Women make up 56% of the UK workforce and 100% of women experience the menopause.
That’s potentially over half of an organisation’s workforce suffering from the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms of hot flushes, night terrors, lack of sleep, confidence, and self-worth. Along with increased forgetfulness, irritation, frustration, anxiety, and stress. Which not only affects them but affects their immediate relationships with partners, families, and work colleagues.
Yet only 10% of organisations are doing anything about menopause in their businesses.
WARNING 2022 WARNING
If you want to retain your talent, be more profitable and an employee of choice you will have to address the issue of menopause in the workforce, as ignorance is no longer an acceptable excuse.
At this point you’ve either got the point or you’re thinking what’s the point.
Then here’s some context for the point – I’ve worked and lived with those going through the menopause and I assure you it’s not that easy for men either, but the catalyst for this blog came from attending a recent session organised by Circle2Success on the impact of the menopause by Miss Menopause Sharon MacArthur.
Here’s another interesting fact that torpedoed my misperception of “going through the menopause” and I quote “women spend a third of their lives in menopause.”
Clearly most men leading businesses need to recognise the related issues of the menopause, understand them, accept them, and then manage them, for the benefit of their employee’s wellbeing and business performance.
In business I can recall assuming women flushing when presenting was simply down to nerves and that barked instructions or snappy emails down to not being able to handle the pressure of the job.
I remember in one of my early roles a senior female colleague shouting at me “pullover, pullover” (I was driving on the M62 to company meeting) then in no uncertain terms being told to “get out of the car! I’ll drive or we’ll never get there!” I was doing 70mph at the time and hadn’t realised a Mark 5 Ford Cortina could hit the speeds we hit. Yet we did arrive on time, and the only damage done was to our fledgling relationship, which never really took off after that incident.
I remember offering a woman a promotion at work – an offer that generated tears unfortunately they weren’t tears of happiness and a few days later she declined the offer due to “personal circumstances.” At the time I put it down to a lack of ambition and commitment to the business.
A few years later she felt able to share the real reasons with me, as well as telling me that at the time she felt my response to her tears was cold (I thought I was being professional) and formal (I thought I was trying to react to her as I would a male colleague). Hey Ho, we live and learn.
At home I’ve been learning not to complaint about another broken night’s sleep or to offer solutions or pep talks when an extended lie in or silent hug or a cup of tea would be more appreciated!
So, what can we men do to start to address something that affects over half the working population (at some time or other) in our organisations, to enable them to work through it to the benefit of both parties?
Here are my five suggestions to help get the menostart started:
- Remove the do not go there label currently on the issue.
- Context it with what you are doing to support other issues that affect smaller percentages of your employees.
- Consider how your current position sits with your organisations Equality Policy.
- Engage the Women in your organisation (Ask, Listen & Learn) and normalise the conversation.
- Involve the experts just as you would on any other employee issue – in this case I’d recommend contacting Miss Menopause – you’ll find her on LinkedIn or at https://www.missmenopause.co.uk/
And for any women still reading please share this post with the men you know leading organisations – as we can be slow on the uptake, especially if we’ve stuck a don’t go there, label on it!