According to a new study spanning five countries, a third of women have hidden their menopause symptoms in the workplace. Folk Features asks a couple of women – who have made menopause their business – what can be done in the way of support
Emily Barclay is a Menopause Educator at Menowhaat and Founder of the Perimenopause Hub, a website dedicated to supporting women through a potentially tough stage of life:
I set up perimenopausehub.com in 2019 after three and a half years of experiencing peri symptoms and being dismissed by doctors. I wanted to bring together a panel of experts to help women find the best route to manage their symptoms. The experts range from doctors to nutritionists to hypnotherapists and much more.
Through my work with the Hub, I realised quite how difficult a time many women are having at work, so started looking to raising menopause education in the workplace. Working with one of my Hub experts, women’s health expert Jade Blinkhorn, we set up menowhaat.com. Our goal is to get the conversation around menopause started in every workplace. This can’t remain a taboo any longer.
I want all employers to take menopause as seriously as they take pregnancy. I want women to be able to talk about why they are struggling at certain times in their cycle, and not feel judged. I want everyone to understand it’s more than just a few hot flushes.
Kerry Dolan is a hypnotherapist and wellbeing coach who works with women to develop practical tools and techniques to manage their menopausal symptoms. Studies have shown that up to 80 per cent of women can reduce or eliminate hot flushes using visualisations.
Menopause is one of the last taboos. It’s hardly a surprise that no-one’s talking about it, but that needs to change. In my workplace workshops on Managing Menopause, the women attending commonly confess to avoiding writing the unmentionable word in their diaries. Menopausal symptoms can be a source of shame as much as they can be uncomfortable and disruptive. According to research, eight out of 10 menopausal women are currently in work.
In fact, we are the fastest growing workplace demographic. But, with potential symptoms including anxiety, brain fog, hot flushes, fatigue and a range of uncomfortable physical symptoms, it’s hardly surprising that many of us are feeling as though the confidence and capacity we need to do our jobs is eroding. In fact, according to a survey by Wellbeing off Women, one in four have considered leaving their job because of menopause and one in 10 actually do.
For many perimenopausal women, at least half of our working life remains so it’s crucial that we are supported through this natural transition. The knowledge wisdom and experience that we midlife women have built up make us a powerful and irreplaceable force in the workplace.
With the right support in place, women at midlife and their employers can continue to reap the benefits of years of service, training and experience. What I’ve noticed is that women are hungry for a safe place to talk candidly and get more information about what they’re experiencing. A number of businesses have set up ‘menopause cafes’ where women can meet informally to share stories, tips, information and lend support.
It’s essential that line managers are trained to be aware of the potential effects of menopause and the kinds of adjustments that can be made to support women in their roles. These might range from practical solutions like ensuring any uniforms are made from natural fibres to moving desks to an openable window.
There should be flexibility and understanding that individuals may need to take time off or even, temporarily, reduce their hours during this transition. Consideration should be made of the fact that many women of menopausal age may have male line managers and may not feel comfortable discussing their symptoms with them so other options should be made available.
There needs to be a wider culture of talking openly about menopause: ensuring that there is a company policy in place (Henpicked has lots of helpful resources on their website), access to information and guidance on menopause should be available.
Kate Pigeon-Owen runs Wellbeing International, which creates bespoke days, events and presentations to companies needing to nurture and promote wellness levels, and to individuals wanting life to simply be better. Topics covered include managing your menopause and menopause for managers:
Being peri-menopausal myself, I have been studying this phase of a woman’s life for the last three years. What conclusion have I come to? Three things need to be offered simultaneously at work: one, gender neutral workshops, to educate women and men; two, webinars/workshops to all women, aged 18-90, to get the discussions going; and three, working with HR to build menopause policies. One company we work with now offers reflexology, and the results have been extraordinary!