A study of the effects of menopause on women in financial services suggests that advances similar to those made in workplace mental health are needed if the sector is to progress and retain female talent.
To gather more imput and raise awareness of the effects of the menopause on working women, Standard Chartered’s first survey of the matter reveals that a substantial number of women in the financial sector are likely to leave the industry due to their experiences. A culture of silence concerning the menopause is a significant factor in blocking female career progression and firms’ ability to retain talent, the bank has found.
Its study, carried out earlier this year, entitled Menopause in the Workplace: Impact on Women in Financial Services, canvassed around 2,400 employees of all ages across 100-plus financial services organisations. It found that almost half (47 per cent) of those surveyed said they were less likely to apply for a promotion because of their experiences of the menopause; and over half (52 per cent) said that it made them less likely to take on extra responsibilities, even though two in five women said they wanted to progress through the ranks.
Almost a quarter of women said the situation made them more likely to retire early.
Chroniclers of industry efforts to be more inclusive and reflective of society will welcome the findings, which will hopefully spur more industry engagement to find ways to retain female talent at a time when female wealth holdings will soon surpass those of males. The sector can’t afford to increase the skills gap or risk losing female managers if they are not alive to these issues, the report said.
“Our research indicates the financial services sector could lose tens of thousands of women due to their experience of the menopause at work. From senior leaders to customer service and call centre staff, everyone, regardless of age or gender, has the potential to benefit from greater menopause awareness,” chief executive at the Financial Services Skills Commission (FSCC), Claire Tunley, said.
To do this successfully, the sector needs to create supportive and inclusive conversations that will not only serve to retain and progress talent but will also drive innovation and productivity, Tunley added. The FSSC, along with the Fawcett Society, faciliated the research.
Standard Chartered says internal policies will change at the bank on the back of the findings. They include flexible working, access to counselling and educational resources across the businesses and dedicated advice for line managers and peer-to-peer support groups, it said.
Financial services currently skews 60 per cent male to 40 per cent female; and roughly 10 per cent (or 128,000) are women aged between 45 and 55, the age at which women are most likely to experience the menopause.
More diversity in management, from gender and ethnicity to diversity of thought, is increasingly being linked to the bottom line for firms. Recent McKinsey data has shown that companies scoring in the top quartile for their gender diversity on executive teams were 25 per cent more likely to report above average profitability.
Debbie Wills, head of wealth management for Europe at StanChart, who participated in the survey, said the results are important for wealth management.
“We know that women will be holding the majority of Britain’s wealth by 2025 and it is vital that there are female wealth advisors in the industry.”
Having a workforce that broadly represents clients means that firms can understand them better. “A colleague who can speak the local language, share the culture and ethnicity, address a client’s needs and grow authentic relationships in their communities is a huge asset,” she said. “If we are to encourage more women into the wealth management space, they need to see female role models and, if they are leaving due to menopause (as our study suggest), the cycle will never be broken.”