer in a position to impact my career path.

    2. Colette*

      Do you work where I work? I hate to think this is happening at more than one organization (though I suspect it is).

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Gosh, I hope not – I left about a year ago. That place was a trash pile. If you work at an org on the East Coast whose executive director is one of the most highly paid association EDs ever, to the tune of nearly $1 million a year at a nonprofit, then you might!

  14. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LOL, an employer that wants me to state, out in the open, to multiple people, “Yeah, so as I’ve been going through menopause my symptoms include forgetfulness, brain fog, fatigue, mood swings, and crankiness bordering on blind rage that my PMS never approached.”

    What does my next performance review look like? And how long before I’m included in the next round of layoffs since, at my age and experience, I’m more expensive than the newer hires? Cripes.

    1. Some Words*

      I don’t see anything unrealistic in your post. That’s exactly where my brain went first. It seems foolish to share information (ammunition) like this with one’s employer.

      Just how have all the levels of management become educated on this topic? If the answer is “they haven’t”, that’s something to keep in mind.

      It’s just a bad idea for the workplace. Important topic, unsafe venue.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        It’s the equivalent of being told one is a bad sport for not loading the guns for your firing squad.

    2. ferrina*


      I’m ADHD, and this is why I’m reluctant to disclose at work. “I’m forgetful” means that when I don’t answer an email when someone wants, it’s an immediate mark against me. My diagnosis becomes an admission of guilt.
      Never mind that I’m so concerned about my forgetfulness, I have back-up systems to my back-up systems so it ends up being more consistent than most neurotypical people.

    3. Busy Middle Manager*

      Agreed! I had some of these symptoms last week due to another health issue, and so caught up on work on Saturday when I was more alert.

      Which raises the question, why does this need to exclusively be about one health condition, if the focus is on the symptoms?

      And what is the takeaway? In my case, I just caught up on work outside of work. No outside party can really help me with that or decide whether it’s good or bad or how it should have worked. Only I could decide that.

    1. Despachito*

      First of all, this kind of conversation should NEVER EVER happen at the workplace.

      It is so cringeworthy I can’t even. I am not interested in other people’s menopause, I feel absolutely no need to talk about mine. And IF I were interested, I would find a different forum than WORKPLACE.

  15. Anon for this*

    My employer has also started promoting DEI and is in the early talks of setting up workshops. I’m trying very hard to not act as unenthused as I feel, because like… I strongly agree with everything DEI SAYS, but at the same time, they’re saying their goal is to work to become one of the best employers ever, through DEI. We aren’t going to become one of the best employers ever, because our HR department is under the impression that LinkedIn and Indeed aren’t accurate salary information sites, and as a reault, we’re horribly underpaid compared to industry averages. The DEI program feels like sprinkling glitter on a pile of mud. It might sparkle… but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a pile of mud.

  16. Cynic*

    It seems to me that company stated ethics are often in lieu of, and sometimes in direct opposition to, action. Employers have many lofty goals (transparency, integrity, etc.) but often they’re for the employee and rather ignored by the organization itself, especially if money or liability are involved.

  17. Jam Today*

    What, you don’t want to get up and discuss vaginal dryness with your colleagues who you will then go into a conference room and discuss the FY2025 budget with? Pshhh!

  18. Anon for this*

    I’m an older woman in a younger-skewing company and I don’t want anyone discussing menopause at work. I am lucky: I’m NOT experiencing symptoms. But I’ve got gray hair so if people at work are going to discuss symptoms, they will be assigned to me. Why? Because *work places discriminate against women.* They do. So play defense.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      My defense for THAT would be simple:

      I’ve had grey hairs, significant numbers, since the day I was born.

    2. ThatOtherClare*

      This is a great point. My mother had an early and abrupt menopause. She had her last period at 41, and the next month – nothing. No perimenopause, no symptoms (also no HRT from her doctor, which she and I are still mad about). Everything just switched off 20ish years ago and she continued on as normal.

      Any workplace discussions of menopause would almost certainly have tried to drag her in, and any attempt at excusing herself would have been seen as ‘being in denial’ unless she went invasively far into the personal details. Being considered ‘delusional about your menopause’ by colleagues isn’t exactly empowering.

  19. RunShaker*

    I’m a woman in my early 50s….(but blessed to look like I’m late 40s) based on some of the things you pointed out, I would NOT share either on any part of topic. I would be worried about age discrimination and all other factor’s Alison named. Even if your company was making serious changes, I wouldn’t share due to unconscious bias. I’ve worked on few DEI measures in past at my old company but I feel too new at my current company. I’m still feeling out the overall culture around DEI. I’ve noticed some DEI initiatives are embraced more than others.

  20. Always Bring Pickles to a Potluck*

    I’m going through perimenopause and I don’t have a problem bringing up aspects of it with coworkers but… this sounds problematic. Most I’d be willing to share is that people need to be allowed to have personal fans at their desks and convenient and unrestricted bathroom access. (And the latter is important for so much more than just menopause.)

  21. Ex-prof*

    The whole reason we don’t have to, and usually shouldn’t, tell medical stuff to our employers is that this is a recognized unsafe space. So for them to declare it safe seems a bit obtuse on their part.

    1. ferrina*

      Yeah, simply declaring a space “safe” doesn’t make it so. This isn’t a group of 5-year-olds playing tag– you can’t just say “base!” and be free from repercussions.

      Though can you imagine….walking into a job interview and saying “safe space!” and not needing to worry that you aren’t making enough eye contact, or that your interviewer has judged your dreadlocks, or whether your clothes are ‘feminine’ enough? Just being able to be judged on the merits of your skills and experience? Not worrying about conscious or unconscious bias, stigmas or sexist/racist/all the ists assumptions, just because you said “safe space”?

  22. Sparkles McFadden*

    You are not being paranoid. Do not get involved with this! Unconscious bias is real (and there’s plenty of conscious bias around too). People will deal with you differently if they hear you talking about fuzzy thinking, or any health-related issue. It’s especially bad for women as we are already seen as weak and overly emotional. Don’t give anyone any additional information that could be used against you.

    1. Anon for this*

      I agree, I had to struggle with a lot of overt and covert bias when I returned to work after a serious illness and the company thought I would retire. I didn’t, but quickly learned to not ever, ever talk about any health issues. There is absolutely no training or advancement for me.

  23. New Mom (of 1 6/9)*

    > at some point “inclusive” and “safe” end up at odds with each other

    Great observation, Alison. Reminds me of the Popper paradox.

    1. Dr. Doll*

      I appreciated this too. It’s not often stated, but it IS true that unless huge effort and thought goes into making a diverse community actively safe for everyone, it’s gonna be “safer” if we’re all more “alike” than different.

      That’s why I am soooo skeptical of a particular initiative on my campus for “psychological safety” for our extremely racially and ethnically diverse student body with a faculty that is still enormously white-male-skewed.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      Came in here to appreciate this exact observation. There’s so much very important nuance to DEI work that gets lost in the mainstreaming of it.

      Another thing I find myself pointing out a lot is that nothing is universally accessible to people of all abilities. Conflicting accessibility needs are a common enough thing that when I hear people blithely conflating best practices with true accessibility, it tells me they have limited experience with disability in practice.

    3. ferrina*

      That’s why DEIJ doesn’t stop at Inclusive. You don’t have to be inclusive of a**h***s. That’s the Justice part. Justice means being accountable for your actions.

      Safe spaces can play a significant role in justice, specifically restorative justice. Safe spaces usually are designed for a specific population or a group that comes together to discuss a specific thing. It has ground rules for expectations- for example, an LGBTQ+ safe space won’t tolerate homophobia. That’s what makes it safe. Safe space doesn’t mean “say what you want without repercussion”- it means “this is an intentional community that sets ground rules of respect and expectations of listening, with the goal of ensuring that our community can speak their truth without fear of discrimination or harm, and we engage in discussion with the goal of understanding and/or compassion toward our community.” Note that this goal isn’t inclusive of everyone, because Popper’s paradox- generally people who love trolling or playing devil’s advocate should seek their community elsewhere (unless they are in a troll safe space).
      This is also why it is so, so important to have someone that is educated and experienced in DEIJ helping to guide true DEIJ initiatives. Discrimination is a problem going back thousands of years- if we could fix it with happy thoughts, it would already be solved. Like any other field, this is something where there are experts and those experts bring a lot of value to the table.

    4. Gyroscope*

      Yes, I’ve never seen it stated this way before, and I also really appreciate the concept. It makes some things click for me that have confused me in the past.

    5. ThatOtherClare*

      Unpopular opinion: is Popper’s paradox really a problem? I don’t think so.

      I don’t tolerate bigotry. I also don’t tolerate people stealing from my purse. No issues there.

      If we’re looking at speech specifically, well, we don’t usually tolerate any speech that incites harm, intolerant or otherwise. If somebody said “Hey you should go and pinch Clare because it’s funny when she cries”, that’s not intolerant speech but we still don’t tolerate it. I’d be terrified out of my wits living in a tolerant society. Give me a compassionate, co-operative, empathetic society any day.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        I share your opinion. I’ve tolerance to the point of absurdidity play out, on a messageboard dedicated to the free exchange of ideas, that used to be pretty popular and full of intelligent people from all walks of life. Then a poster admitted to being a pedophile – as in he believed children as young as FOUR were capable of informed consent and that was one of the least disgusting things he said.

        Board administration refused to ban him because he hadn’t *admitted* to molesting a child, and we need to understaaaaaaaand people like that and learn why they are how they are. The majority opinion was that no, we don’t want or need to know, and for months fights went on between the members and the admins, who refused to budge.

        They did eventually ban him after a while, but the damage had been done – a lot of popular, respected posters left in disgust.

        Unfortunately the board didn’t learn from this and it’s gone from a thriving community in the 00s to a refuge for MRAs, miscellaneous bigots, conspiracy theorists, and political extremists having the same old arguments at each other ad nauseum.

  24. DramaQ*

    Nope nope nope HELL nope. No way am I giving anyone any ammo to use against me in regards to my performance. No matter how open they claim they are it will be used against you. I learned that with my struggles last year with my mother dying, my husband’s mother dying and having to deal with putting my grandma in a home. I was honest about how I was struggling and they said they understood. Guess what was brought up in my next performance review? I was raked over the coals because personal things are “no excuse” to not be at 100% peak performance. You think I am going to let them know that anywhere between 45-60+ that I could be having menopausal symptoms that can bleed into my work? Nope nope nope. Keep mental health and physical health quiet unless it is something that you can be protected for like under FMLA and even then I am cautious because *I* would have to make the case they based my performance on that. Work is NOT a safe space for these kinds of discussions no matter how much they insist it is. Nothing at work is every truly anoymous.

  25. Statler von Waldorf*

    Is it ever safe to share medical information at work that could be used as ammo by bad actors to discriminate against you? Short version, no.

    Long version, noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

    1. Coffee Protein Drink*

      In IT, we’re big on the concept of staff having the “minimum necessary” access to do what they need to do. That principle applies here too.

      I’ll share medical information if I need a doctor’s note per policy, otherwise, I’m noping out.

      1. Gozer (She/Her)*

        Agreed. I’ll set you up with the right access to do your job but there’s no way in hell I’m giving you administrator rights to the entire system just so you can be ‘open and share’.

  26. BellyButton*

    No, don’t do it! I am in people/ leadership development, I am qualified to lead/teach DEI initiatives and there is no way this kind of discussion should be part of work. This isn’t the kind of corporate thing DEI is about. Now, there can be an employee resource group for women – where they bring in an expert in menopause to discuss it- because that would be offering women professional information that can lead to better health and wellbeing. But to have an unfacilitated open discussion about what employees are experiencing– uh no. It does lead to unconscious bias, it does lead to age discrimination.
    As women, we already have enough to battle- too young, now we’re too old, we must be on our period, we must be going through menopause and have THE rage. I am not inviting that sort of scrutiny of my health/mental health.

    1. BellyButton*

      PS – I do have rage, but trust me, it isn’t because of the menopause. It is because of this kind of BS. :)

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Yep. It’s got nothing to do with the state of my uterus; it’s the state of this bullshit.

  27. Dollars to Donuts*

    “ Frankly, I’d argue work isn’t well-equipped to provide safe spaces anyway.”

    Tell me more, Alison! I would love to hear your thoughts on this, since there are so many workplaces that really strive to create safe spaces and fall so short – what would a more realistic goal be? If not safe spaces, what does an employer or manager owe employees?

    1. Rachel*

      People have to be realistic that feeling safe requires being vulnerable and you can’t be vulnerable with the person who provides your livelihood.

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        Agreed. I don’t think 100% safe space is achievable at work, and the whole idea of “bring your whole self” is garbage. But we can certainly aim for safer spaces. Ideally this would include explicit acknowledgement of the difference between “safe” and “safer,” and specific actions the organization is taking towards that goal.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes I think this is right. Being safe definitely involves being vulnerable and that’s not possible at work. I think all you can do is make it as safe as possible, so building a culture where people can raise issues of concern such as bullying and harassment, and introduce things that allow everyone to flourish. I think the most inclusive thing my company has done was introducing name-blind recruitment so you can’t see demographic information when evaluating applications. I think this is a brilliant idea and way better than any workshop or talking session.

          I don’t think you can bring your whole self to work because some of the parts of non-work me aren’t suitable for work. I want them to see work-me as a whole person and don’t mind giving some ideas of what I’m thinking and feeling but some things I keep o myself.

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      I’ve said it for years: the safest place I know is my living room. Anywhere where I am in public, there will be people who are not me and are not my loved ones.

      And that’s just for social stuff, like “safe spaces for queers”, where we are *choosing* to be for our various reasons. But I *need* to be in a workplace somewhere, so I can pay for my food and housing. Work *cannot* be a safe space in this way.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        Yeah, a lot of it is a vocabulary game where few people are working from the same definitions, but I like the language of centering certain identities as an alternative to “safety,” so your example would be “spaces that center queer identities and experiences.”

        And of course, the vast majority of of those spaces would only center certain queer identities and experiences, so then you find events popping up specifically for e.g. “BIPOC transfemme queer folx”. Which goes straight to Allison’s point about safety and inclusivity being at odds.

        I do think people need to feel safe in the office in the layman’s sense: that they’re not under attack physically or otherwise. It sounds like LW’s office hasn’t even gotten that far with regards to aging.

    3. DramaQ*

      These people sign my paychecks and can influence my ability to earn one. They have all the power in this dynamic whereas I have very little. There is no “safe space” at work for me to talk about things that I am well aware can be used against me. I know people who are very proud of the fact they don’t hire women of child bearing as because “they’ll get knocked up and leave us covering for them”. Do you think they openly announce this bias during hiring? Knowing people think that no way on God’s green earth would I talk about the struggles of being a working parent in this type of forum. All I need is for them to decide they should fire me between the ages of 40-60 because now she’s going to be all cuckoo with menopause and we can’t have that! Employers should not be expecting anyone in a marginalized group to stand up and “be courageous” and take on the burden of DEI for the company. We should pull our collective heads out of our behinds and vote for people who will enact laws and enforce laws that even the playing field and get rid of Citizens United in the US. It should not be on me to bear my soul and pray that it doesn’t come back to haunt me all so my employer can claim they are “accepting of diversity” and stick it in their promos to make another dollar off my back.

  28. Irish Teacher.*

    I’d be wary of any workplace or similar that claimed to be a “safe space” facilitating a “courageous conversation,” because well, as Alison says, you have to work to create safe spaces; you can’t just call something a safe space.

    And I’m not sure it’s ever really possible for work to be one for a number of reasons. For one thing, people have a lot to lose at work. Part of a safe space is surely that it is somewhere you can say things that won’t come back on you, so your family, boss, etc won’t hear it unless you want them to. And a safe space needs to prioritise being safe and a workplace usually can’t fully commit to that.

    I can see where they are coming from because it is important for workplaces to understand about stuff like that, but…the way to do that isn’t to basically expect those who are experiencing it to do the work and take the risk of educating everybody while telling them they are fine to do so because it’s “safe” and they should “be courageous.” If they want the managers and so on, to be more accommodating of any requirements around menopause, they should be hiring a speaker from outside or some training or doing the work to learn about it themselves.

  29. Dust Bunny*

    I work for a healthcare-associated organization and my employer would never ask us to share this kind of information. Nobody at my job needs to know that much about the state of my body.

  30. DameB*

    I’m going through perimenopause and was excited to hear that my UK coworkers had a new “menopause policy” and when I read it, I thought “!!!???” It was an entire page of “we support workers” and “talk to your manager” and nothing actually substantial or actionable. It’s the sorts of low-effort, low-impact BS that the OP seems to be talking about and I do not trust it one iota. I continue to keep my hot flashes to myself.

  31. SheLooksFamiliar*

    When I was going through menopause my whole team knew it because hot flashes could not be hidden, but they never said anything in public. Privately, I got a suggestion or two that helped, and some kind soul left a personal fan in my office for me. I’ve been happily post-menopausal for years now, my current team is supportive and genuine, and I trust our senior and executive leadership: I can’t think of a time when I wondered if age was a factor in how we hired or promoted talent. Our DEIB initiatives are ongoing and seem to be making a difference for the right reasons. We don’t ‘check the box’ and call it done, we do a lot that requires effort and assessment on progress. I have spoken up about important matters and never felt dismissed, even if the answer was, ‘No, we can’t support that initiative right now,’ I also hear, ‘Let’s regroup in 6 months.’

    But there is no way I would have discussed, nor will I discuss, menopause in even a ‘safe’ corporate-sponsored setting. No matter how progressive a company or team is, aging employees are still looked at with…concern? Patronizing eyes? Fear of what is to come for younger associates? Whatever the case, I’m not calling attention to my age or health conditions, even from the past, in a corporate meeting.

    1. MidWasabiPeas*

      I agree with everything you wrote but I’d drill it down even further to “aging women” are looked at that way. It’s everything we’ve had drummed into our heads for decades…men with some extra pounds are “substantial” but women are “fat.” Men with grey hair are “distinguished” where women are “old.” No way on God’s green Earth would I give any workplace (and I work at a very good, very progressive about many things workplace) that kind of ammo.

    2. ThatOtherClare*

      My workplace successfully hides hot flashes buy making the building freezing cold in summer and boiling hot in winter. It’s not a hot flash if everyone in the office looks like beetroot together! That’s what inclusion means, right? (/s)

  32. lolly*

    my employer trained all the managers in menopause awareness, linking to discrimination policies, the potential loss to our work if valuable employees leave because they are unsupported for a finite phase in their life, the ranges of potential accomodations that could be put in place dependent on symptoms that any particular individual brought up, emphasising that it’s a very wide range of experience and that just because someone is in a particular age bracket doesn’t mean it is menopause related, so any and all conversations should be employee led. then they did some general work to emphasise that the menopause isn’t taboo, put out the stats, offered confidential peer support networks externally facilitated and emphasised that they were tracking the stats on employee retention by age and other metrics trying to improve retention. menopause can have very different symptoms to general aging, and symptoms that pass after a period of time, and this was an identified issue for my employer in retaining valuable knowledge experience and skills. it has made a difference, more people openly talk about symptoms without embarassment in order to get accomodations they need in the moment (opening a window, changing desks aways from the heat producing machines, recording a meeting) it’s made some of our systems better (so no-one has to rely on memory alone). This is a multi-years change, it started before it was an issue for me, and now it is I am very open about it, but I am privaleged to have an incredibly supportive employer, who recognises that their staff are their main asset, that they invest a lot in, and are costly and difficult to replace. I don’t go to the peer support networks, it’s not my thing, but we have them for lots of things – for carers, LGBTQ+, men’s mental health, for example, and they have brought about positive changes in company employment and terms and conditions. it can be done well.

    1. BellyButton*

      When companies do it right- it can be amazing. But so many do it where they get some volunteers together to come up with ideas. They aren’t professionals in DEI/HR/the law. It becomes such a mess.

    2. lolly*

      BTW – I’m in the Uk, public sector, and in contrast to the US-specific advice I see here if I’m off work sick I have to tell my employer the reason, whether I’ve sought medical advice/intervention/how long it’s likely to be an issue etc, so I’m used to private medical info being known to specific people in the hierachy (there are confidentiality rules around this – and my employer heeds that, but obviously that isn’t always the case with every employer, or every manager within an organisation) and we have to give detail in order for antidiscrimination/ protected characteristics legislation to kick in (which menopausal symptoms can be covered by).

    3. ThatOtherClare*

      This! Train the managers! Train the unaffected people! Too many DEI things target the affected groups with information and put the onus on them to get support. Your way is the correct way to do it.

      Especially because you’re respecting the managers by implying “We think you’re compassionate and ethical people who will want to be helpful once you hear what this group has to deal with and are given some effective ways to help”. When you trust and respect people you can be pleasantly surprised how often they’ll live up to that.

  33. No Tribble At All*

    Life hack: identify the employees who are likely to need time off, have less than peak performance, and feel comfortable speaking up with this One Simple Trick

  34. Jojo*

    It’s pretty well known in my office that I’m going through menopause because people walk by my desk and see me fanning myself all of the time. (It’s actually a side affect of endocrine therapy for breast cancer, and I’ve got 4 more years of it. But no one needs to know that.) I’ve even spoken with an executive about hot flashes. But there is no way on earth that I would share in a menopause conversation that’s trying to do the heavy lifting of DEI without even a facilitator. Nope, nopity nope. No one needs to know anything about your reproductive status at work.

    1. BellyButton*

      Recently one of my peers asked me for a “catch up coffee chat” on zoom. And it was specifically to as me if I am going through menopause. She asked me because her family is very religious and her mother and sisters haven’t told her anything about it. I didn’t mind having an honest discussion with her- we are on the same level, she isn’t my boss, and we trust each other. It was also private. LOL, it wasn’t in front of a group of 50 women, some who might have an impact on my career, some who report to me… YIKES

  35. StressedButOkay*

    Considering that they just forced out several older colleagues, this seems to be in bad faith. OP, I wouldn’t trust them with any information they could potentially use against you should they start eyeing positions!

  36. Not Elizabeth*

    I would be so tempted to talk in squirm-inducing detail about vaginal dryness and how p*ssed I am that the best prescription for it is no longer covered since we changed providers.

  37. Kristin*

    This reminds me of how menstrual leave for women gets brought up from time to time. Some women/people who menstruate do really need have awful symptoms and need a day or two off at that time of the month! But for the most part it’s not necessary and INSISTING that I must need time off when I’m shedding my uterine lining comes off as a) weird Victorian pseudoscience, b) patronizing, as if I don’t know for myself when I need a sick day, and c) like it would be used as an excuse to not put women in leadership positions because of their periods. I feel like a better policy for both this and helping people through menopause would be, like, better sick leave and medical insurance and less sexism/ageism, but what do I know!

    Anyway, if a company wants to be inclusive of women/people with uteri who are experiencing menopause, there is a heck of a lot that they can do that DOESN’T involve asking workers to discuss the state of their individual reproductive systems, maybe they should start there.

  38. Bad Wolf*

    I do wish menopause was just generally more talked about. I was completely blindsided by all the weird stuff that started happening to my body. Really felt like I was on some crazy pills.
    But a work environment is a really weird place to have that discussion.

    1. Cyndi*

      Honestly this is probably a function of who I’m around because of age (36) but I feel like I’m constantly stumbling into discussions of how catastrophic perimenopause and menopause are lately, like multiple times a day, and just personally I would like to hear less about how an anvil is going to fall on my head sometime in the next several years. Even if it’s true.

      1. Bad Wolf*

        Fair enough. You open up the floodgates, and people will overshare. But sometimes a little information can be life-changing.
        A friend was literally crying to me over dinner because her body felt like she was on fire. I mentioned that hormonal birth control has been a god-send for me in terms of symptoms (even though it comes with its own downsides). The thing is, her doctor never even suggested it to her because she’s gay.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I mean, I’m 52 and still on the pill because my doctor said, basically, hey, this will manage the majority of the symptoms and I said, cool! It was great that hormonal therapy wasn’t seen as unnecessary simply because I’m past prime childbearing years.

        2. Cyndi*

          It’s not so much the oversharing as that lately I feel like that Simpsons scene with Lenny stepping on rakes, but the rakes are conversations about how in the next 5-10 years my brain is going to turn into swiss cheese and I’ll feel emotionally and physically like garbage all the time for probably years after that, good luck, have fun! And it’s preemptively doing a number on my mental health.

          But as I said that’s very much a Me Problem and I totally agree in general that it’s important for this stuff to be more common knowledge.

          1. higheredadmin*

            Cyndi – like any uterus stuff, it is a wide range of experience. When I had my kids I felt miserable, and had a friend who said that pregnancy was the most well she felt in her whole life. Both of these are true. Your best guess as to your experience is, if you can, to talk to your mother, grandmother and aunts. (although with a grain of salt – my mom swears she had no issues but doesn’t seem to couple that experience with the fact that she was also on HRT for bone loss.) Lots of women sail through it no problems, for other symptoms are mild, and for some very severe.

          2. Cyndi*

            Sideshow Bob. It was Sideshow Bob. This doesn’t really matter but it’ll drive me nuts if I don’t correct myself.

  39. Margaret Cavendish*

    I participated in a focus group last week soliciting feedback on our DEI initiatives – with a professional facilitator, all opinions are solicited and welcome, guarantee of confidentiality, and so on. And the first time someone said anything less than 100% positive, another participant said they appreciated the feedback, but it’s important to remember we’re just starting out, we’ve come a long way in a short time, we can’t do everything at once.

    I’m sure you’ll all be shocked – shocked! – to hear that all the comments after that were 100% positive. And now my organization gets to say we have DEI, they’ve solicited feedback from the employees, and everything is great!!!!!

    So, yeah. I wouldn’t be too quick to share any personal details in any forum, after that. This is very much a case of “show, don’t tell.” The organization can say whatever they want about DEI and safe spaces and whatnot, but it’s pretty meaningless unless you actually see evidence of it in action.

  40. CampusStaff*

    Alternative strategy: plot beforehand with coworkers you can trust, go to the discussion, and then each of you relentlessly turn the topic to actual structural policies that would make the workplace a good one for older workers. Avoid sharing any personal details whatsoever.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I want to share this here because I am feeling mad respect for you now. It’s like you are channeling my mom!

      [you may remember her from other classic stories:
      My mom had to go back to work when I was 13, in the early 80s.
      “Will you have any issues with child care?”
      No. My son is in high school and my daughter is in middle school.
      She retired after 15 years. They discovered somewhere along the way she had 6 kids and nearly a dozen grandchildren.
      And that everyone in that office was younger than my oldest brother.
      It didn’t affect their opinion of her, because they hadn’t known.
      Maybe if they had, that woman might not have thrown a book at her, if she’d realized how old she was.]

      And OP. Please do this. Do it for mom!

  41. Drowning in Spreadsheets*

    I’d say it was at least sexual-adjacent. Vaginal atrophy has a serious effect on penetrative pleasure.

  42. Doctor Fun!*

    I was forced out of a job after receiving an ADHD diagnosis that I was open about (because it was my manager who had encouraged me to get diagnosed in the first place). Having ADA protections allowed me to soft-pedal my firing and turn it into a resignation, and I’m beyond glad that I don’t work at that place anymore despite it being a prestigious company name to have on a resume. Over a decade later, I’d sooner eat glass than disclose my status to my employer, especially now that I’m entering perimenopause (which makes ADHD notably worse).

    1. Doctor Fun!*

      Sorry, OP — all that to say, no, you’re not being paranoid. Yes, in an ideal world we’d totally talk more about menopause! But this isn’t an ideal world, it’s a world where you’re already watching older coworkers being forced out and other real hinky shit going down. When it’s your paycheck and your health insurance at stake, err on the side of keeping the menopause discussions outside of the workplace.

      1. Quill*

        Similar experience (though not ADHD) in that after having a panic attack at a previous job, my boss actively made things worse for me until he could hire somebody else… and fired me the day they started.

        I agree with the “no OP, you are not being paranoid, all it takes is one asshole” stance

    2. DramaQ*

      Doctor Fun! Oh no really? Well that might explain a lot about how all my coping mechanisms are no longer working. I am about the age my my mom was when she started peri-menopause.

      Yay, yet another thing for my employer to judge me over.

      1. higheredadmin*

        Perimenopause is noted for making ADHD, anxiety, depression etc. worse because yay hormones being all over the place. Think of it as reverse puberty.

        1. Doctor Fun!*

          Yup, exactly — and heads up, ADHD ladies: we’re also predisposed to having PMDD, which also gets way worse during perimenopause. Thinking of it as reverse puberty or a second, more confusing puberty is spot on.

          1. Jam on Toast*

            Wow! these comments just connected a whole bunch of the weird, quirky experiences better known as the perimenopausal hormone rollercoaster that I’ve been ‘enjoying’ for the last couple years. (46F with adult-diagnosed ADHD!) AAM folks are such a wealth of information.

  43. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    A company-sponsored discussion group about menopause, eh? So…when and where is the company-sponsored discussion group about andropause and/or age-related erectile dysfunction going to be held?

    What’s that? There IS no such discussion group? Why not? Oh, I see…because only females have (normal) age-related physical changes that our culture has pathologized. Riiiiighhht…!

        1. Margaret Cavendish*

          Sensitivity around certain topics… can you give some examples? Possibly because I’m a cis woman, but I honestly can’t think of a time that erectile dysfunction has been commonly discussed at my work.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Came back to the comments because this popped into my head while sitting in my getting an oil change at lunch time.
        I know someone had to do it.
        “Oh, that’s different! It doesn’t affect men the same way. It doesn’t affect their moods, their behaviour, their perceptions.”
        No, it’s a non-issue.
        A non issue that bore a billion dollar industry.
        If it weren’t so important, why would men spend money on it?
        It does affect many aspects of their lives and they pay a premium to get back what they lost.

      2. Shift Work*

        The difference here though is that ED is a symptom of something else vs. menopause related changes that are the root cause of a variety of symptoms that don’t just impact genitalia. Framing it like that, why would talking about non-genital related symptoms of menopause be any different than casually talking about high blood pressure or cholesterol with at work without mentioning genitalia?

    1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      Menopause definitely affects men as well as women. Spouses, sons, brothers, fathers of women going through peri/menopause are very much affected by how much it can affect her life physically, emotionally and mentally. Men need to learn and talk about it too. It’s one of the most common causes for divorce. And it’s no coincidence that the highest suicide rates for women are in the 45-55 age group, right in the prime of peri/menopause, and the rates are climbing. A small percentage of women sail through the 10-15 year transition with few or no symptoms but the vast majority will have a very challenging time, sometimes debilitated by extreme symptoms. Estrogen decline affects every organ in the body, *especially* the brain. To pretend it doesn’t affect most women at work is also stigma-promoting and not helpful. More conversations to make managers and coworkers aware of why women employees in their 40s and 50s could be having a very hard time, could hopefully someday lead to more understanding, more grace, more accommodations if they’re needed, more education, more acceptance…not just jokes and teasing and putting those women at the front of the layoff line. Women that age are so valuable, they’ve build up so much experience, they should be in the prime of their careers, then suddenly whammo these symptoms make their lives a living hell. Half the population of the planet will go through it if they live long enough, so I’m firmly in the camp of let’s talk about it more and educate people further, not keep the subject closeted in stigma and shame.

  44. Jonathan MacKay*

    A question I’ve always found myself asking is “Which is more important, diversity of thought, or physical diversity?” I personally have realized that the ideal set up is a combination of both – because people from vastly different origins who hold the same opinions have often come to those opinions through unique experiences – and it is less about the end position than it is about the journey to get there that is important. I’d rather work with someone who disagrees with me, but who has put in the effort to understand why I think or do things a particular way, instead of someone who just goes along to get along. It is in the mutual pursuit of a common goal that we best learn from each other, anyway.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Can I ask you to clarify what you mean by “diversity of thought” and “physical diversity”? Because when I see that terminology it’s usually used to mean “it’s okay if we don’t have women or Black people – what we really need is to make sure that people who think like me (I usually see this from conservatives talking about academia or something similar, who perceive themselves as being excluded) are represented”. And I don’t want to go off on how astonishingly wrong-headed that is if it turns out that’s not what you’re saying.

  45. Dot's Hat*


    I’ve attended way too many DEI workshops where “safe space” apparently meant “safe to work through one’s biases without judgment”. Which I guess is a valuable thing, but it automatically means it’s not a safe space for the object of those biases, who just end up being tasked with trying to educate others while being micro (or macro) aggressed.

    I would never voluntarily attend a work event about a sensitive topic like this. Especially when it’s open to anyone. If there are co-workers I’m genuinely friends with outside of work, we can talk about that stuff outside of work. Courageous Conversations about Menopause sounds like it should be a discussion group one could attend at their local medical clinic (and I’m sure many do offer things like this), not at work.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      We sort of had one of those, except that the biases the facilitator seemed to expect were so basic that we were like “uh, no, we do not think that.” Stuff like “is it a bit cranky to say white people have privilege, do ye think?” Which was problematic in another way, because while she did point out that we all have unconscious biases, the examples she was giving of “things we might not think of” were so obviously things you would that it gave the impression that a basic knowledge made you really well-educated on the issues.

      She was a youth worker, so I think she was used to discussing the issues with teenagers, so the level was pretty basic.

      But yeah, “this is a safe space, so feel free to tell me how you find it annoying to hear people suggest white people have privilege”…

      Even the person who organised the speaker was saying afterwards that she wasn’t impressed.

  46. Team PottyMouth*

    Look, I can’t even count on my own doctors recognizing and understanding menopause. The number of times a doctor has straight up gaslit me and told me I’m imagining these symptoms is significantly higher than anyone would believe. There’s no way in Satan’s Fiery Estates I’d trust anyone at work to understand and not judge me for it.

  47. Emily Byrd Starr*

    “ unconscious bias is a thing; people can discriminate against you without even being aware that they’re doing it.”

    As a neurodivergent person, I know this all too well.

  48. Holy Carp*

    This sounds suspiciously like “anonymous surveys” that I’ve encountered at different workplaces. Twice in my naivete I answered those believing my opinions would be truly anonymous, and both times I was called out by leadership for my comments.
    Yes, I am a slow learner.

  49. Gozer (She/Her)*

    Bloody hell no.

    I’m for a confidential well-managed forum of people going through a medical issue like menopause but I honestly don’t think the workplace is the place for it. My local doctors surgery runs a monthly menopause group for people affected and that I know is bound by medical confidentiality.

    And yeah, the stigma of *anything* that involves a uterus is a minefield at work still. One cannot say something is a ‘safe space’ and have it automatically become so. Had enough fun with coworkers noticing the hot flushes and teasing me about that..

  50. Heck, darn, and other salty expressions*

    Your local hospital, community center or even Facebook is likely to have menopause groups. Those will be much safer and useful places for discussion and open sharing of information. If your symptoms are interfering with your work discuss it with your doctor. They may have some recommendations that can help with low energy and brain fog.

  51. Lobstermn*

    As always, never discuss health at work unless you are calling out sick or claiming an explicit accommodation.

  52. The OG Sleepless*

    With the rampant sexism and ageism we all deal with, I can’t think of many things I would less rather discuss with my company than an issue that is specific to late-middle-age women.

    (Also, does anybody have so many problems with menopause that people have to have a whole plan about how to support it? My employer doesn’t really have to do anything if I suddenly have to peel out of my jacket and turn on a fan.)

    1. higheredadmin*

      To define terms – menopause itself is no period for a year. Perimenopause is the long phase during which your hormones decline in a somewhat random manner until menopause is reached, and perimenopause can last a number of years. It’s like a long, drawn out hormone withdrawl. Perimenopause comes with a wide range of symptoms, the hot flash being just one (and not one everyone haves – I get to deal with its sister, the cold flash.) In perimenopause, women can deal with flooding (menstrual bleeding so severe that no sanitary product can hold it), brain fog, mood swings that typically include increased anxiety, disturbances to sleep patterns that lead to exhaustion, and another favorite that I have is joint pain -guess what, all of our muscles have estrogen receptors. For things like flooding or joint pain, having accommodations such as remote work are hugely helpful. Things like brain fog – well, definitely not something I would want to discuss in an open forum.

      1. allathian*

        I haven’t had any hot flashes, at least not yet. But sometimes I feel like someone just threw a bucket of ice water on me, so yep, I guess. A particularly memorable one was when I and my husband were sitting in the sauna in 80 C/176 F and I suddenly shivered *with cold*. It was weird.

  53. Cyndi*

    I don’t know if “courageous conversations” is a phrase particular to one company, but I used to work at a major corporation that used that title specifically for a series of totally empty performative DEI panel discussions. If it’s that company then it’s definitely not in good faith and I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw the building I worked in.

    The phrase in general smells funny to me, but I’m not sure if that’s just by association.

  54. BellyButton*

    I just started having menopause symptoms in the last 6 weeks. I was on a Zoom call with one of my favorite colleagues when all of a sudden I got a hot flash. My face flushed and I started dripping sweat. This colleague is a gay man and very sweetly said how he is always hot and keeps the house at 67 despite his husband’s protests. I said “I used to always be cold, but now that I am a woman of a certain age anything above 65 and I am dying” he was “offended” and said “OH, so what you are saying is that I am a woman of a certain age!?!” LOL

  55. nnn*

    Sometimes in situations like this, people can redirect the “courageous conversation” to focus on why they have concerns about the premise.

    Example: “In a context where we’ve seen quite a few older colleagues forced out in the last few months, people are going to be particularly wary that any sharing about menopause conversations would be overheard by managers and might subconsciously influence future decisions about opportunities or layoffs.”

    Would this work in your case? I have no idea! Is it worth the effort of doing? I have no idea! But it is an option.

    1. LW*

      That’s a good suggestion and something to pack away for future use. I’m not going to go to this particular workshop, but if we are asked for feedback on the series (yes, there is a whole series of these things) I might put that forward.

  56. RagingADHD*

    Nope, nope, nope, nope. This is where we pull out the Admiral Ackbar meme – it’s a trap! The only “courageous” thing I would get up and say at such a meeting is exactly what you said about there being no substantive commitment to DEI, and that you have seen older colleagues pushed out recently.

    The second you say anything about normal menopause symptoms like emotional volatility, lack of sleep, lower energy levels or needing extra support / structure for your memory, you run the risk of that being considered a performance issue and used as a supposedly “legitimate” excuse to undermine or remove you.

    The very use of the word “courageous” acknowledges that there is risk, and they apparently have no intention of removing or mitigating that risk. If they were committed to ensuring there would be no risk, they would call it something else, like an “open and honest” or “transparent” or “inclusive” conversation.

    You don’t owe it to anybody to take that risk upon yourself. People who want to learn about / get support for menopause can find outside resources.

  57. Goldenrod*

    “Organizations can’t just announce a space is safe!”

    Seriously!! My extremely terrifying last workplace (HR department) was like a pit of snakes. Nothing and no one was safe there. It was a culture of fear. It was like working on the Death Star. When we started having DEI meetings, someone actually said the words, “This is a safe space.”

    I felt like Arthur Dent in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”: “This is obviously a strange usage of the word ‘safe’ of which I was unaware.”

    1. Sleve*

      Ahh. I see you’ve uncovered the truth. You see, Goldentod, when your cunning managerial overlords refer to a “safe space”, what we really mean is a grim, dark, barren vault from which it is nigh impossible to escape. Ahahahaha! Unfortunately I cannot allow you to go free now that you know the truth. I hope you have enjoyed your little life.

      Minions! Scramble the jets!

  58. Jennie*

    There is no way I would share my experiences with menopause at work. People go into menopause for reasons other than “natural life progression”. Sometimes it’s even traumatic for the person involved and not something they want to bring into a work situation.

    1. Another Lab Rat*

      Co-signed. I’ll be going into surgically-induced menopause sometime within the next 6 months – I’ll have my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as part of cancer risk reduction due to having a particular genetic mutation that dramatically increases my risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. I also get to have a double mastectomy, wheee. This is all fairly traumatic (extra so because I also get to consider the possibility that my young daughter has inherited the mutation as well).

      My co-workers don’t need to know any of this.

      1. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

        Best wishes to you, Another Lab Rat! You have a lot of different things happening there, I hope you will be able to find a support group online of women in a similar position and find that helpful. I found a very large cancer support group on line ten years ago which was big enough to have lots of offshoots and there were women having the same treatment as I was at the time. I didn’t contribute and only read stuff, but got lots of useful tips re symptoms. And it was encouraging to read comments by kindly contributors who still commented and said Yes, I went through that x years ago, I am well now, yada yada.

        1. Another Lab Rat*

          Thank you so much! I’m lucky that I’ve found a good support group online for others with this and related genetic mutations, and also that my province (I’m in Canada) has a really good network of both clinical and peer support.

  59. Warrior Princess Xena*

    As a period (and future menopause)-haver, the only extent to which I would want menopause (or any other ‘women’s health’ issue) addressed at work would be:

    a) provide sanitary supplies in the bathrooms (they’re not that expensive)
    b) don’t ask me for a doctor’s note for just one day or pry into my medical information if I say I’m not feeling well and need to stay home/go home early/WFH if possible
    c) if you’re in the US, provide good healthcare and an EAP with some therapy components, if possible.

    Beyond that, it’s none of work’s business.

    1. Quill*

      If you really want to get into the weeds on ‘women’s health’, make sure that your insurance provider will adequately cover hormone treatments of a variety of schedules & effects. Because hormone treatments (no matter what reproductive organs you have and what condition they are in) are not one size fits all.

  60. ijustworkhere*

    I wonder if you could slightly alter your talk to more broadly focus on ‘ageism’ in the workplace. It seems to be the last bastion of acceptable mocking and discrimination.

    I hear people all over my so called “enlightened” organization wonder why so and so hasn’t retired yet, or why they brought in such a young person in a leadership role. I’ve heard people called “grandpa” or “old lady” or “boy.”

    I even hear people that are part of historically discriminated against groups freely participating in these kinds of conversations–trans people saying “OK BOOMER” to an older person; POC comoplaining that so and so should retire so “other people have a shot at their job” ; an older employee saying they aren’t taking orders from someone younger than their son.

    That could be a really courageous conversation. A lot of our DEI work has forgotten about this issue, especially as it relates to mature workers.

    1. JJ*

      Yup- IME the ones using the terms “safe space” {this would make me run for the hills- it’s work, not therapy} are the same people to say the ageist things you mentioned here.

  61. Coverage Associate*

    I haven’t read all the comments.

    My former employer did have courageous conversations sponsored by HR where senior managers talked about their experiences with work and grief, infertility, mental illness, addiction, etc. HR had lined them up ahead of time. The advantage of having the presenters be in house was they had more knowledge on our accommodations and processes than an outsider. Yes, HR could have just set out the policy, but that’s not as effective as the now-partner admitting she didn’t try to make partner in the years she was undergoing infertility treatments and caring for her mom with terminal cancer.

    I think that the presentations came with HR setting up an anonymous or semi anonymous channel for suggestions to management. I see someone above had suggestions like checking the temperature of meeting rooms and allowing use of desktop fans. That workplace was large and competent enough that suggestions like that sent with your name attached but just to HR would not get back to your day to day coworkers and managers.

    Unlike my new job, which is 1/20 the size of my old job, so there’s basically no anonymity.

  62. Peri*

    Oh yes… I am in péri menopause and one of my colleagues thought we should normalise talking about it and I was- NO WAY!!! Her argument was that we would share if we had a headache that was affecting our work (I wouldn’t necessarily) so if menopause symptoms are too we should share. She has gone on to share, and I really don’t think it’s working for her… but in saying that she has a lot more severe symptoms than me… but… I feel like for a girlfriend it might be nice to know this- but for a work colleague I feel like I’m exposed to WAY more personal info than I really want to know about her!!! In saying this- I have a chronic condition and some days I need to use the bathroom a lot…. I would NEVER share this at work and manage it discretely enough I don’t think anyone would know (although most people would know I have the condition as it’s not a secret) . Maybe if you aren’t used to your body behaving in unexpected ways sharing it seems more interesting and benign!!

  63. Whoa Nelly*

    Do. Not. Attend. Under any circumstances.

    1: The company *may* be sincere. They might also be trying to find out who’s old enough to be menopausal, so they can start phasing them out, to be replaced with younger, cheaper workers. It may not even be related to what you say in the meeting. The very fact that menopause is associated with age 50, and only women, means women who attend are advertising their age. DANGER ZONE.
    2: That said, certainly enough women experience early menopause. You could be 35 or 40. If you attend, people might think you are older than you are, and start targeting you for elimination.

    Beware, this is not necessarily about being open about menopause in the workplace. Surely men are also invited to attend…but will they? This is about finding out who’s older, and it can reinforce stereotypes. There are menopause support groups on Facebook, and elsewhere online. Avoid this pandora’s box at work.

  64. Elizabeth West*

    *checks into AAM at lunch*



    I was just talking with someone the other day about companies doing these kinds of clueless activities. They do NOT understand what DEI really means — you can tell when you see shit like this.

    Run away, run away!

  65. MtnLaurel*

    As a general rule, if you have to ask if something is safe, best to proceed like it isn’t. Works for the workplace as well as cleaning out the refrigerator.

  66. Old Hampshire New Hampshire*

    I agree that caution is the way forward here. I have shared past and resolved issues at work (like my post natal depression) in workshops like these, but I’ve never shared current or ongoing issues (like menopause-related brain fog that comes and goes with no rhyme or reason) because of the potential for bias to creep into people’s perception of me. It should not be like this but reality sucks…

  67. the cat ears*

    The podcast If Books Could Kill had a recent bonus episode about DEI initiatives, and the conservative moral panic about them. They came to the conclusion that a lot of these initiatives were useless or counterproductive. One point I liked was that many trainings move beyond the scope of what is typically included in workplace trainings (here’s what to do and what not to do in order to comply with the law and our policies; here are resources if you have questions or concerns) to trying to “start a conversation” and change people’s deeply held beliefs, and that’s more likely to backfire than to be effective, for various reasons.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes people hate being lectured to by their employers generally and don’t want to change their opinions. In my view its much better to tell them clearly what you require them to do and how they are to act. Rather than trying to change their beliefs.

  68. Immortal for a limited time*

    Oh, lord. What problem does this company think it’s going to solve with these “courageous conversations? Will they make my hot flashes go away? Because if they think a menopausal woman is not already having these discussions with their spouse, their similar-aged female friends, and their MEDICAL PROVIDER, they are delusional. But more importantly, if they think hearing about night sweats and nodding sympathetically is going to achieve any objective in the workplace, they are out of their gourds. I would laugh out loud if my director suggested such a thing. No, and hell no.

  69. Doc McCracken*

    Why is this even a thing in companies? Just offer reasonable accommodations for conditions, treat employees with basic human respect, and offer decent compensation. Most companies can’t even get 2 out of those 3 right!

  70. RJ*

    When it comes to creating ‘safe’ spaces for employee discussions such as this, I employ a show-not-tell mentality with the companies that propose it. I have yet to see a company do this and would not feel comfortable sharing any such experiences at a place that is actively restructuring older employees from their roles. I’ve seen this happen at two large, Glassdoor highly rated companies and it was shocking.

  71. Going Menopostal*

    They’re asking women with scarcely contained hormonal rage to candidly share their feelings? What could possibly go wrong?

  72. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    Listen to the alarm bells you think are ringing.
    Especially with your particular employer, it sounds risky to reveal anything related to age or changes due to age.

    Once you have disclosed private information, you can’t take it back if you find it is damaging you.

    So think very very very carefully before disclosing anything that could be weaponised against you, unless you absolutely must for an accommodation.

  73. Longtimelurker*

    I actually saw an example of this done well at work – it was online and it was made clear that it was open to all (on the basis that those who may not experience menopause may still work with or manage those who will) and the speakers were a mixture of external folk along with internal folk who were among the most senior in our (huge) organisation. They spoke about their own experiences of working (at a very senior level) whilst dealing with brain fog, hot flushes etc and how they handled that. It was both eye opening and encouraging for me as a much less senior and slightly younger member of staff. It was also made clear that everyone’s experience is different, but that accommodations are possible and should be considered when needed. Some folk attending posted about their own experiences in the chat, which was also helpful, but there was no pressure or expectation that folk had to do that. Absolutely wouldn’t work, or be safe, in every organisation (and we’re in a country with reasonable worker protection, which I know isn’t the case everywhere), but seemed a good way to minimise exposing people with less power to the risks Alison talks about.

  74. Becky*

    I’m finding the comments really interesting! I do wonder if the difference between the general opinion here and mine is cultural or country based. Mind you, I recognise that I have a great workplace with a very stable team above and below me – I’ve worked with my current director for nearly 20 years and feel very safe with him and the majority of my team. We would never propose a ‘workshop’ like the one discussed by OP.

    I personally am a leader in my workplace, and am quite open about MH struggles (several of my team had a front-row seat to my breakdown a few years ago) and the fact that I’m taking medication and working with my Dr around it. I’m pretty sure I’m moving into menopause, and am quite open about that as well.

    Part of it is because I’m a generally open person and feel that part of being authentic with my team is acknowledging that I’m human with all the same issues and problems that they have. The other part is that I. Don’t. Care. I don’t care if my manager judges me for it, or if people are trying to weaponise it – that says more about them than it does about me, and I actively push back against those things.

    This is my way of trailblazing, I suppose. I’m moving towards the end of my career where I am (actively working on an exit plan), so am perfectly happy to take on those negative attitudes and biases to help the women who come after me.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Well, since you mention your team and your leadership rather than specific legal protections, it sounds like it’s workplace based, not country or culture based.

      It’s great that you have confidence you will be able to plan an exit on your own terms and not be fired prematurely for admitting you have symptoms.

      LW’s organization has a recent pattern of age discrimination in firings.

      Companies that are overtly ageist don’t magically become “safe” overnight. If her org had built trust through actions as yours seems to have, she wouldn’t have written in.

    2. DramaQ*

      I think it is personal based. You didn’t mention anything about laws that would protect you if you were discriminated against or anything company policy related. You are lucky that you work for the boss you do and the team you do.

      You are also lucky that you are apparently in a position where you can plan/control your exit and I am assuming weather the situation if they were to decide when you exit instead.

      Many people are not in that position, especially in America where we have very very few protections for employees and even the ones we do it’s very hard to get them enforced. I forgot the statistics but a significant number of people don’t even have $500 for emergencies let alone enough to get them through a months long job hunt should they get fired suddenly.

      Trailblazing is great but the pressure should not be put on the disenfranchised employees who are already having to constantly watch their backs to survive. There is nothing wrong with putting on your own oxygen mask first. My mortgage does not take trailblazing as a payment.

      So hell to the no on the workshop or even discussing such issues with my employer. I don’t even tell them I am dyslexic. I am definitely not going to share I will go through a 20+ year journey through menopause that can affect my performance. Not when there are plenty of non-menopausal women who could take my job. Or even better for the company a bunch of men who can take my job who won’t have to worry about anything reproductive related be it pregnancy or menopause.

      These things need to come from above. The people who have the capital and can survive the backlash that comes with DEI programs, especially in the US. Putting people who already face job discrimination in that role is compounding the very issue they claim tehy want to address.

      It’s a way to showboat and say “Hey we just noticed women are people and want to put that in our job postings!” without making actual change to policies like better sick leave, more affordable insurance, etc etc.

  75. LW*

    Thank you, Alison and the commenters, for the helpful advice. Needless to say, I will not be going to this workshop, but you helped me articulate why the situation was making me uneasy. There were also some excellent suggestions on language to use to push back on this type of initiative. I’m not in a position to push back now (a reorg is ongoing and I’m just trying to keep my head down and keep my job), but I’ve filed them away to use if the right situation presents itself in the future.

    1. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

      You could ask if they will be having a workshop on courageously discussing the ageing prostate!

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      Good golly. The reorg adds a whole ‘nother level of NOPE to the whole thing – like they’re trying to find out who’s aging, or not working at 100%, and come up with ways of getting rid of them.

  76. FunkyMunky*

    i would not participate and be cautious in participating in any future discussions, seems like a trap to me

  77. Pink Candyfloss*

    My company (large i.e. >75k employees, global) a few years ago started programs on many things including LGBTQ+, neurodivergence, and women’s health. The women’s health initiatives focused heavily on pregnancy and infertility, because one of the key members of the task force – who is also a person on my own team – had personal experience with IVF, missed work, accommodations etc. We were casually discussing it one day and I told her that while I thought it was a wonderful program, myself and other women over 50 like me, are generally overlooked in women’s health discussions because menopause is not at the forefront as much as pregnancy etc for younger women. They just announced this year’s “women’s health month” will focus on menopause. There will be talks by experts and there will be sessions discussing accommodations, just like there were for the infertility and pregnancy topics. My company does offer some of the things the OP says their company does not, and we are not having “courageous conversations” about menopause as far as I know, so I doubt we work for the same employer, but I wanted to pipe in to the conversation as a woman still in the throes of perimenopause (which can start as early as mid-thirties, with the age range of menopause onset being early 40s to mid 50s, for all of the youngsters in here thinking menopause is for the elderly) I do appreciate the support conversations giving equal weight to this often overlooking women’s health topic as they gave to the other ones.

  78. Pink Candyfloss*

    My company (large i.e. >75k employees, global) a few years ago started programs on many things including LGBTQ+, ND, and women’s health. The women’s health initiatives focused heavily on pregnancy and infertility, because one of the key members of the task force – who is also a person on my own team – had personal experience with IVF, missed work, accommodations etc. We were casually discussing it one day and I told her that while I thought it was a wonderful program, myself and other women over 50 like me, are generally overlooked in women’s health discussions because menopause is not at the forefront as much as pregnancy etc for younger women. They just announced this year’s “women’s health month” will focus on menopause. There will be talks by experts and there will be sessions discussing accommodations, just like there were for the infertility and pregnancy topics. My company does offer some of the things the OP says their company does not, and we are not having “courageous conversations” about menopause as far as I know, so I doubt we work for the same employer, but I wanted to pipe in to the conversation as a woman still in the throes of perimenopause (which can start as early as mid-thirties, with the age range of menopause onset being early 40s to mid 50s, for all of the youngsters in here thinking menopause is for the elderly) I do appreciate the support conversations giving equal weight to this often overlooking women’s health topic as they gave to the other ones.

  79. CLC*

    I would be a lot more optimistic about this event if it were professionally facilitated, or perhaps better, led by senior leaders who share their own experience or make a commitment to providing resources for employees going through this, etc. In other words, if this were a chance for the company to express its support for employees experiencing perimenopause it would be great, but the fact that it’s meant to be an open discussion for employees to volunteer their own information gives me significant pause. A compromise might be to attend the event in solidarity with others and to reinforce this as an important thing to acknowledge, but refrain from sharing any personal information. If called on to participate, maybe say something very general like “this is an important topic to acknowledge as it inevitably affects more than half the human population.” At the end of the day the company knows or at least can guess the gender/biological sx and age range of most employees, so simply attending the event and acknowledging menopause exists isn’t giving up anymore information than they already have. If possible, try to encourage men and younger women to attend the event as that would at least have more value as a “DEI” learning opportunity.

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