Real talk: Menopause isn’t a women’s issue
Sam and Chantel from the People team speak about the importance of a supportive working environment when it comes to the menopause.
Sam Fearnley and Chantel Medcalf
At IMA-HOME, our ambition is to foster an inclusive workplace environment where everyone feels safe, valued and able to be themselves.
As it’s Menopause Awareness Month, it feels like the right time to hear from Director of People, Sam Fearnley, and People and Relationships Manager, Chantel Medcalf, on the importance of a supportive working environment when it comes to the menopause.
Sam: I’ve just hit 40 and with all the recent talk around menopause in the press, I’ve become super aware of taking proactive steps to be mindful of my own wellbeing. I’m someone who is open. I work with a supportive, caring team. And if I need support while navigating perimenopausal symptoms at work, I know I can reach out to them with confidence. Knowing there won’t be judgement or awkwardness.
But what about those that aren’t as open as me? What about those that don’t feel comfortable turning to colleagues for support. And what about those managers who don’t have enough experience and/or knowledge when it comes to the menopause, how can they possibly help?
Let’s be clear, it’s not the managers’ fault. The topic of menopause has been such a hushed word in the past, that the right level of support is totally lacking in the workplace. Those hitting the menopause are often at the peak of their career with so much to offer. It’s shocking to hear that according to CIPD research, around one in six people (17%) have considered leaving work due to a lack of support in relation to their menopause symptoms*. This isn’t a ‘women’s issue’. This is a business issue.
Chantel: I am someone within the perimenopause stage and in all honesty, I probably have been for quite some time. However, like many others I’m sure, I’ve put it down to something else. Does “I just have a lot on my plate” sound familiar? My symptoms are mild, so I didn’t link them to being perimenopausal.
There’s a lot to be done to demystify and open things up when it comes to this stage in life. And sadly, working women often suffer in silence. It’s no surprise really. According to research by Forth with Life (2019), 90% of women say their workplace doesn’t offer any help to menopausal women and only 3% of managers are given relevant training**
As an agency committed to equality, diversity and inclusion, we want to create an informed environment where everyone feels safe and empowered to raise issues about the menopause and its symptoms, without embarrassment or concern. And that goes for those who are non-binary or trans too.
I’m starting to see a shift, perhaps menopause is not as much of a taboo subject as it used to be, but we still have work to do. It’s not just about having policies in place. So much about the menopause is outside of our control like when it happens and what symptoms we have, but we can get to control how we deal with it in the workplace.
At IMA-HOME, we have a menopause strategy in place and have made huge strides already.
Within the last 12 months we have;
- Introduced a policy
- Signed the Menopause Pledge confirming our commitment to supporting IMA-HOME employees experiencing menopause symptoms
- Applied to the Bloom Mpower accreditation
- Started to have individual conversations with people about their menopause experience to offer support and learn from them
- Held a virtual workshop hosted by Julie Dennis from Menopause at Work. This was an insightful and educational talk available to everyone at IMA-HOME. It covered how to start a conversation about menopause in the workplace, help with managing symptoms at work and at home and tips on how to support work colleagues, family and friends
- Launched our Menopause Playbook, which is a friendly go-to guide offering guidance and support to IMA-HOME employees, both inside and out of work
- Held our first Menopause Cafe IMA-HOME at our Leeds office. It was open to everyone, regardless of age or gender, and provided an opportunity for further discussion in a relaxed forum
We want to continue to normalise the topic of menopause at work and have plans for further training using our internal IMA-HOME Academy, menopause champions across our offices, more Menopause Cafes and speaker events.
We want IMA-HOME to be a catalyst for positive change to help end the stigma surrounding menopause. So, we’re ditching the taboo. We pledge to talk more openly about the menopause, continue to educate all our people to ensure everyone feels fully supported at work, all whilst protecting our business from losing brilliantly talented experts.