It is estimated that 1 billion women will be going through menopause by 2025, and about 900,000 quit their jobs in the UK in 2019 due to menopause. These statistics are indicative of how something inevitable and natural can wreak havoc on women’s careers, and personal lives. But, it doesn’t have to be this way.
We were thrilled to have Heather Jackson, Co-Founder of Gen M, host a round table with Trapeze HR to talk about menopause at work as well as what Gen M are doing to work with brands that can actively make a difference in how people experience the menopause. Their brand partners include names such as Innocent, Holland and Barrett, M&S and many others.
We wanted to share some key takeaways with you all, which you can use to take the initial steps in your organisation today to normalise the conversation around this important subject.
With any new initiative or topic, it can be easy to jump the gun and create policies and advocate for legislation to put things into practice. Although this shouldn’t be overlooked, Heather highlighted that it isn’t necessarily the first step when understanding menopause at work. In fact, the first thing you should do is understand the symptoms of menopause and how this affects the women within your organisation.
Understand the symptoms There are 48 symptoms of menopause, however, Gen M’s research highlights that only 51% of women can name only three symptoms.
The lack of education around menopause, whether this is through the fault of education, the health service or conversations in the home, puts the onus on employers to better educate women and men on what the symptoms are, and how they can look to support women going through this transition.
In Gen M’s invisibility report, they state that menopause is more than “hot sweats and HRT”. In fact, it’s a long change that can affect some women for over 15 years of their lives.
Understanding menopause better and the symptoms associated with it will not just better equip women within organisations, but men, too. A shared understanding creates a better opportunity for change.
TIP: A simple way to implement this within your organisation would be to create “lunch & learn” focus groups led by HR. A 30-minute session should enable you to explain the symptoms well enough without overwhelming employees with too much information.
Normalise the conversation Once you’re at the point where there is an understanding of menopause throughout the business, you’re one step closer to normalising the conversation.
It’s important to note that this isn’t going to happen overnight, and particularly in larger organisations, it may take longer for those conversations to happen.
However, a top-down approach is something that Heather recommends. Making these conversations accessible will enable you to gauge how you can support the women in your organisation.
Equally, it’s important to note that menopause doesn’t just affect menopausal women. Indirectly, it can have an impact on younger women who are yet to go through the transition, as well as partners, friends and family members of those coping with the menopause.
TIP: Normalising the conversation can start by ensuring that senior managers ask for feedback on lunch & learn sessions in one to one’s or team catch-ups.
Again, creating spaces for conversation not only allows you to gather feedback on how people are feeling about the sessions, but also encourages individuals to think about the subject.
Don’t ignore the statistics The Gen M invisibility report highlighted some important statistics which need to be recognised. The most notable is that 88% of menopausal women would like workplaces to be better set up to support them. This shows just how little is being done for these women in the workplace.
The last step should be solutions and policies Although policies are an excellent move to make change happen, you have to take the preliminary steps and have conversations first before putting pen to paper. Ultimately, like any new initiative, you want to avoid paying lip service to it and then end up missing the mark completely.
Creating conversation and normalising talking about menopause will allow you to make better-informed, meaningful decisions that will positively impact those within your organisation, instead of relying on guesswork to steer your decision-making.
What tangible first steps can you take?
- Talk to the women within your organisation first: Whether this is in a group setting, or a one-on-one basis, executives and HR should partner to create a safe space for women to talk about menopause as well as what they would like to see the organisation do for them.
- Review what you’re currently doing as well as the resources that you have in place: Even if you haven’t created any specific initiatives around the menopause, it’s important to take stock of the resources that you already have in your organisation as well as current policies and how these can be adapted to serve menopausal women first. For example, if you have a flexible working policy, how can this be used to help those who are going through menopause? Equally, if you have resources such as showers, access to health and wellness initiatives such as yoga or meditation, how can this be used to help women?
- Attend events or peer group sessions to share ideas: Events such as our recent roundtable demonstrated the importance of talking with peers within the industry and sharing experiences as well as solutions. This will enable you to have a holistic, balanced view, as well as new perspectives. If you’re unable to attend events, reading up on how partners such as Gen M can help is an excellent first step.
You can access the invisibility report produced by Gen M here.