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How do you banish workplace menopause stigma?

Imagine being in the glamorous world of the National TV Awards, lights flashing, cameras clicking, and your name echoing through the crowd as the winner. Now, picture needing two fans to secretly combat menopausal hot flushes, all while keeping it under wraps. That’s precisely what actress Sarah Lancashire, the star of BBC’s gripping crime drama “Happy Valley,” did. She even enlisted the help of a friend to shield her cooling fans from the prying camera lenses. But why did she feel the need to conceal them? Was she afraid that her menopause might steal the spotlight from her multiple awards?

n a world where celebrities like Davina McCall, Mariella Frostrup, and Penny Lancaster are campaigning fiercely to break the stigma surrounding menopause and celebrate this transformative phase of life, why do so many women still feel compelled to hide their symptoms. Why do women feel that menopause makes them less valuable or somehow diminished?

Here’s the truth: Menopausal women are the fastest-growing demographic in the workforce. It’s high time we shattered the silence around menopause at work. In environments where women often feel the pressure to perform at their peak all the time, there’s a prevailing belief that once you’ve crossed a certain age threshold, you become invisible and replaceable. Astonishingly, a survey conducted by the British Menopause Society in the UK revealed that 45% of women believed that menopausal symptoms had a detrimental impact on their work. More shockingly, 47% of those who had taken a day off work due to menopause-related symptoms wouldn’t disclose the real reason to their employers.

But here’s the thing: we freely share our most intimate and even embarrassing life experiences, from childbirth stories to dating disasters and mental health struggles. So, why does discussing menopause remain so elusive? How can we obliterate this lingering taboo surrounding women’s health and transform the working experience of menopausal women for the better?

Enter the potential game-changer: education, training and implementing menopause policies. These could empower women affected by the symptoms and their employers to navigate menopause confidently while ensuring a supportive work environment. Whether you’re a manager, leader, or colleague, here are some practical steps you can take to make a difference:

• Embrace flexible working arrangements, such as remote work options and adaptable schedules.
• Recognize the need for regular breaks.
• Provide extra time for preparation before meetings, appointments, or important tasks.
• Cultivate empathy and understanding.
• Promote the dispelling of myths surrounding menopause
• Distribute fact-based, clear information.
• Offer access to counselling services.
• Support initiatives like menopause allies and staff drop-in sessions to foster a sense of community and dispel isolation.
• Allow adjustments to uniforms to ease the discomfort of hot flushes.
• Harness technology to combat “brain fog” symptoms through reminders and information recording.
• If you’re a manager, show genuine concern for your employees’ well-being, especially when it comes to the challenges of menopause.

By shedding light on this vital topic, we can collectively turn the tide, making workplaces more inclusive and nurturing for all women, regardless of their stage in life. Let’s unmask the silence and champion a future where the menopause experience is met with compassion, understanding, and open dialogue.