Menopause traditionally has been regarded as a taboo subject. Fortunately, this is changing, and Miss Menopause, Sharon MacArthur, is on a mission to help employers to understand the effect it has on women and men in the workplace and what small changes can make a big difference to becoming a better employer and improve the workplace for everyone.
We’re all working harder and for longer, and for women this means they have to carry on working while trying to deal with what are often debilitating symptoms. Many of these women talk to their mothers and aunts and get told that they “just got on with it.” While I’m not saying that women of previous generations didn’t have pressures to deal with, they were very different to the pressures women face today. Today’s working women have to manage their career while often balancing a family life and countless other demands.
It’s no wonder then, that when they reach the menopause, they feel so isolated and confused as to what’s happening to their minds and bodies.
Menopause affects everyone
Many women have absolutely no idea what’s happening to them because they its not something we talk about. Even though they are part of what I like to call ‘the world’s least exclusive club – 100 per cent of reproducing women will go through the menopause – very few understand the symptoms, how to manage them, and the treatment and support options they have. I’ve even had women telling me that when their symptoms started, they thought they had early-onset dementia! It’s heart-breaking.
I would say the menopause affects everyone. A lot of men don’t recognise symptoms of the menopause in their partners, family members, and colleagues. They don’t know what to do and relationships suffer. I remember keeping my poor partner awake on many occasions with my night sweats; it turns out that chronic sleep deprivation isn’t that great for a relationship!
Whoever you are if you are in the obit of someone going through menopause then learning about this life event can only be helpful.
Menopause education transforms businesses, and lives
Menopause affects all areas of women’s lives, and it affects the lives of the men that live and work with them. Work is a big part of most of our lives, so imagine what a difference it could make if more organisations started talking about the menopause. Imagine if menopause was something that people weren’t afraid or embarrassed to talk about, and women and men could get information and support.
Menopause education can transform your organisation, and not only that, but it can also transform lives. It’s common sense that if employees feel supported at work, they feel more engaged, and in the case of working women, if they’re supported through the menopause, they will be more likely to stay. This results in better productivity and a better bottom line for your business, but the benefits go far deeper than that.
Menopause education empowers employees
Since working with one company, the women who attended my menopause education session have set up a menopause support group. They started meeting regularly to share stories and tips on how to get through what can be a very difficult time, and it’s been such a positive experience, they’ve opened it up to ALL women and men in their organisation – how amazing!
I’ve had other cases where women have gone from not knowing what’s happening to them, to being able to understand their symptoms and what they need from their employers. This has gone on to shape policies in organisations.
Speaking of policies, wellbeing policies should cover menopause as standard. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just repurpose what you already have. A beautiful policy won’t make the difference to your people, but a great conversation will. That’s why education for all is the key. I see a lot of businesses introducing mental health awareness training, yet the link is often not made between the menopause and the effects it can have on mental health. This is despite the fact that anxiety can be one of the most commonly reported menopause symptoms.
It impacts on other areas of people’s lives
Your employees are not robots, they have lives outside of work, and menopause can affect this too. If women are suffering in silence and miserable because of their symptoms, and men are sleep-deprived and frustrated at getting their head bitten off by partners and colleagues, this doesn’t make for a happy workplace.
Relationships inside and outside of an organisation can be improved by menopause education. The biggest success stories I’ve had are from the men who have attended my training sessions. I’ve recently had two male managers contact me to say that the training had probably saved their marriage! Education is the key to better understanding for everyone.
You won’t lose valuable talent
Around one in four women consider leaving work because of their menopause symptoms. Women fear being seen as less competent. Many lose their confidence and belief that they can actually do the job they’ve worked so hard to get. It’s crazy that organisations risk losing some incredible female employees because of a lack of understanding about something that 100% of them will go through. The tide needs to turn, and we can make it happen!
Raising awareness about the menopause for all employees is all about making it comfortable and acceptable for people to speak about it. Menopause is not a condition to be treated and cured, it’s a normal stage of life that every woman goes through. Helping people to realise this is my mission.
I’m working with the LGA as part of my mission to educate everyone and we’ll be running some fun, engaging and informative events early in the new year (look out for details soon).
In the meantime, have a look at the LGA’s menopause webpages with resources to help you be a menopause friendly employer.