Don’t pause for the menopause
By Dr Victoria Mattison, consultant clinical psychologist and Creative Access trainer
This #WorldMenopauseDay, we’re focusing on the impact of the menopause upon working women and how the workplace can create as inclusive environment as possible. Dr Victoria Mattison, consultant clinical psychologist and Creative Access trainer explores the stigma of menopause and how we can demystify it…
For many women, the menopause can be a taboo subject leading to isolation, silence and stigma surrounding what is an important life stage. Far too many feel unsupported at work and are burdened by feelings of shame, or even guilt, when raising their menopause and perimenopause symptoms with managers and colleagues. As a team at Creative Access, we believe that even a small amount of awareness and education could have widespread impact on staff retention, welfare and engagement and, therefore, should be on everyone’s agenda.
Becky Smith, director of digital & impact at Creative Access, tells us:
“Over the last few years I’ve started to experience symptoms of perimenopause, which range from mildly inconvenient to – at times – quite disabling. It’s always a difficult balance knowing whether to mention something like this to a line manager, especially if it’s likely that manager hasn’t had similar experiences themselves. There are so many misconceptions about menopause and perimenopause and the last thing I want is to be seen as less able to do my job.”
Menopause awareness is not just about women of a certain age! It remains an unspoken inclusion challenge in the workplace. Menopause is guaranteed to directly impact 51 % of the population, and indirectly impacts everyone, and we need a collective approach to ‘putting menopause on the map’ in our working lives.
According to Amelia Hill in The Guardian, women over 50 are the fastest growing sector, with 80% of menopausal women at work. They are likely to work beyond their menopause transition and well into their 60s and 70s. Still, valuable female talent exit the workplace prematurely every day. More than 60% of women experience menopausal symptoms such as sweats; physical health challenges; poor sleep; anxiety; low mood; low self-esteem; memory struggles; and ‘brain fog’. Despite the multitude of symptoms, the Department of Work and Pensions indicate (2022) that currently one in four women with serious menopause symptoms are forced to leave work. Furthermore, with most workplaces offering no training policies whatsoever, it is estimated that more than one million women in the UK could be forced out of their jobs entirely because their employers are ‘failing to support and include them’ as they go through their menopause.
There is currently no national legislation on menopause, but it is covered under the Equality Act as a protective characteristic, alongside age, sex and any disability, which could be affected by direct and indirect discrimination. So, how can we improve menopause education and raise awareness to reduce stigma?
We have developed our own menopause training for teams to start raising awareness within the workplace so that all employers have guidelines in place to support women experiencing symptoms. A recent survey of 2000 women aged 45 – 67 across the UK experiencing menopause symptoms found that this lack of support is having a direct impact on their capacity to work. This demonstrates how urgently we need prevent harassment, such as unwanted comments and jokes regarding symptoms of the menopause, in the workplace. We must ensure that rather than being a hostile environment, workplaces are safe, empathetic and supportive spaces. At Creative Access, we believe that women who are supported through menopause will remain in the workplace and achieve their full potential, meanwhile employers will retain valuable members of their team. It’s a ‘win-win situation’ for everyone.
If we can break the silence around this subject by creating an open and inclusive culture, we can guarantee that those struggling with symptoms can access the support they deserve to survive and thrive at work. As the Minister for Employment, Mims David MP suggests: “we are losing too many talented and experienced women from our workforce too early”. Employers and sectors with better support and clearer understanding are able to keep female talent and boost inclusivity. And, ultimately, women who have worked hard throughout their careers and are at the peak of their experience and skill will not be forced to curtail their careers due to the impact of menopause or the biases of others within the office.
We have training dedicated to destigmatising menopause in the workplace…
Menopause at work
- Menopause – symptoms, awareness and misconceptions
- Talent retention and employee engagement
- Developing support networks and organisational awareness; what line managers and colleagues can do
- Where help and support are available: in and out of work
- Legal considerations concerning discrimination, reasonable adjustments and sickness absence
All workshops will provide a safe space in which to raise questions and practice responses and a supportive environment for learning, reflection and relaxed conversation.
“I’m delighted to be working for an organisation which is taking this issue seriously and putting in place #MoreThanWords policies to ensure older women are not subject to discrimination. Women in their late forties, fifties (and older!) have so much experience and skill to offer the workplace and it’s high time we recognised that. And being able to talk openly about this issue allows everyone to be their whole selves at work, which is so important for wellbeing.”Becky Smith