To better understand menopause and inclusivity we have been speaking with Lauren Chiren, the founder of Women of a Certain Stage (an organisation specialising in removing the stigma surrounding menopause). We share some of her top tips to make workplaces more menopause inclusive, as well as links to other valuable resources.
As organisations emerge from the pandemic, now is the perfect time to embed menopause support within your post-Covid working arrangements. As part of our ongoing project Inclusivity Unlocked!, we’ll be hosting our own event on this topic to support organisations with how to do this. More details on the event will follow soon.
In the meantime, this post will help you understand more about menopause, perimenopause and how your organisation can better support the people experiencing them.
What is menopause?
Traditionally menopause has been a taboo topic. However, it shouldn’t be! After all, menopause is something that will be experienced by about half of the population.
Menopause occurs when a person’s periods end due to lower hormone levels. It usually happens between the ages of 45 and 55, although it can occur earlier due to unknown reasons or due to certain medical procedures and treatments. A person will reach menopause when they have not had a period for 12 months. Perimenopause means “around menopause.” This is the time when a person’s body is making the natural transition to menopause.
During both menopause and perimenopause people may suffer from many symptoms which can have a large impact on their life. Physical symptoms include hot flushes, difficulty sleeping, heart palpitations, migraines, muscle aches and skin changes. People can also experience emotional symptoms too. These include low mood, anxiety, mood swings and problems with memory or concentrating (also known as “brain fog”). These symptoms can last from a few months to many years. Symptoms can also range from mild to severe, with the experience being different for every person.
Menopause is experienced by women and many of our transgender, non-binary, and gender-questioning colleagues.
Why is menopause education important?
It is important that everyone educates themselves on menopause since it is a condition that affects about half of the population. Menopause tends to impact people negatively, which has a knock-on effect on their relationships and their performance in the workplace.
With menopause often being regarded as a taboo topic, some people feel obliged to hide their symptoms. However, the more we can understand the issues and break down the taboos, the more likely it is that these negative effects can be managed.
Menopause and the workplace
As previously mentioned, menopause can have a negative impact on a person’s performance at work. Organisations should be aware of the stages of menopause and the impact it has on people, so that they can provide the appropriate support. By doing this effectively, they will drive better performance, increase people’s productivity, create a more inclusive culture, and maintain retention rates among their team members – often highly skilled and experienced team members. Similarly, organisations should bear in mind that menopause is not simply an age issue; menopause has a direct and indirect impact on all other staff within the workplace.
Since menopause impacts all people differently, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, organisations should seek to put in place a variety of measures tailored for their own circumstances.
Women of a Certain Stage
To better understand menopause and inclusivity we have been speaking with Lauren Chiren. Lauren is the founder of Women of a Certain Stage, an organisation which aims to remove the stigma and normalise the conversation on menopause. It provides workplace training, in-person and online, to help support its vision and ensure that employers are better equipped to support menopause and the issues it brings. For business owners who wish to have in-house Menopause Champions, Allies and specialist Menopause Coaches, Women of a Certain Stage provides a public curriculum of certification programmes, that can be run in-house on request.
Lauren also runs a regular free course on “Menopause The Basics”. This online training spans three days and covers:
- Monday: facts, ages, stage, definitions and symptoms
- Tuesday: how to help self and others
- Wednesday: managing menopause at work
She has invited IP Inclusive supporters to consider signing up for this popular course. You can find out more about it, including the next available dates, here.
Lauren recently wrote a brilliant article for the Law Society of England and Wales which set out various measures that organisations can adopt to become more menopause savvy, for example:
- Organisations should consider menopause when designing the job role, when creating working arrangements and environments and when establishing attendance policies.
- They should ensure HR policies make people feel supported and valued.
- They should allow for flexible working conditions such as access to cold water, providing changing facilities, variable temperature in offices, and regular reviews to monitor symptoms.
- Training should be provided on menopause. This should be open for everyone in the organisation regardless of seniority.
- Organisations could establish menopause socials. These enable people who are going through menopause to meet and share their experiences in a safe place.
As part of Inclusivity Unlocked! IP Inclusive will be hosting a specific event on menopause support in post-Covid working arrangements. During the event, we will hear from professionals who have already implemented menopause support measures within their workplace. They will be sharing their experiences of this and any challenges they have faced. More details will follow soon.
Until then, there are lots of great resources you can check out to self-educate yourself on menopause, which will help you to become a more inclusive employee or employer:
- Women of a Certain Stage – as mentioned above, this organisation helps employers to successfully navigate menopause. It provides coaching, free courses and corporate training.
- Women of a Certain Stage’s free Menopause the Basics course. This course is open to everyone and runs live every two months. It’s a great way to help open the conversation on menopause. It covers the definitions and symptoms of menopause, how to help yourself and others, and how to manage menopause at work.
- Lauren Chiren’s blog post for the Law Society.
- The website of the International Menopause Society.
- The recording and slides from our February 2020 webinar on “Inclusivity and the menopause”, which we ran with our support communities Women in IP and IP Ability.
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Guidelines on menopause diagnosis and management, which can be found here; you can also see what NICE are currently updating at https://www.nice.org.uk/news/article/nice-sets-out-further-details-on-menopause-guideline-update.
- The NHS website also has useful information on what menopause is and the various symptoms it can bring.
If you’re going through menopause or perimenopause and would like to meet with others who are going through something similar, then why not consider joining one of our support communities – in particular, Women in IP, IP Ability or IP Out? All of these communities are open to allies too, so if you’re looking to support colleagues in (peri)menopause then please do get involved in our campaign for better understanding, acceptance and support.