How to #BreakTheBias surrounding menopause in the workplace
Menopause in the workplace has taken centre stage of late. With a recent study on menopause by Circle In finding that ‘there is a culture of ignorance and isolation around menopause in the workplace, and a glaring lack of support for employees and their managers,’ there is a growing call for companies to do better.
To mark International Women’s Day, Prodigious London, the agency-agnostic, global production platform of the Publicis Groupe, has released an emotive video, featuring four people with first-hand experience of the menopause journey.
Watch this powerful film - because having conversations like these, and broadening our understanding is how we will #BreakTheBias around menopause in the workplace.
Lori, Max, La Cher and Éimi all speak candidly about their experience, and give an empowering insight into how we can help #BreakTheBias and be allies to menopause sufferers.
So, what is menopause?
Lori, 39, opens up the conversation. “Menopause is basically 12 months without a period, and anything prior to that is perimenopause, and anything prior to that is periomenopause, and that can last for 10 years,” she explains.
And, highlighting some common misconceptions, she concedes, “I just assumed that you had a few months when you had your hot flushes and your sweats and stuff then your period stops and then you were done.”
Of course, everyone’s menopause journey is different. Max, 29, is a trans man, and highlights that by taking testosterone, the menopause proceeds is sped up.
“Menopause, right away it’s an interesting one for trans guys, because when you start taking testosterone you go into what would be seen outside of gender as a very slow menopause,” he explains. “It’s pretty widely acknowledged that your first year on testosterone is the most wild.”
Menopause isn’t just a health issue of women post-40, as Éimi, 28, discovered.
Having experienced early menopause due to a serious health scare, Éimi explains, “I started getting some like strange symptoms with my period – I ended up going to the doctors and finding out I had ovarian cancer, which was also a big shock as I was only 19 when I got diagnosed. Surprisingly
“Unfortunately, that meant I had to have an oophorectomy, which is where they take your ovaries out and basically that started a surgical menopause.”
Éimi is in good company, with a reported 1 in 100 women experience early menopause, which is classed as pre 40.
The video also explores the myriad of symptoms experienced during menopause, with each person being unique.
While Lori has joint ache and ongoing period pains, La Cher saw a drastic reduction in her sex drive, a menopause symptom that she’s not alone in. Indeed, it reports that 1 in 3 women experience sexual difficulties.
La Cher explains, “I have no interest in sex. I remember when it was a time that I wondered if there was something wrong with me. I was researching to see if I should go and see a sex therapist. I questioned is this normal, everyone I know is very sexually active, but everyone I know too they’re a lot younger than me, you know they’re five, ten years younger than me.”
Other symptoms listed were brain fog, forgetfulness, and lack of concentration.
Mental health awareness
However, it’s not just the physical health that suffers, with Éimi, Max and La Cher opening up about their mental health struggles – something that is a common thread during menopause. Indeed, according to Prodigial, women aged 45-55 have the highest suicide rates.
Explaining his experience as a trans man, Max says, “The metaphor I always use is you’re on a rollercoaster, it’s going up and down and you don’t really know what’s going next, you’re just holding on.”
Éimi felt that she lost sight of the old her during the menopause experience. “There are a lot of menopausal women that get to really to the brink of suicide sometimes because your anxiety and depression are so bad and you don’t recognize who you’re looking at in the mirror anymore,” she says.
“It’s important for me to stay strong mentally because it’s easy for me to go to the negative side,” shares La Cher.
A second spring
While menopause is undoubtedly a difficult stage of life, it can also be a freeing and liberating journey.
“I’ve heard a lot of talks about it being your second spring. Whether or not you like that term, it’s nice to think you’re not done,” shares Éimi.
La Cher, meanwhile, associates menopause with strength, “To me, menopause represents tenacity, courage. I would never allow myself to think of it as a sign of weakness or I can’t do something. It doesn’t define who I am.”
Menopause in the workplace
Having the right support is vital for menopause sufferers, whether this is at home, from friends, or in the workplace.
Éimi feels that workplaces are holding themselves back if they don’t have adequate menopause support.
“Every company hinders themselves if they don’t look into menopause care. Because your older staff in particular, and sometimes your younger staff are going to have to go through it. By not talking about it you can’t put put things in place,” she says.
Max spoke out about the issues that arise from being in the minority, “It’s exactly the same as trans healthcare, if the group of people are smaller, quieter or less powerful, they’re not going to get what they need, and because we don’t talk about it, nobody knows what they’re going through.”
Having a workplace menopause policy is an indicator that companies are giving staff the recognition they deserve, and are working to end discrimination surrounding menopause.
Employee support groups, flexible working options, and advice and guidance platforms, as well as practical solutions such as fans, cold drinks and quiet spaces, are ways in which companies can help #BreakTheBias surrounding menopause.
How to be a menopause ally
“It’s just important that everyone’s included in the conversation,” explains Lori. Éimi agrees, emphasising the importance of allyship. “To be an ally to some with their menopause you need to listen to them. I just want to be a voice for someone, anyone, just to see it one time and go, I’m not alone.”