Last Wednesday I attended a wellbeing in the workplace event with Wildflowers of London run by the wonderful and hilarious Lou Nylander. I was expecting there would be general tips on counting to ten when you’re stressed or telling people to not get burned out. Instead, what I found was perspective on a new topic I’ve never had to care about, and some prosecco of course!
Emma Newman was brave enough to open the conversation and share her story around menopause. As I listened to Emma’s story about the brain fog, mood swings and change in personality - I realised something. Menopause is something I don’t know much about. I’m only 23 and it feels so far away. That freaked me out. Because menopause is going to happen to me, and had I not gone to this seminar I might not have known what I could be in for.
Along with the physical symptoms, Emma had to deal with the symptoms of people not understanding menopause. The uncomfortable responses, the lack of knowledge around how to support her from managers and although she didn’t say it- at some points probably unfounded shame or guilt for nothing more than being a woman.
A number of women are going through menopause at any moment, and the side effects affect up to 75% of women (BMS). Because it’s not affecting most of us and we’re not hearing about it enough, we don't really have to care about it, but we should.
We should care about menopause, and for more than altruistic reasons. The Menopause itself isn't life threatening but the impact of not managing hormones correctly can be - increased risk of heart disease, increased risk / early onset of dementia are two potentially life threatening consequences of unbalanced hormones. The Human Resource space is taking on a different role in companies than it used to. As people feel more financially insecure and have less trust in governments, they’re putting their faith in corporations for a better society. As diversity and inclusion initiatives increase, so do the amount of qualified and highly effective women in the workplace, meaning that about half of staff will go through menopause at some point. To be an effective HR leader and an effective team member, there should be more understanding around changing behaviours and how to handle them in a way that’s actually helpful.
An example of the dangers of well intentioned but misguided advice is any recommendation by anyone who isn’t a doctor. There should be open conversations about treatments like HRT, but it should be highlighted that there’s no one size fits all approach in treating the symptoms for Menopause. Trying to make a one size fits all solution is dangerous in all circumstances, and it’s especially dangerous in this circumstance. Everyone is different and therefore a range of options must be considered. An example of the issue around HRT is that it needs further investigation in relation to race. As Denise Sanderson, another panel member, pointed out, there hasn't been anywhere near enough research into the impact of this drug for Black and Brown women. Neither medically nor culturally have Black and Brown women been truly considered in the menopause debate. It doesn't mean all the current focus is wrong, it just means that generalised recommendations, like HRT for everyone, is flawed.
Like I said, I don’t have to care about menopause. At least not right now, but now that I know how hard it is, I want to. I want to make sure my colleagues feel supported, prepared and understood before, during and after menopause. Much like we’re starting to talk about the hell that is a period, we need to start more conversations around what happens when they stop.
If you want to learn more about how to support someone with menopause, I don’t have the answers for you, I just started learning myself, but I’d love to hear any of your stories and tips for dealing with or helping someone going through menopause. I’ve also put Emma and Denise’s LinkedIn profiles below along with the link to the Wildflowers of London website. I hope I see you soon at one of their empowering panel discussions.
Emma Newman - https://www.linkedin.com/in/emma-newman-0491518/
Denise Sanderson - https://www.linkedin.com/in/denisesanderson/
Wildflowers London: https://wildflowersldn.com/