By Amy Horton, Chief Product Officer at Talon Outdoor.
October is Menopause awareness month, an opportunity to educate ourselves and support the women around us living through it. You could ask why focus on menopause when there are so few mature women in the Out of Home (OOH) industry. Well, Menopause is a key reason why women end up leaving their jobs so if we can support them cope with it at work it will help to address gender equality at a senior level, important when in OOH we have (virtually) zero board-level women leaders.
Across the UK economy, as stated in the UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities committee report:
“Almost a million women have left jobs as a result of menopausal symptoms. With menopause mainly affecting those in their late 40s and early 50s, this leads to women eligible for senior management roles leaving work at the peak of their career, with knock-on effects on workplace productivity, the gender pay-gap and the gender pension gap.”
What is the Menopause?
It is when you stop having periods and your body’s production of estrogen and progesterone, reduces. It can last several years. There are many symptoms but some of the most common are hot flushes (sweats), sleeplessness, weight gain, brain-fog, and mood swings. Most women begin menopause between 45 and 55 but for some it can happen at any point in adulthood.
Why should businesses be menopause aware?
- A 2019 survey found that in the UK three in five menopausal women (that’s 60%) were negatively affected at work, with the resulting loss of knowledge, experience, and talent. (BUPA & Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey).
- Women aged 50 to 64 are the fastest-growing economically active group in the UK, and they represent 70% of all women in employment in the UK.
- Women are increasingly feeling empowered to challenge employers who do not offer them support, with a rise of over 300% in the last 3 years in the number of women taking employers to tribunals because they feel harassed or discriminated against due to menopause.
- Parliament’s Women & Equalities Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into Menopause and the Workplace and the Government’s Equalities Office in 2019 created a roadmap on gender equality which includes investigating how Government policy and workplace practices can better support those experiencing menopause.
If in OOH we care about moving women into senior leadership positions, being a more representative industry, and value the contribution women with 20 to 30 years’ experience have, then our organisations need to show understanding, support, and champion our menopausal colleagues.
Here are just some thoughts from me on how you can be a menopause ally:
- Listen; Give women the space, time, and security of knowing they can talk about their experience and not be judged for it but know they can be actively listened to.
- Be an ally. If a woman is experiencing menopause, be a friend or supporter to enable her to talk about it, if she wants to. Let her tell you, don’t ask unsolicited.
- Educate; all women go through it and yet in my experience most of us don’t know much about it (women included).
- Create support strategies to ensure women feel valued and stay in the workplace. Flexible working is a definite start.
- Understand; if we forget your name or act a bit strangely sometimes! But please don’t make assumptions or judgements that behaviours or physical changes are down to the menopause if you think a woman is of a certain age.
Finally, here is my story which I’m sharing in the hope that it gives a voice to other menopausal women. It begins with my mum who started her menopause aged 40. It had a huge impact on her physically and mentally and she struggled to get the right medical support. At one point she contemplated suicide. Her experience affected my view of what my menopause would be like, I was petrified! Once I turned 40, I joked about being menopausal if I did something stupid (I know I shouldn’t have done that, it demeans it). My symptoms finally kicked in just over 2 years ago. I could tell I was getting particularly irate at work, I was stress-eating, and for the first time ever I had anxiety about situations that should have been easy to handle. It contributed to a dip in my self-confidence. But it wasn’t until the hot flushes started and I could time them to happening every 45 mins while at work that I acknowledged what it was and made an appointment with my GP. I demanded to be put on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) even though I was fairly early-on in the process. I don’t think I could have carried on working without it. I had tried other remedies, and nothing worked. Today, I feel pretty good, but I know I am lucky having responded well to HRT. (I know not everyone does or wants to use HRT, but it has helped me). I do also try to have a good diet and exercise when I can, which definitely helps. But I constantly worry about what random symptoms I might get next, because there are lots; itchy scalp, burning feet, eczema round my eyes, to name a few. I am also constantly worried that the variation in hormones could get worse. It is a roller coaster of ups and downs, so what works today may not tomorrow. I read reports of some women not being able to get their prescriptions due to supply chain issues so I worry that my supply will run out. Unlike contraception, HRT needs to be paid for, unless you are untitled to free prescriptions, so that’s £75 roughly a year.
Traditionally there has been lots of negative connotations associated with menopause, assumptions that “you are losing a part of yourself”, “you have a deficit”, but I don’t feel that way. I feel the opposite; confident and comfortable with who I am and I’m not going to be embarrassed about being menopausal.
World Menopause Day is 18th October.