Where’s the evidence for menopause initiatives at work?

workingwise.co.uk speaks to Professor Susan Davis, an international expert in women’s health about her view that many of the menopause at work initiatives are not backed up by scientific evidence.

Dictionary definition of the word menopause - menopause and the workplace


Professor Susan Davis is a clinician researcher with expertise in the role of sex hormones in women across the lifespan. She is Head of Women’s Health Research Programme at Australia’s Monash University and is a Consultant Endocrinologist and Head of the Women’s Endocrine Clinic at Alfred Hospital Melbourne and a consultant at Cabrini Medical Centre.

Her research spans basic science to clinical trials and has been pivotal in understanding the role of sex hormones in women in multiple non-reproductive target tissues including the brain and cardiovascular system. Professor Davis is a past President of the Australasian Menopause Society and the International Menopause Society and has been awarded the Medal of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians for her outstanding contribution and leadership in endocrinology and women’s health. She is also an advisor to the NHS Menopause Improvement Programme Steering Committee and was an advisor for the Australian National Women’s Health Strategy 2020-2030. 

She recently submitted evidence to an Australian Senate inquiry on menopause and the workplace to the effect that there is a lack of evidence about what works. workingwise.co.uk spoke to her about her work and about workplace menopause initiatives.

workingwise.co.uk: How widely available are menopause policies in Australian workplaces?

Professor Susan Davis: They are not widespread but are being considered by some organisations.
I have heard of some introducing menopause leave but i do not know what that looks like in detail. They have been a fairly recent phenomenon.

ww: In the UK there has certainly been a big interest in menopause driven by high-profile speakers and books, mainly by women who have had very severe symptoms. There has also been a lot of products, apps, etc. Is that similar in Australia and is this influencing policy, making it more reactive than considered, based on a rounded picture of menopause, in your opinion?

SD: The majority of women do not suffer very severe symptoms.  There is no sound data to support what is happening in UK. There is some very poor market research data that is potentially misleading that is driving a lot of hype and some vocal crusaders.

Optimising women’s work engagement is really important – optimising work opportunities and work environment etc is important for the entire community – but any policies need to be evidence-based and align with the wishes of the majority of women – not just the most vocal. Plus people are focusing on menopause at the risk of ignoring all the other key aspects like job stress, financial insecurity, job dissatisfaction, psychological and physical health and so forth that impact women. For example, menopause is not why women turn 50 and have inadequate money in their retirement fund and have to keep working a job they don’t like to pay rent!

ww: What are the main planks of menopause policies in Australia?

SD: Policies are based on scant, incomplete, mostly biased data, companies are pressured to do the right thing and people are setting up consulting services to  create “menopause-friendly” workplaces – based on no evidence. There are a lot of vested interests in this story. The cart is leading the horse in my opinion.

ww: What does the evidence say about what does work?

SD: There is no evidence as to the true need independent of other factors influencing work and no evidence that any intervention makes any difference to anything.

ww: What more needs to be done to ensure policies are effective in supporting women?

SD: High quality data is needed to determine whether menopause per se is a problem and, if so, how much of a contribution it makes to the overall scheme of things ie all the other factors colliding at midlife for women. Maybe it’s not menopause we should be focussing on but other factors that increase women’s vulnerability to difficulties in relation to work at this age. We are completing our paper that has systematically reviewed all the papers in this field and will be submitting it for publication very soon – it tells an interesting story.

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