Why menopause support is a trending workplace benefit

In 2018, Max Landry was pitching his new U.K.-based startup, Peppy, to employers and HR leaders, explaining how the nascent women's and family health solution would help workforces prepare for pregnancy and early parenthood. When he was asked if the company dabbled in the space of menopause, he gave an honest answer: "I'm not sure I even know what menopause is." 

That same week, a second HR leader asked him about menopause. This time, he had done his research — but politely explained that Peppy wasn't providing a specific solution. When the third exec of the week pressed him on the topic, he and his co-founders went back to the drawing board. 

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In the five years since, Peppy's health services have reached more than one million women in the U.K., and menopause has become a central focus of the organization. It's no wonder why: Nearly 20% of today's workers are managing menopause, and 20% of those have considered walking away from their job because of symptoms, according to a 2022 study. A recent report by the Mayo Clinic estimates that missed work days due to menopause symptoms — including mood swings and hot flashes — added up to the annual loss of $1.8 billion in the U.S.

Peppy expanded across the pond in 2021, partnering with U.S.-based employer clients to deliver its digital-first solutions. Employees engage through an app-based platform, connecting with clinical experts and practitioners for real-world guidance and treatment. Landry recently spoke to EBN about how employers are beginning to prioritize women's health, why menopause shouldn't be a taboo topic, and how technology can enable better specialist care. 

The U.K. seems to be a few years ahead of the U.S. in terms of supporting menopause, but Americans might be playing catchup right now, and looking for solutions. What do you think is driving that change?
It's a societal shift, and I don't know the answer as to what the tipping point is, or what it was in the U.K., but I think it's the combination of a lot of things. Women in their 40s who are starting to go through this, it's very different from, say, my parents' generation, people who are in their 70s. Today, the people going through menopause largely have careers, they work hard, it's a different socio-economic demographic. And these women are finally saying: This is bloody ridiculous that there's no menopause support. 

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Then you layer on top these other societal pressures forcing companies to address getting more women in leadership positions and figuring out how to close the gender pay gap. But you can't have an authentic discussion around those things without addressing some of the historically taboo issues that affect women. 

As these topics trend in the workplace and marketplace, what sets Peppy apart? 
We are a healthcare company that uses technology. We are not a tech company dabbling in healthcare, and that's a big distinction. We are licensed in 50 states and D.C., with our own practitioners in every state. We're providing access to specialists that just are typically unavailable in the healthcare system. I can't tell you why no big U.S. insurer was offering menopause support, but I can tell you that the average OB-GYN only has one hour of training on menopause. 

With that in mind, what kind of support are these providers able to give your clients? 
Once you download the app and do a bit of onboarding, you'll arrive at a direct, unlimited and private chat with a practitioner. So in New York State, you'd be talking to a nurse practitioner, specialized in women's health and licensed to offer clinical care. It's an unlimited, asynchronous chat, so our users realize quite quickly that they're speaking to an actual human. And that nurse will set up unlimited video calls if necessary, and if you need a prescription or medication or hormone therapy, we can provide that for you. That stands in stark contrast to a standard OB-GYN appointment where they're trying to get you in and out.

Read more: Employers looking to expand women's health coverage can't forget menopause

Despite louder conversations on these topics, I'm sure they're still taboo at many organizations. For those employers, how do you get them talking? 

It's really helpful to just say some statistics, because menopause is not some weird, niche thing. Twenty percent of the workforce in the U.S. is a woman over the age of 45. Normally, when we talk to a client, we don't just talk about menopause, but all the specialist areas of women's health. And nine times out of 10 someone on the call will say, "Oh my god, I've got endometriosis," or "My sister's got PCOS," which 10% of women experience, respectively. So if you're an employer of 10,000 people, 500 women today have endometriosis, and another 500 have PCOS, and half of your workforce will go through menopause. We call it specialized women's health, but it should be called mainstream health.

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