How breaking the menopause taboo can help narrow the gender investment gap

Authored on
21 Oct 2022



Money Matters champion Danni Hewson talks about her experience of menopause and why we all need to be aware that it contributes to the gender investment gap.

When we launched AJ Bell’s Money Matters campaign in 2021, we found that the gender investment gap was, on average, a whopping £65,000. There are many reasons for this gap – including pay, confidence, and taking time out of the workplace to have or care for children. But another factor that’s sometimes overlooked is the menopause.

Despite the fact all women go through the menopause, it’s still something that many find difficult to talk about. While companies are getting much better at recognising the importance of having a menopause policy in place, there’s still a massive stigma attached to the subject. Many women feel too embarrassed to talk about the changes their body is going through, particularly when it starts to impact their ability to do their job.

I was in my late thirties when I began to experience menopausal symptoms, and despite numerous conversations with my GP, I felt completely isolated and bewildered. I was working in television news at the time and suddenly found that my ability to do my job was compromised. I couldn’t concentrate properly, and my brain felt foggy, rather like it had when I’d first had my children. But while ‘baby brain’ has been given a huge number of column inches over the years, this was something I hadn’t been expecting and that completely eroded my confidence.

Although it wasn’t the main reason for my return to the radio studio, it was a consideration. I was lucky – being able to forward my career by changing roles – but many women aren’t as fortunate. New research* carried out ahead of World Menopause Day has found that over 40% of full-time working women experiencing the menopause say it has impacted their job.

Many women report having to take time off, sometimes using their holiday entitlement and sometimes having to resort to unpaid leave. Cutting back on the number of hours worked seems to be the most common solution, but a minority of women decided to leave the workplace entirely.

More and more workplaces are waking up to the need to provide support for women going through the menopause and putting policies in place to make it easier for women to talk to their managers and get the support they need. And this is good, because confidence is the main victim: almost 40% of 45–55-year-olds said they had lost confidence. 

That age range is important. Most women experience the menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. It often coincides with a hugely significant period in work and financial life, with many thinking seriously about their retirement for the first time and considering whether they have enough set aside. 

With more than one in ten saying that their finances had suffered during their menopause, and more than half of those saying they’d had to cut their outgoings to manage, it’s yet another life event that gets in the way of women’s ability to invest in their future.

And here’s the kicker: almost sixty percent of women who’ve been through the menopause, or were experiencing menopause symptoms when we carried out the survey, said they don’t have, or weren’t sure if they have, sufficient savings in pensions and other investments.

So, what can be done? Clearly employers need to do more to help their female employees stay in work without needing to reduce their hours, take time off or leave their job altogether. But women also have to take control, to factor life changes into their financial planning and to do so as early as they can.

Women in their twenties might not want to consider their future life journeys, but simply by starting to invest for their future early, they’re giving themselves the best possible hedge against unforeseen life events.

And it’s important that awareness isn’t just limited to women reaching menopause age. Every woman is different and some, like me, might find their menopause arrives much earlier than what’s considered ‘average’. 

The stigma is slowly being lifted, and the taboo surrounding this stage of a woman’s life being challenged. And that’s good for women, good for society and a good step on our journey to narrowing that gender investment gap.

*Survey carried out by Opinium for AJ Bell. Sample of 1,071 women who have gone through, or are going through, the menopause. Data collected between 26 and 31 August 2022

These articles are for information purposes only and are not a personal recommendation or advice.