Employers’ Role in Matters of Life and Health

Global Coalition on Aging
Global Coalition on Aging
4 min readJun 15, 2023

By Michael Hodin

For over a decade, Bank of America has been breaking ground as a true society-wide leader in matters relating to healthy longevity. Long ago, they came to the profound insight that helping to manage customers’ financial health must be inextricably linked to understanding customers’ needs and desires across our life stages, including pre- and post-retirement planning. Through research, analysis, communications, and business solutions, Bank of America has been inspirational in areas ranging from elder caregiving as a workplace benefit to the role a non-healthcare company can have in age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and in the Silver Economy.

The new report from Bank of America, Break Through the Stigma: Menopause in the Workplace, takes these ideas, insights, and inspiration even further as it spotlights menopause and the special impact on women in the workplace. As they did with their investigation into elder caregiving, they are now focusing on how menopause is a too often overlooked, stigmatized area where employers can do more to support older employees and their families — and one that sits at the intersection of healthy aging, longer working lives, the Silver Economy, and the growing momentum for action on bone health. All these issues have one clear throughline: the 21st century imperative for aging societies to help people stay healthy, active, financially secure, and contributing for longer. The menopause-bone health linkage, particularly the opportunity for second-fracture prevention through such support as Fracture Liaison Services, is a topic for all employers to focus on.

At a time when the number of post-menopausal women is projected to soon reach 1.1 billion, including 20% of the workforce in some phase of menopause transition, around half of those women say menopause negatively impacts their work life, presenting a challenge for employers. Yet just 14% of women said their employer recognizes the need for menopause-specific benefits, only 32% had a positive perspective of their company’s culture towards menopause, and just 3% had discussed menopause with HR.

Stigma is largely to blame. As Lorna Sabbia, Head of Retirement & Personal Wealth Solutions at Bank of America, frames the issue:

“Right now, there are millions of women suffering in silence — trying to simultaneously manage menopause symptoms, stigma, and their careers. With this report, we are addressing the issue head-on by bringing awareness to the challenges and identifying actions for employers. Our goal is to help women of all life stages comfortably and confidently bring their best selves to work.”

This stigma is another sign of the rampant ageism that has been called out by the UN and WHO’s Decade of Healthy Ageing. But the report also finds that employers who address stigma can realize important gains. Nearly two-thirds of women want menopause-specific benefits, and when benefits are offered, almost 60% of women said they positively impacted their work. In fact, women were significantly more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work when these benefits were available.

This should make menopause-specific benefits a priority for every employer who wants to attract, develop, and retain the increasingly vital pool of older, especially female, talent. Beyond the workplace, fighting the stigma of menopause connects to the wider healthy aging movement, especially the need to step up responses to osteoporosis, fragility fractures, and prevention of second fractures in the overall bone health framework.

As societies turn to this area, several actions can accelerate progress:

· Strengthen employer benefits and culture to support women through menopause. The most common benefits include access to menopause health professionals, coverage for hormone replacement therapy, and policies like time-off or flexible work. Employers can offer these alongside other policies to meet the needs of older workers in a strong multigenerational workforce, such as support for employee-caregivers and financial literacy and planning offerings.

· Embrace bone health as a key aspect of healthy aging. Bone health is inextricably linked to mobility, productivity, and social engagement. Therefore, employer support for menopause fits within the wider effort to put bone health at the center of healthy aging, dramatically improving quality of life for tens of millions of older people globally, mitigating the soaring costs to health systems, and enabling older adults to remain active and productive for longer, with benefits for both their physical and financial health. Fracture Liaison Services in communities where employees work should grow and become more available.

· Bolster efforts to detect osteoporosis and prevent fragility fractures. Together with fighting the stigma of menopause, we need concerted responses to address osteoporosis and fragility fractures, which are projected to affect 13.5 million older people by 2025. Improving diagnostic approaches to osteoporosis and including bone health in integrated care for older people (ICOPE) — one of the pillars of the Decade of Healthy Ageing — represent two key opportunities.

· Combat the dangerous, costly stigma of ageism. According to the WHO’s Global report on ageism, fully one-in-two people hold ageist stereotypes, leading to disastrous, avoidable costs and impacts. The latest Bank of America report is another important signal of how much we can still gain by fully embracing a positive conception of lifelong health, productivity, and fulfillment.

Employers have a key role to play in both the Silver Economy and healthy aging, where smart policies can unlock cascading benefits for individuals, organizations, and the overall workforce. Together with age-friendly policy and societal norms, this can drive the progress needed to end stigma, empower older people, and achieve widespread physical and financial health as we age.