Page published on 14th April 2023
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On 22 March 2023 we held another of our Inclusivity Unlocked! webinars, this time about (peri)menopause inclusivity. “Menopause: what’s changing?” looked at recent government changes and investment in women’s health, as well as providing numerous tips for creating a more menopause-savvy workplace. The panellists also shared their personal menopause stories, in the hope of improving support and opening conversations around menstruation and menopause.
The panellists were:
- Lauren Chiren, menopause expert and Founder and CEO of Women of a Certain Stage;
- Maria Hall, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer at Mewburn Ellis;
- Jane Wainwright, Partner and Board Member at Potter Clarkson;
- Marianne Privett, Partner at AA Thornton; and
- Vikki Townsend, a senior patent attorney with 30 years’ experience in IP.
The webinar was chaired by Jane Wainwright, who is a founder member of our menopause support working group.
A recording of the webinar can be accessed here, or read on for our summary of the highlights.
Lauren began by sharing her personal menopause story, which is well worth a listen. She also talked about why it is so valuable to employers to be menstruation- and menopause-savvy from a commercial perspective. Women who are experiencing (peri-)menopause have a wealth of experience and it makes financial sense to make efforts to retain them. She is seeing that women will vote with their feet and go to employers who are menopause-aware and have support in place. And she advised women to find out what an organisation actually offers in terms of support.
Lauren also emphasised that (peri)menopause can affect people of other genders, for example non-binary or transgender people, who should also be included in this debate and in the support measures that result.
Lauren then went on to talk about the recent changes that we’ve seen in terms of government appointments and funding, demonstrating how menopause is moving up the agenda. Whilst there is still huge variability across the country in terms of what GPs offer by way of menopause support (they are not routinely given menopause training), she noted positive developments in the government in terms of two new appointments. Last year, Dame Lesley Regan was appointed as Women’s Health Ambassador in order to support the implementation of the upcoming women’s health strategy for England. Earlier this month, Helen Tomlinson was appointed as the first Menopause Employment Champion. She will focus on encouraging employers to develop menopause policies, in order to create more supportive environments and help women experiencing menopause to stay and progress in work. This month, the government also announced a £25 million investment over the next 2 years to accelerate the development of new women’s health hubs aimed at improving access to and quality of care for services for menstrual problems, contraception, pelvic pain, menopause care and more.
Lauren also mentioned that she sits on the British Standards Institute committee, which is in the final stages of putting together the first-ever standard for Menstrual and Menopausal Health in the Workplace. She hopes that this will be freely available to employers for the first year.
It was clear that Lauren is passionate about educating everyone about the menopause. Amongst the training she offers is her free Menopause The Basics course, which runs live every two months and consists of three 30-minutes sessions plus Q&A. She also writes a Menopause and Health Blog.
Next, Maria talked about championing and driving development and implementation of a firm-wide approach to menopause at Mewburn Ellis. They have recently launched a Menopause Policy and introduced trained Menopause Champions at the firm, and have signed the Menopause Workplace Pledge from women’s health charity Wellbeing of Women. This means they recognise that the menopause can be an issue in the workplace and that women need support, and they are talking openly, positively and respectfully about the menopause and actively supporting and informing employees affected by it.
Looking back on this journey, Maria was able to identify five key areas / strategies that contributed to her firm’s success:
- The business case for a menopause policy
Whilst it can simply be seen as the right thing to do as a concerned employer, recognising the commercial benefits and implications can be key to gaining traction and getting key leaders on board. Recognising that around 60% of their firm was women, with many in management positions, helped. It was also important to recognise the value in terms of the messages the company was sending out regarding its culture and inclusivity and in terms of being credible and legitimate, especially with more clients now actively asking about these kinds of credentials.
Find advocates who will talk passionately and engage with this subject and who, ideally, are influential enough to drive change. Form a team that can act as a powerful force for change. Maria found a lot of interest in her firm and it really showed her how much the work was needed and wanted.
For Maria, the first step was to create a menopause policy. Later, the firm set up a menopause group and used their social intranet as a private space to share and provide resources, check lists, videos and other information to help people. Now they also have menopause books available to borrow, and menopause lockers in each office which are available for anyone to help themselves to what they might need, for example cooling sprays, fans, sanitary products, etc.
Improve menopause awareness and understanding across the firm. Both general and more specific line manager training was very well received and was a key step in the journey to normalising talking about the menopause at work. A recent survey demonstrated a great level of awareness within the firm and willingness to talk openly about the subject.
We need to talk about menopause a lot and keep the conversation going. Sharing stories, personalising it, engaging and keeping up a steady stream of content and discussion really help.
The final part of the webinar was a more general conversation amongst all the panellists, during which they shared their own personal and varied experiences of (peri)menopause. The discussions covered a range of issues, including the impact of (peri)menopause symptoms on both professional and personal lives, and coping with early-onset or medically-induced menopause. We are hugely grateful to Jane, Marianne and Vikki – as well as to Lauren and Maria – for their candour, and for inspiring many more IP professionals to talk about this previously taboo subject.
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