Finance firms told to deliver meaningful menopausal support

The financial services sector has been told it needs to do more as new research has found almost a quarter of those working in financial services have said there are no measures in their workplace to support women senior leaders going through the menopause.

The professional membership body and registered charity the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) undertook the survey, with respondents from across the world including UK, Europe, Asia and Africa.

The CISI asked respondents: “A recent report on menopause in the workplace showed that financial services firms are losing women from their pipeline of senior leaders because of a lack of workplace support for those women going through the menopause. Do you believe this has been an issue for your firm?”, with a further question on the type of measures, if any, respondents had in their firms.

Of those who responded, 44% said they felt that lack of workplace support for women going through the menopause was an issue, compared with 46% who didn’t believe it was an issue for them in their firm, with 10% remaining neutral in their response.

In terms of measures put in place to counter this lack of workplace support for menopausal senior women leaders, 15% had flexible working schedules in place, 11% had a policy, 10% had internal training for all staff or manager training, with 8% having paid leave of absence. Only 6% of firms had a menopause private medical employee benefit, with 1% having access to support via an app.

CISI chief executive, Tracy Vegro, said: “This is our first ever sector survey looking at this fundamental aspect of women’s health. Financial services firms are at differing stages of their policy formation on this issue. Lack of knowledge, need for greater awareness and ways to tackle the perceived stigma around the menopause are all key challenges.”

The survey reported some respondents said they felt ageism and gender discrimination was a factor for firms not engaging: “This is just another way to justify discrimination against women. Sure, some will need additional support, but we don’t need to be patronised and written off just because we are in our 40s/50s,” said one risk professional. Another said: “On the outside it looks like it is in place but feel the culture can be ageist”.

Some felt that the stigma around the menopause was a factor for financial services firms’ lack of engagement.

“Although we haven’t lost any staff due to lack of support, I think it’s more to do with those of us affected by the issue have been here sometime and not really expecting support,” said one.  “This is still an issue for women themselves as we’re only just coming out of the taboo stage and realising there is help out there.”

Another added: “Since I have just been through peri menopause and then menopause, I can safely say it’s one of the hardest and least addressed phases of a woman’s life. They have been suffering silently and seems like I just did the same.”

Other respondents raised the issue of lack of leadership within firms: “Minimum cost was spent on this. A training course was rolled out to all staff on a different topic and the trainers were asked to cover menopause briefly,” said one UK respondent. “All training courses were done as a window dressing to meet compliance requirements. No other provisions were made in the workplace. My personal opinion is the CEO is too young and too much profit driven (bonus) in an environment that is much dominated by a male workforce. My previous CEO said: ‘this is a financial service industry and stress, and pay is part of the deal’. No empathy and emotional intelligence exist in leadership.”

Claire Tunley, Financial Services Skills Commission, CEO said: “The financial services sector is facing a huge skills shortage. Firms are working hard to break the menopause taboo and support colleagues through their menopause transition but there is more work to do. Generating greater awareness, understanding, and building a more inclusive working culture, will empower individuals and help retain valuable, expertise and talent. This will ensure the industry continues to build skills, drive innovation, and boost overall competitiveness.”