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Champion for mid-life working women recognised with award

Professor Jo Brewis (pictured on the left, with Dame Cilla Snowball, chair of the Women’s Business Council) has been awarded the Staying On Award 2018 by the Women’s Business Council, which is a business-led initiative to advise on how women’s contribution to economic growth can be optimised. Recognised for her work in raising the profile of mid-life women workers, Professor Brewis collected the award at the Council’s ‘Five Years On’ report launch in November.

Professor Brewis’ expertise lies in the connections between the body, gender, sexuality, identity and organizations. She said:

“I was delighted to be given the Staying On award for 2018: it is a real honour. The ceremony was testament to how much the Council has achieved in the last five years, and although we all accept there is a long way to go towards genuine gender equality in the workplace, I am very pleased to be able to play a part in the Council’s excellent work.”

Professor Brewis was co-author of a government report in 2017, ‘The effects of menopause transition on women’s economic participation in the UK’ which led to her joining the Women’s Business Council.  She is part of the Staying On Action Group, which focuses on maximising economic opportunities for older working women, including consideration of the impact of the menopause on women in or seeking employment.

Menopausal women feel marginalised

With 51 the average age of natural menopause in industrialised countries, more women who are working will experience the menopause transition than ever before.

Speaking to the Staying On publication, Professor Brewis said: “Mid-life and older women say they feel invisible or marginalised at work. Women don’t feel able to speak out or disclose the fact that they have menopause transition symptoms. The perception, which is not necessarily the reality, is that they will be judged and treated differently if they say they are going through the menopause.”

 “The average cost of replacing somebody in middle life, who’s probably very experienced and may have worked in the organisation for a very long time, is about £30,000.”

Professor Brewis wants to normalise the menopause, saying:

“It’s inevitable, it’s universal, it’s natural. It can be difficult, but there are ways and means through which difficult symptoms can be managed. I think the other thing is, this is really demographically significant. Women are driving the increases in employment across the board in the UK, particularly in the older working group. The demographics of the UK labour force, and indeed across Europe and other industrialised countries, suggest we have to start paying attention to this now.”

The Age of Success

Professor Brewis helped to create the Staying On – The Age of Success toolkit, which was launched in November 2017. Alongside her co-authors Dr. Vanessa Beck (University of Bristol) and Dr. Andrea Davies (University of Leicester), her continuing contribution to the Action Group is to highlight and work on plugging the evidence gaps that the report highlighted, such as how women in manual and/or low-paid work experience menopause, and comparing mid-life women workers to their mid-life male counterparts.

Find out more

Read Professor Brewis’ article for The Conversation about why businesses should recognise the menopause.

About Author

Kath works in the Media Relations team within the Communications Unit at The Open University. She is a skilled communicator with more than 15 years’ experience working in both the public and private sectors. She has a BA (Hons) English and American Literature from University of Warwick and specialises in stories from the Faculty of Social Science, Faculty of Education and Language Studies, BBC programmes, and student stories. In her spare time Kath enjoys touring the country in her hand-painted camper van, Trevor.

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