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June 19, 2023

To Washington American University radio (WAMU), National Public Radio’s (NPR) leading station for news and information, and The National Coalition for Men (NCFM regarding the November 15, 2022, program Navigating Menopause in the Workplace, with guests Paula Riggs, chair British Menopausal Society, Tammy Sun CEO and founder, Carroll Fertility, Anna Oaks, editor Quartz at Work.

During WAMU’s recent fund drive, the station was presented as place to get accurate information. As a longtime listener, I feel your station and NPR in general have in fact become more biased over time. I will address this contention by examining gender bias. Some time ago a claim was made that the station had an anti-male bias. It was taken seriously. I hope you will do the same with this article.

Title IXI will look at the issue by commenting on Jenn White’s IA program about Menopause, which was aired twice. I assume its subsequent airing was based to a great extent from positive responses from listeners of the original broadcast. But then one-sided shows speak to a lot of people. While the program was not about men, your panel did point out that the issue effects one half of all workers, meaning women. Obviously though, the other half a group called men, is affected by the issues. Also, no doubt, many business owners took particular exception to the biased approach to the topic.

The topic contrasted the way the subject would have been discussed back when women were entering the work force in large numbers. In that time period, feminists were outraged when it was suggested that female hormones would negatively effect women’s work performance. The mainstream press complied and it became a taboo subject.

In the information about the show on your website, the beginning of the program and during the show, it was stated that: “one study estimates that global menopause-related productivity losses cost more than “$150 billion a year.” This statement clearly has an Orwellian aspect.  Putting it more accurately would be that the study found women’s menopausal issues cost the work force 150 billion dollars per-year globally.

I would guess in fact, employers listening to the program would become wary of hiring women in the ages females usually experience menopause. Who would want to hire employer who could be currently or in the near future experience brain fog? To the contrary though, I have worked with a number of women at those ages and have been completely unaware they were experiencing menopausal symptoms, although no doubt many were. Nor did I notice any decline in productivity of women in that age group.

I do concur that the topic of menopause for workers has not received much attention. making it a valid topic to discuss. However, the relative paucity of the discussion of the topic makes a balanced approach more important. Virtually nothing was suggested about how women with these issues could adapt.

It is not difficult to see why the show was so slanted. There were three guests, all female, advocating for companies to accommodate women with menopausal issues. Add to that, recorded comments of three more women, all apparently on that side of the issue. In addition, Ms. White made it clear what her own position was. During the program, she made comments such as: “the U.K is several steps ahead of the U.S. in menopausal benefits but it still has a ways to go.” As well as, “the U.K is several steps ahead of us” regarding health benefits.  She also labeled a couple of listener’s comments as “those push-back messages.” White was one of the seven women and zero men, discussing the issue. Are these things WAMU is talking about when they assert the station fairly covers issues?

Ironically, the first listener comment mentioned on the program, praised the station for the diversity that led to making menopause the shows topic. Diversity would certainly include employer’s issues with employees regarding women’s menopausal difficulties mentioned during the program. Indeed, many of the observations I will mention, would have been made if the program had a guest taking the other side, which would have been true diversity.

The absence of men’s voices was also problematic. It would have been instructive to learn about issues men have working with women dealing with menopause. Also, it would be instructive to learn about their reactions to specific issues mentioned on the program. Such as how men with sleep issues feel about not being able to take time off as women do, because their problems sleeping is not caused by menopause.

Ms. White has inherited the practice of her predecessor of rarely taking phone calls during her program. Instead, she reads comments from the audience of the show. Also, at one time during IA, there was a place for comments on the website. This no longer exists. Such factors make it easy for guests, with the encouragement of White, to shoot down objections of listeners without them having a chance to respond.

As for listener comments brought up on the show, some were questionable choices. One of them being one of the two opinions she read together, where she used the term “push-back”. One of the listeners comments compared menopause to a hangnail. Certainly, a better example could have been cited. Employees frequently go to work while experiencing significant problems.

The second statement labeled “push-back” was a listener opinion that employees need to work even when experiencing life difficulties. Guest Anna Quartz reply was that menopause was an employment issue because 40% of women take off work due to symptoms. Thus, she refuted the claim about people taking off work, by saying so many women are taking off work. Can you possibly believe the listener felt their concerns were addressed?

Guests on the show explained that because one half of workers go through menopause, companies need to adapt. From an employer’s perspective, this is the problem. Numerous women experience these symptoms, so they have a lot of women they have to adapt to. Plus. women experience menopausal problems at different ages, so employers don’t know for sure when the symptoms will occur. Furthermore, the number of women expericing experiencing menopause at a workplace change over time. This makes it difficult to set long time polices.

Another downside of having a one-sided panel, is lack of scrutiny regarding questionable data.  One of the guests Tammy Sun, mentioned that her company conducted a survey which found the most stressful and challenging time in women’s lives was in their 50’s (Menopause in the workplace: A report from Carrot Fertility). She implied menopause was the reason. Certainly, it should have been inquired why she assumed menopause was the cause.

In fact, my search of the internet did not even concur that one’s fifties were their most stressful or challenging time of life. Instead, it was observed that: “it appears that the average American feels the most stressed at 36 years-old (Americans feel most  stressed in their lives at age 36).” As far as challenging, the data found that people find their twenties to be the most challenging time in their lives (Why Your Late Twenties Is the Worst Time of Your Life).

Furthermore, assuming women in their 50’s experience their most difficult change of life symptoms is debatable.  An article, When Does Menopause Start observed: “The average age for menopause is around 51. But some women experience menopause in their 40s – with a small percentage experiencing signs of menopause earlier. Some women may not reach menopause until their 60’s  (When does menopause start? Signs, stages and what to expect “  On your program, Dr. Riggs noted that many women experience their worst symptoms before menopause. According to the article cited above. these symptoms: “start four to eight years before menopause”. In other words, four to eight years earlier than the average age of 51.

Checking out the survey Sun mentioned after I wrote the above, I found that she had in fact misstated the results of the study. The data she quoted was not about women in general, but specifically about women at work. Her argument during the program about how difficult menopause is, was that despite the many life stresses women experience at earlier ages, they still found their 50’s to be their most difficult time in life. The examples she mentioned on your program included experiences of women not even employed. In fairness to Ms. Sun, the survey did show women workers had serious work issues related to menopause.

The media in general, consistently taking the side of women over their employers regarding job issues, can lead to contradictory solutions. One of the guests mentioned workplaces where companies have a cool room at work for women with hot flashes to go to. Good solution if a company can do it. Not that long ago, we heard that workplace temperatures were too cool for women. Rather than women wearing warmer closes such as the suits men wear, the solution was instead to turn up the heat in workplaces. One can imagine how thrilled women going through menopause in particular were in having the heat in offices turned up.

I am not saying there are no good solutions to women with serious menopausal symptoms in the workplace. For instance, some companies cannot accommodate some of the issues regarding women with troublesome menopausal issues. This opens the door for other companies to note they are menopausal friendly, or where people can work at home. They could benefit by hiring otherwise good employees who are experiencing menopausal issue.

In conclusion, the show fell far short of covering the issues in an objective manner. Nor is this atypical in Ms. Whites program not just regarding gender, but social issues in general. The title of the program IA refers to the first amendment. As far as programs such as this one regarding free expression of ideas, the title is more ironic than true. I would be happy to discuss more issues I have with this particular program, as well as the stations gender bias in general.

Thank you for reading.

national coalition for men


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