According to government-funded growth network Tech Nation, nearly three million people in the UK are employed in the UK tech industry – yet just 26% of them are women.
It led to tech business leader and peer Baroness Martha Lane Fox to this week slam the industry for its lack of balance, saying that its gender diversity hasn’t progressed for 25 years.
On top of the gender gap in tech, there’s a massive hiring problem. Some 72% of tech teams currently have a skills shortage and this is being exacerbated by the ‘quiet quitting’ phenomenon off the back of the post-pandemic Great Resignation.
Despite all the big brains in tech, one vital demographic is being ignored – menopausal women. By ignoring this group, representation is obviously being failed and tech companies will not meet the needs of society.
In this piece, Helen Normoyle, Co-Founder of specialist online health service, My Menopause Centre, looks at why it’s so vital that tech companies provide menopause support, awareness and training for staff.
Helen is a women’s wellness champion and co-founder of My Menopause Centre. This femtech start up comprises an online clinic and community designed to empower women to take control of their menopause and thrive using evidence-based information and advice from menopause experts. Helen has held Chief Marketing Officer roles with Boots the BBC and DFS has also worked in the mobile technology sector with Motorola and in broadcast and telecoms regulation at Ofcom. She is a non-executive director at Allied Irish Bank Ireland’s leading financial services provider and #1 digital bank where she also chairs the Sustainable Business Advisory Committee. Helen is also a non-executive director of Travelodge.
WITHOUT DIVERSE AND EQUAL REPRESENTATION, TECHNOLOGIES OF ALL SORTS ARE PRONE TO BEING BIASSED IN TERMS OF DATA, OUTPUT AND USER EXPERIENCE.
When it comes to the gender gap in the industry, menopause support and awareness could be part of the solution, not least because the proportion of people over 50 in work is increasing – new research suggests more than half of women over 50 believe they’ll have to stay in work even beyond the state pension age.
Around 15.5 million women in the UK are in varying stages of menopausal transition and they are the fastest growing work age demographic. But while some women will sail through menopause, for many it can be a challenging transition physically and emotionally, with three out of four suffering symptoms which on average last eight years, but sometimes much longer.
As a result, according to a recent study, one in five (20%) menopausal women in tech have left or want to leave their job because of their symptoms. In addition, almost a quarter (22%) had delayed or cancelled plans to apply for a promotion as a result and three-quarters (76%) thought menopause could affect their progression into senior roles.
Because there’s still not enough awareness and understanding around symptoms, particularly in the tech industry, women are suffering in silence in the workplace, or these hugely talented, experienced women are stepping back from promotion, reducing their hours or leaving the industry entirely.
I passionately believe it’s essential that the industry must must start offering support, training and guidance to all employees to ensure that women can go through the menopause without it negatively impacting their careers.
Tech HR managers and line managers need to better understand the impact menopause symptoms can have on what are some of the most experienced and productive members of their workforce to gain a competitive advantage for their businesses – and to recognise that making a positive difference for menopausal women ultimately makes a positive difference to the bottom line.
Providing ongoing menopause support – or at the very least adopting a proactive menopause policy – is key to attracting menopausal women to your company and keeping them there and showing that you have a female-friendly culture full stop. It’s certainly not just about providing desk fans.
By turning it from a ‘woman’s issue’ to one of wider inclusion, you can mine the talent and experience of women who may be at – or approaching – the top of their careers while going through this crucial transition.
Allowing flexible/hybrid working is vital and introducing menopause leave is a great start, and what any forward-thinking British businesses should do. Informal menopause support groups backed by senior leaders also signals that there’s open communication around menopause and education and training from menopause experts for all staff is also essential. Even as a small tech start-up, just having a work menopause champion shows your intention, and there are loads of free educational resources out there.
Not only will it have a hugely beneficial impact on the tech sector, but on society as a whole. It really is a no-brainer.