This year marks one-hundred years since some UK women won the right to vote and 2018 is also International Year of the Woman
Historically, women have campaigned for many causes – big and small – and continue to do so. Indeed, we acknowledge that women everywhere are still rising up, and taking the women’s movement into the mainstream. Women are protesting, marching, organising and building power.
Maybe twenty or so years ago, maternity rights were very much in focus as women were returning to work in increasing numbers compared to those in the past who were perhaps more likely to stay home to look after their children. Now women are working – often full time – until their 60’s and 70’s. In fact, it’s not unusual to have women of a number of generations in a single workplace. In our offices for example, we have women in their early twenties right up to women in their sixties. With that broad range of ages in one place come different challenges.
One particular issue that’s becoming more acknowledged in the workplace is the menopause and the challenges this can trigger for women. Roughly half of UK workers are women, all of whom will experience the menopause. There are currently 3.5 million women workers over the age of 50 in the UK, almost half of the over-50 workforce, and that number will rise as the retirement age for women increases in coming years. Although it is rarely discussed at work, the menopause is a natural stage of life that millions of women workers are either going through now or will experience in the future.
Overall, this period of hormonal change and associated symptoms can last from four to eight years. The menopause can lead to changes in a women’s health and may also lead to emotional changes. These can affect how a woman does her work and her relationship with her colleagues. Unfortunately there is often very little understanding of the issues and very little support for women who are going through the menopause. Employers have been slow to recognise that women of menopausal age may need special consideration. For too long it has simply been seen as a private matter.
As a result it is very rarely discussed and many managers will have no awareness of the issues involved. This means many women feel that they have to hide their symptoms and will be less likely to ask for the adjustments that may help them. This must change. I believe that the menopause is an occupational health issue, and one that is growing in importance.
Inspired by the 2017 Kirsty Wark TV documentary “The Menopause and Me” a Menopause Café was set up in Perth, Scotland. And as they say “…at the Menopause Café people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss menopause”!
Finally, this previously ‘taboo’ subject is out there for a wider, open discussion. This is extremely liberating and supports women to cope with issues that may previously have been unknown to them. If anyone reading this is interested in the concept of the menopause café, I would love to start one in Southsea (also covering the surrounding areas) so please DO get in touch!
To find out more about the Perth menopause café and their objectives visit: https://www.menopausecafe.net/
Jane Barry FCIPD – June 2018