Biote, a hormone therapy company run by CEO, Terry Weber, wants to educate and empower not only providers caring for menopausal women, but their employers, too.
Hormones play a critical role in a woman’s healthy aging and patients are often ashamed of talking about how disruptive the systems can be. To increase awareness of this issue, Biote recently commissioned a study of women who are experiencing menopause and how it affects their performance at work.
According to the survey results, which is currently only available to a select group of industry editors, roughly a quarter of the women said their menopause symptoms negatively affected their career development. Another 17% said they'd quit a job or had considered quitting due solely to menopause symptoms.
“We kept hearing from patients that their lives were being upended,” Weber says. “For many of them, the impetus to seek medical care came when menopause symptoms became too disruptive at work.”
It’s an issue that hits close to home for Weber, who says she nearly lost one of her own most valuable employees when worsening hormonal symptoms led her to contemplate early retirement. The employee wasn’t initially open about why she wanted to retire, but with encouragement, Weber was able to talk it through with her and guide the woman to seek medical help. This employee is still at Biote today.
“That experience made me realize how hard it was for women to talk about this,” Weber says. “If she wasn’t comfortable in a workplace that I was leading, how much harder would it be for others? I realized that if I wasn’t thinking about this on behalf of my employees, nobody was. So, the ‘Women in the Workplace’ survey was a great way to find out how big this problem is. Data will always lead us.”
Here, Weber, a PharmaVoice 100 honoree, shares her thoughts on the survey’s findings and what life sciences companies can do to support their female employees.
PharmaVoice: What was the most revealing or significant finding from your study?
Terry Weber: I was struck first by the large number of women whose work lives are so strongly affected by menopause — 92% of them had experienced one or more menopause symptoms in the last year, and four in 10 reported that symptoms have interfered with their work performance or productivity on a weekly basis. I was also struck by the general belief that they can’t talk about this without strong discomfort. It’s such a hard place to be in, especially when you don’t know where to turn for support.
How can employers in the life sciences better accommodate menopausal women?
We in life sciences should lead in offering supportive life stage options for our employees. If our industry leads, we can work toward making supportive environments routine across not just menopause, but also raising children, miscarriage, elder care and more.
It’s predicted that we won’t have full employment again in the U.S. until 2034. We can’t afford to lose valuable contributors in our organizations. Creating ‘I options’ [Weber’s phrase for options that address an individuals' needs] that acknowledge and support our colleagues as humans is essential to keeping these people working, and to having them feel good about working with us.
What are the long-term takeaways from the study?
Our way to the future is attracting and keeping the best talent across all life stages. Our entire society needs to work to normalize menopause and allow the conversations. The burden of doing so shouldn’t be placed on working women who may fear for the impact on their work relationships or their careers.
We can make helpful options available, and we can make it safe to ask for them, with very simple actions: Creating that opening can be as simple as noting menopause-related options in your employee manual.
As employers and colleagues in the life sciences, let’s normalize being human. We can make this happen.
What accommodations for women who may be experiencing menopause symptoms have you made for your own staff?
Let’s not talk about ‘accommodations.’ There’s so much stigma in that word. Let’s talk about options. The ones I’ve found most useful for my own workforces are quite straightforward.
First, flexible work schedules and work-from-home options where it’s feasible. One woman I knew had hot flashes at the same time every day, but they were so debilitating she would be sweating profusely. She was a very private woman, and the option to take some time to herself helped her manage those symptoms without embarrassment or anxiety.
Second, this one might sound silly, but it’s so important: individual temperature control. We provide cooling units as well as air conditioning for anyone who asks for it. You can get a chiller, you can get a heater, you can get both if you ask for it.