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Are we starting to see menopausal women differently, particularly in the workplace?

At Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace, we talk about menopause every day. Sometimes it can feel like we’re in a bubble where everyone is on the same page with the same attitude. We want to ensure the right support, education and information is available to everyone.

But is this the reality across the board? We work with so many organisations where it is. It’s also reassuring to see more and more companies stepping up to make this part of their everyday operations.

But… there is still a lot of work to do.

‘Hot’… ‘sweaty’… ‘grumpy’… ‘tired’.  Just some of the most common words we hear people use to describe a menopausal woman at the beginning of our training sessions. One frequent response we still hear is ‘old’.

More recently, however, we’ve started to hear different responses. One of our favourites, to the question, how would you describe a menopausal woman, one woman answered ‘Fabulous!’. How amazing is that?

As it turned out, this woman was having a really tough time with managing her menopause symptoms but as she said, ‘it just makes me even more fabulous that I can deal with these’.

Just like any other woman…

Another response we loved was ‘just like any other woman’. This was interesting, as we still meet many women who hate the thought of being labelled ‘menopausal’. And we get it. Why should menopause be a label?

Our first Menopause in the Workplace Conference four years ago was the first of its kind. BBC sent a reporter along and asked people in the street: “What’s the first word that comes to mind when I say the word menopause?”

The responses were hot flushes, moody, painful, old.  Who wants to put their hand up and say “that’s me”?

According to the Faculty of Occupational Medicine, there are 4.4 million women going through menopause at work. The landscape has changed dramatically for women over the last century. Menopause used to be something that happened at the end of our lives, as women usually only lived for a few years post menopause. With a dramatic increase in life expectancy, menopause happening earlier and more women working, this is just not the case anymore.

For many women, menopause is the halfway point in life. That means they have so much of their life, including their working life, to live through menopause and beyond.

The challenges we still have with the attitude to menopause

The media definitely has a part to play. How many times do you seen an article on menopause accompanied by a woman, not looking at her best, struggling with symptoms?

This perpetuates the belief that all menopausal women are struggling with symptoms and that this is inevitable. We know for many women menopause can be a challenging time. But even for those struggling with symptoms, there is so much that can be done. We want all women to have access to accurate information to make informed choices about the best way to manage their menopause.

“We’re living like it’s not happening.” This quote is from Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States, who discussed menopause on a recent podcast. She talked of the pressure of women “keeping going” with busy jobs in professional clothes while some have severe hot flushes or acute period cramps that “feel like a knife being stabbed and turned”.

She wondered whether men could tolerate that, and called on society to acknowledge and have greater understanding of those issues, while celebrating “just how amazing we are”

Reclaiming the future

Can we reclaim the menopause as a powerful and positive process in women’s lives? Where are the positive images of women enjoying and embracing their lives? Wouldn’t it be great to see more of these.

This is explored further in this recent article in the Telegraph’s Stella Magazine ‘How the menopause is having a ‘Me Too’ moment’.

Normalising the conversation is well overdue, and we’re over the moon to see the ‘rebrand’ of menopause taking shape. In doing this now, we will help people today and for generations to come.

We need society to value all women’s unique menopausal experiences without assuming they are grumpy, incompetent, or past it.  Are you ready to lead by example? Let’s be the change in the way we all see menopause and our attitude towards it.

Sally Leech is a Director at Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace.


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