Last week I attended the International Coaching Federation‘s annual #ICFConverge23 conference where a majority of the sessions focused on elements of #diversity and #inclusivity in #coaching. Morwenna Stewart ÂûDHD presented her talk: “Neurodiversity: What Every Coach Should Know”, which inspired me (as a middle aged woman with ADHD) to write the following article. I’m fortunate to work for myself, which allows me the luxury of navigating my own related challenges in my own way. Not all women are this lucky.
The complexities of women’s health, particularly as they pertain to perimenopause and menopause, often remain on the periphery in professional discussions. These are topics sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably, but it’s important to note that perimenopause is the transitional phase leading up to menopause. While menopause marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years, perimenopause is the complex period leading up to it. Adding another layer to this complexity is neurodivergence, which presents its own set of unique challenges. This brings an urgent imperative for Human Resources (HR) departments to engage more effectively with these intersecting issues.
Understanding the Interplay of Perimenopause, Menopause, and Neurodivergence
Let’s define our terms for clarity:
- Perimenopause typically begins in a woman’s 40s, although it can start earlier. This phase involves a host of physiological and psychological changes, including hormonal fluctuations and mood swings.
- Menopause is the point at which a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual period, usually occurring in the late 40s to early 50s. While some symptoms may lessen, others, such as hot flashes, can continue.
- Neurodivergence involves variations in the human brain that are non-normative, often encompassing conditions like ADHD, autism, and dyslexia.
These phenomena can intersect in intricate ways, affecting emotional regulation, sensory sensitivities, cognitive function, and sleep patterns. It is a complex interplay that can significantly influence a woman’s professional experience.
Addressing the Male Bias
In many workplaces, the default settings—from performance metrics to workspace designs—often cater to a neurotypical male experience. This male bias can make navigating perimenopause or menopause and neurodivergence even more challenging for women. HR departments must actively work to counterbalance this bias and create a more equitable and accommodating environment.
What HR Can Do
- Employee Education: HR can initiate educational programs to raise awareness about perimenopause, menopause, and neurodivergence. This will contribute to a more understanding and inclusive work culture.
- Flexibility in Work Hours: Sleep disturbances are common in both perimenopausal and menopausal women, as well as those who are neurodivergent. Offering flexible scheduling options can make a significant difference in employee well-being.
- Customizable Work Environment: From noise-cancelling headphones to designated quiet spaces, simple modifications can create a more accommodating workspace for neurodivergent employees, particularly those navigating the complexities of perimenopause or menopause.
- Holistic Performance Reviews: Traditional performance metrics may not fully capture the unique challenges faced by women experiencing the symptoms of perimenopause or menopause alongside neurodivergent conditions. Qualitative assessments should supplement quantitative metrics for a more holistic understanding of an employee’s contributions and struggles.
- Open Lines of Communication: Creating open channels for dialogue about these topics is crucial. Employees should feel comfortable approaching HR to discuss individual challenges and potential accommodations.
Understanding the intricate interplay between perimenopause, menopause, and neurodivergence is essential for creating more inclusive workplaces. While perimenopause and menopause are distinct phases, their symptoms often overlap and can be exacerbated when combined with neurodivergent conditions. HR departments have a critical role to play in mitigating the challenges that arise at this intersection, thereby fostering an equitable, supportive, and productive work environment.