Menopause, work and mid-life: Challenging the ideal worker stereotype

Belinda Steffan*, Wendy Loretto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article investigates how the complexity of life domains of menopause-aged women creates a paradox of simultaneously challenging the ideal worker stereotype while being caught within it. The empirical setting of menopause at work acts to highlight how work, life, and health pressures are entangled in how women present themselves at work, through varying organizational and societal expectations of being ‘fit for work’. We draw on 80 semi-structured, life-course interviews of women over 50 working in four occupational settings: social care, manufacturing, finance, and self-employed. Findings are presented through three empirical vignettes, providing unique insight into how ideal worker expectations perpetuate or challenge the persistent silencing of ‘being’ menopausal at work, reinforced by life domain experiences relevant to mid-life. We present a theoretical contribution to ideal worker theory by highlighting that women who redefine the ideal worker stereotype might be less vulnerable to gendered ageist workplace cultures. We provide a practical contribution for how organizations can better support this generation and future generations of mid-life women at work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalGender, Work and Organization
Early online date2 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 May 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • menopause
  • women's health
  • ideal worker
  • extending working lives


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