How should adland support people going through the menopause?
The UK government recently rejected protections for people going through the menopause over discrimination fears. When government fails them, how can employers help? We asked The Drum Network.
Why doesn’t the industry do more to support women at the peak of their career? / Ave Calvar via Unsplash
Eleni Sarri, data operations director, Tug
More than half (52.7%) of the UK workforce is comprised of women – and all women (sex assigned) will experience menopause. As an employer, it’s essential to provide support during this key stage in life. Providing support and understanding doesn’t discriminate against other groups; it instead encourages more open discussions from these groups about health issues in the workplace.
Women are more likely to go through menopause during a mature stage of their careers – stages where they’re more likely to bring experience, talent and loyalty to a company. Setting up more menopause awareness campaigns and focus groups would be a great start for our industry, helping us tackle yet another urgent subject of inclusion.
Carolyn Stebbings, chief operations and inclusion officer, Rapp UK
Perimenopause can start from the late 30s – it’s not an ‘older’ woman or a Gen X question. It’s about our industry leaning into everyone’s journey, offering support where it’s needed. Menopause affects everyone, be it directly or indirectly. Creating an open, supportive culture around this topic will help look after, retain, attract and celebrate the new confidence that comes from understanding menopause.
At Rapp UK, we have many offerings to help colleagues at this time, including Fertifa and Bupa Menopause, as well as more general awareness sessions, that many of our male colleagues also attend. To create high-performing teams, we need culture add – not culture fit – which requires compassion, understanding and awareness.
Kate Vines, project delivery manager, Hallam
In my experience, people really don’t talk about this issue enough. I’ve spoken with C-suite women who have shared their experiences, from having brain fog while in jobs that require a sharp level of detail, to suffering hot flushes and excessive sweating during board meetings and having to ‘just carry on’ like normal.
While it’s showing signs of getting better, there’s a huge fear that if you admit to struggling, particularly around issues such as brain fog, your employer could question your ability to do your job. Making space for more menopausal women to openly share their experiences will always help, but it’s also brilliant when employers embrace flexible working so that we can manage our days as we choose.
Jessica Roberts, chief of staff, OMD EMEA
The short answer is no; the industry doesn’t do enough. Women can experience any number of 40+ symptoms of (peri)menopause for a decade or more. The physical symptoms are relatively well known, but it’s the more insidious symptoms like anxiety and depression that can take its toll on women’s ability to operate at the same level as before.
Our industry is demanding, and senior roles are often not designed to suit women in midlife. Choices have to be made, and often stepping back or out feels like the only choice (especially as the timing often coincides with aging parents and teenagers). The industry needs to think harder about the type of roles they have in their leadership team.
Amy Bryson, chief marketing officer, Iris
Sometimes being a woman at work can feel like the 12 Labors of Heracles. You complete one challenge (e.g. becoming a parent, pausing and restarting your career, learning to thrive in a male-led environment) and another is thrown in your way – you need extraordinary resilience to stay in the fight.
The last thing any 40-something needs, often when they’re finding their groove and their career is peaking, is a multitude of confusing physical and emotional symptoms, worsened by a culture of shame and lack of medical support. It’s no wonder that women aged 45+ over-index for reducing their working hours/pressures and mental health challenges (including suicide rates).
Until we start giving women additional support to stay in work during these midlife years – proportional to the additional and unique challenges faced by our gender – then we will never have a level playing field.
Tara Innes, Google marketing platform operations lead, Croud
Does any industry do enough for women going through menopause? The impact of menopause is woefully underestimated and women have soldiered on for so long without decent understanding and support. You can’t help but wonder what policies and measures would already be in place if men had to go through it.
Menopause is life-altering and a challenging time. Hot flushes, severe brain fog, heightened anxiety, aching bodies, less energy and mood swings; you can start to feel like a completely different person. In my experience, your confidence and self-esteem dwindle, which can negatively impact your performance, or ability to cope with everything your career previously required from you.
More awareness and guidance are needed to implement sufficient measures to help women through this difficult phase – whatever their age (I was put into a medically induced menopause at age 35). It should be handled with openness and compassion, removing shame and embarrassment (or fear of being written off) to drive proactive, meaningful change.
Victoria Lewis, learning and development director, Radley Yeldar
Menopause still feels like a well-kept secret, where a lack of reliable information combined with the stigma of talking about it at work has contributed to one in ten leaving the workforce while experiencing symptoms. More companies need to start thinking holistically about their employees' needs and offer support for perimenopausal and menopausal people in line with what’s provided for other life-altering events and circumstances.
More conversation will be key to unlocking this. As we’ve found by having open discussions internally with employees and working with experts like Kate Muir, creator of Sex, Myth and The Menopause, positive messages can and should be spread: “the silence around the menopause needs to become a cacophony and, one day, a symphony”.
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