In her late 40s, Celia Chen began experiencing unexplained symptoms like anxiety, a spike in blood sugar, acne and chronic pain in her shoulder — all of which she attributed to her high-pressure job as a marketing executive at a start-up, which involved red eye flights and long hours.
After switching to a new gynecologist, at 48, she learned that these changes were related to her transition to menopause, known as perimenopause. And that the stress of the job was only making them worse. Ms. Chen says her doctor told her, “‘your body is screaming for you to stop.’”
“I hit a wall,” Ms. Chen said.
Eventually, Ms. Chen changed her lifestyle and, after a few months, switched to working as a consultant, which allowed her to control her hours and stress levels.
Symptoms associated with the transition to menopause, which can last a decade, are often a drag on women’s careers and arise at a time when they may be stepping into larger executive roles. A study by the Mayo Clinic published this year found that 15 percent of women either missed work or cut back on hours because of menopause symptoms, and that loss of productivity costs women an estimated $1.8 billion each year. Researchers in the U.K. also found that those who reported at least one disruptive menopausal symptom at age 50 were 43 percent more likely to have left their jobs by age 55.
And so, in the same way that many companies looking to attract and retain talent have expanded their benefits packages to include fertility treatments, paid parental leave programs and child care, some are now wrapping in menopause-specific care.
These benefits can include virtual access to the small pool of roughly 1,000 certified specialists in the country, who can be difficult to find locally, and coverage for often expensive hormone treatments that may not be included in some insurance plans.
For the health care company Sanofi, adding menopause perks were “a no-brainer,” said Nathalie Grenache, its senior vice president of people and culture.
“If you feel truly supported throughout your life cycle, whether it is maternity or menopause, you’ll be more engaged,” she said. “I’m sure the new generation is more demanding on that.”
Providers of corporate support services for menopause say uptake has been fast. Peppy, a gender-inclusive telehealth company that was founded in 2018 in Britain, offers menopause support in workplaces and began offering services in the U.S. in January. EBay, Nvidia, Wiley and Capgemini are all clients.In October, the health care benefits provider Maven launched a menopause product, which provides employees with app-based telehealth access to specialists and therapists as well as chat rooms to discuss their experiences and share resources. Within nine months, more than 150 companies had signed up, said Kate Ryder, its chief executive and founder. It has become “the fastest selling product,” she added, “in the history of all Maven products.”
More than 40 percent of female workers are at least 45, the age at which women typically transition to menopause (though some studies suggest that women of color might begin earlier). That shift — marking the end of a woman’s reproductive years — is characterized by an array of symptoms, from insomnia to hot flashes and brain fog. In large part, the symptoms can be debilitating because there are few effective treatment options and there is very little research into why and how menopause changes the body.
Despite the high cost and common experience of menopause, it has mostly been ignored in the workplace. A 2023 survey by Bank of America found that 58 percent of women felt uncomfortable talking about menopause at work because it seemed too personal and because they worried they might be judged by co-workers.
But as more women enter senior leadership positions, that is changing, said Max Landry, the co-chief executive of Peppy. “The women who are going to go through menopause over the next five to 10 years are not going to accept this in a way that my mother’s generation did,” he said.
Some legal experts say existing laws may require companies to make accommodations for menopause, which could go beyond menopause-specific care benefits to include schedule flexibility or spaces for cooling down. These laws include the new Pregnant Workers Fairness Act that went into effect in June, said Liz Morris, the deputy director at the Center for WorkLife Law, an advocacy and research organization at the University of California College of the Law. That law mandates employers to provide accommodations for workers experiencing pregnancy, postpartum recovery and “related medical conditions,” which, Ms. Morris argued, could include the end of fertility.
Regardless of whether that so far untested argument holds up in court, corporate benefits won’t be enough, said Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, the executive director of the New York University School of Law’s Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Center. She said that both further research that can help prevent symptoms in the first place and laws that explicitly ban discrimination are needed.
Corporate benefits, Ms. Weiss-Wolf said, are, at best, “just scratching at the surface.”