A sensitive guide to supporting and empowering your female colleagues

From encouraging inclusivity to acknowledging the menopause and menstrual leave, women can benefit greatly from their workplaces becoming more sensitive and supportive.

Sally Evans, Director of Operations at commercial estate agency Making Moves, explains how to support and empower your female colleagues and help them reach their full potential.

Everyone’s health plays an integral part in their work performance and emotional wellbeing. Experiencing chronic pain, poor sleep, brain fog, or increased anxiety would have a significant impact on anyone’s career performance, and so acknowledging that this is many women’s reality during the menopause can be one of the first steps in supporting and better understanding female colleagues.

From supporting women’s health to ensuring better inclusivity in leadership roles, here’s how to better support your female staff in the workplace.

Increase menopause and menstrual awareness 

According to GenM’s Invisibility Report, half of the women surveyed (51%) could only name three of the 48 potential symptoms associated with the menopause.

If a significant number of women feel blindsided by the true extent of this life stage, it’s no surprise that their male colleagues are likely to know even less. However, as something that directly affects half of the world’s population, it’s vital that we improve awareness and education on the menopause — both for women and men. 

Unfortunately, some corporate initiatives regarding gender equality in the workplace can end up feeling like box-ticking exercises or short-term solutions. Instead, what can make a more lasting difference is changing the culture of your workplace.

By encouraging open conversations and empathetic treatment in your company, you can help to reduce the taboo around women’s health and its true impact on their career. Especially if you occupy a management or leadership role, facilitating these important conversations encourages your female colleagues to come forward with their concerns with the knowledge that they will be listened to. 

Create progressive company policies

Sadly, one in four women consider resigning from their roles due to the effects of the menopause and up to 10% actually do resign. This can be one of the most difficult things for women during the menopause, as they have worked hard to reach a certain point in their career and find it threatened by this unavoidable life change.

Even from a business perspective, it would be detrimental to lose a large proportion of your most experienced employees for something you could help to support them through. 

However, if your company offers a flexible working policy, this can often benefit women dealing with pain, poor sleep, reduced mobility, and the various other complications associated with the menopause. This isn’t just beneficial for people going through menopause, either, as it can also improve the working life of those with menstrual conditions such as endometriosis or dysmenorrhea.

Some countries including India and South Korea have introduced menstrual leave schemes, offering employees 10 days a year to take as paid medical leave. 

Smaller, day-to-day gestures like providing free sanitary items in your office toilets can also make your colleagues’ work lives more comfortable, by alleviating the anxiety and distraction around supplying their own throughout the day. 

Empower women in the workplace

Despite the importance of menopause and menstrual awareness in the workplace, it isn’t just health-related issues that women must overcome throughout their working life. While most companies are gradually becoming more progressive and inclusive, female employees can still unfortunately face gendered obstacles in their work environments. 

These obstacles can range from microaggressions like being talked over in meetings to more blatant discrimination like being excluded from promotions or project management roles. Firstly, make it clear that your company never tolerates any kind of discrimination: it’s important for women and minorities to know that their employer and fellow colleagues will support and listen to them in a non-toxic work environment. 

Secondly, you can support your female colleagues on a practical, daily level by ensuring that they are always heard and included in the workspace.

Whether you occupy a management role or are a fellow colleague, always be inclusive and receptive of everyone’s input during collaborative projects regardless of their gender. Not only this, but remember to take a step back and consider whether your management positions or project leaders are occupied by a diverse representation of your team. 

Help your female colleagues to reach their full potential

Menstrual health, the menopause, and gender discrimination can all have a significant impact on women in the workplace. Through education, open conversations, and progressive company policies, you can begin to better support your female colleagues and allow them to reach their full potential. 

You can read more on menstruation and the menopause in these articles: