Gosh, isn’t it great to have permission to talk about menopause. Thank you whoever pushed for World Menopause Day. Personally, I think it should be a week.
There is an unhealthy taboo associated with the menopause and as a consequence too many women suffer in silence because they are embarrassed. Be warned young females who write off your older sisters, the menopause is coming for you too. There is no escaping it no matter how you hide.
There is a compelling rationale for taking the menopause seriously, starting with the number of working women whose working lives could be positively affected by creating menopause-friendly workplaces. The average age of the menopause is 51 and it lasts on average between four and eight years. For years there has been a steady increase in the employment rate of women over 50 in the UK, and this trend is likely to continue given the ageing population. There are now around 4.4 million women aged 50–64 in work (ONS 2019), and the vast majority of these will go through the menopause transition during their working lives. Therefore, there is considerable gain to be made in supporting the continued employment of women in the peri-menopausal and menopausal age bracket, for the benefit of themselves, the organisations they work for, and the wider economy. With the right support, there’s no need for women to press pause on their career during this natural transition.
We all know the symptoms, and some are really uncomfortable. I thought the hot flushes would be welcome and I would no longer be frozen to the bone. Hot flushes don’t work like that it seems, they create a volcano of hot lava in your chest right up to the top of your head, turning you a pleasant shade of scarlet but leaving the rest of you cold. The symptoms are best summed up here by our friend the menopause fairy.
On a more serious note, many symptoms associated with menopause can be easily addressed and make the working lives of many staff happier. Do a risk assessment and make some adjustments. Provide a fan, have a few extra short breaks or provide healthy snacks to boost low energy dips. The menopause transition need not be an awkward topic, in fact it is the source of much comedy gold humour. Try watching Karen Mills Hot Flash Menopause rap!
We have recently drafted a Menopause Policy at LEYF, which had been written to develop a supportive framework for LEYF employees experiencing the menopause. It is designed to ensure that staff can seek the support that could transform their working lives. We will also give every nursery a copy of Caroline Vollans book Menopause which is a series of conversations with different women managing their menopause. It is very humane and engaging and highlights that when being able to acknowledge menopause and discuss it as we would discuss any other hormonal issue, empowers older women and strengthens our inclusive culture.
Ultimately, taking a proactive stance to supporting women through the menopause can ensure that we are able to ask for help and continue to be successful in our roles and reduce absenteeism due to menopausal symptoms while we navigate this transitional stage of their lives.