Article provided by Josie Mortimer – Senior People Director WW UK
Internationally, we’ve seen real progress in the past few years in terms of addressing gender equality, but there’s always more that can be done.
Traditionally there has been a lot of taboo around discussing the menopause, especially in the workforce, but slowly the tide is now starting to turn. From hot flushes to brain fog to insomnia and irritability, the menopause can come with 48 different symptoms and affects all women differently. There has recently been new focus in the UK around this time of life and the negative impact this can have on women’s lives and particularly around their careers with many reports focusing on just how many women leave the workforce due to menopausal symptoms.
At WW UK, we recently launched ‘Menopause Matters’, a raft of new policies and measures designed to help those experiencing the menopause both for WW UK members and employees. These new policies have been created and implemented following an extensive research project, undertaken on behalf of WW, amongst 1,000 women who have been through or are going through the menopause. The research showed :
It’s really shocking to think that it’s estimated that there are one million women who are likely about to leave the workforce because of menopause symptoms.
We have worked to develop a whole package of training and policies designed to open up the conversation around menopause both internally and externally. This is particularly relevant given that 87% of WW’s UK employees are female and 61% of these are aged between 41 and 65 years.
The menopause specific policies and resources available for all WW employees in the UK include:
Conversations around the menopause are starting, but we urgently need to tackle the stigma around it. Our research has revealed that many women going through menopause want to be understood, not to suffer in silence and they’re asking for support with the physicial and emotional symptoms they’re facing.
In being fully inclusive, it’s our responsibility to ensure we help all our employees be at their best with their wellbeing at the forefront. And that’s why it’s imperative that employers start to normalise the conversation around menopause to support women and their friends and families who are experiencing and potentially struggling with some of the many symptoms of the menopause.
Employees can help each other too, the menopause shouldn’t be treated as an illness or a medical condition, it is a natural life stage. Ideally employees will chat to others and build a real sense of community around the topic.
Ask for help when you need it. We have called upon expert help and worked with partners like Gen M and Henpicked to help and support us in ensuring our menopause policies and measures are relevant, up-to-date and current. And we’re also working towards securing Menopause Friendly Employer Accreditation in 2022.
Our partners have been able to educate us about all aspects of menopause such as how important it is to ensure we remember that, despite menopause frequently being talked about as something that only affects women, it happens to people of differing genders, including trans men, who were assigned female gender at birth, and non-binary people, who identify as neither male or female.
Do be mindful that not everyone experiences the menopause in the same way and people’s different cultures and backgrounds can mean that they have varying symptoms and comfort levels when talking about it. It’s also advisable to ensure that those who don’t want to talk about menopause in an open forum have a safe space available to them; this is why we introduced a private workplace group as part of our Menopause Matters measures.
Across the business we have used opportunities like our weekly company huddle where c130+ employees join a Zoom session and we update on a variety of topics, and we have also used our internal comms platform. We’ve also shared our work on Menopause Matters with our other international markets to get everyone talking about it.
If any employers are thinking that this isn’t a topic their employees want to help with or want to talk about, they may well be very surprised. The reaction we’ve seen already within the business to this activity has been phenomenal.
Lastly, it’s important for employers to remember that menopause is an always on topic. It impacts everyone in some way or another and we have a great opportunity to make a real difference by providing real support in the workplace and making this something we can all be comfortable talking about.
Josie Mortimer is the Senior People Director at WW UK, Josie is exceptionally well versed in the challenges and rewards that come with managing the well-being and growth of employees. She has launched and developed numerous employee programmes across the business as well as helping WW to become an award-winning employer, including The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work for and Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work.