Posted 14th December 2022
I was working in Bangkok when the first symptoms of perimenopause started to affect me.
I had no idea what was going on because my menstrual cycle was like clockwork and I thought I was too young to be starting the menopause.
Little did I know there are more than 40 different symptoms of the menopause and the hormones, which regulate far more than just our reproductive functions, can start to reduce in our thirties.
Over the past four years I have been on a journey of discovery, as I am sure thousands of women have.
I started to better understand the menopause, how to deal with life, work, the ongoing changes and how family, friends and colleagues can support us – and in turn – us them.
I am not going to talk about Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) in any great length, because I am not a medical expert in this field, but after a couple of years of trying to deal with the symptoms of menopause in various ways, I made the choice to start taking HRT.
I am one of the lucky ones, in that HRT agreed with my body and it has been life-changing in coping with and abating my many symptoms.
I would advise doing your own research and speaking to a medical professional to understand more about this form of therapy.
“When I joined Atkins in April 2021, I was delighted to discover there were two menopause employee networks. To date we have 570 employee members, 23 trained advocates, and have held over 15 events, coffee stops, lunches and learns in 2022 alone.“
I jumped at the chance to join this important network and if during meetings my brain decides to fog over rather than let the words come through, I have no shame in pausing and explaining what is happening.
I feel my role in the employee network as a menopause advocate is to educate everyone to understand more about the menopause, give colleagues a safe space to discuss this health challenge, share personal experiences, make younger staff aware for the future and “be” the change that makes all of this happen.
A report produced by the Fawcett Society (May 2022) found the vast majority of women surveyed (77%) find at least one perimenopause/menopause symptom ‘very difficult’, while 44% of women experience three or more severe symptoms.
Women are most likely to say they find sleeping (84%), brain fog (73%), and anxiety or depression (69%) difficult.
Of menopausal women in employment, 44% say their ability to work has been affected by their symptoms.
By creating and maintaining a more inclusive and considered work environment for women who might be affected by the menopause, we are ensuring we retain a highly experienced and valuable demographic in our workforce.
Conversely, with potentially one in ten women leaving work because of their menopause symptoms, inaction poses a real threat to achieving gender equality.
So, what can you and your organisation do to increase awareness?
Give support, be inclusive, and retain and attract talent into your businesses (this is what we have done at Atkins):
- Create a menopause network
- Train menopause advocates
- Include menopause symptoms on your company sickness form
- Produce line management guidance for staff
- Include menopause symptoms to your reasonable adjustment policy
- Work towards being a menopause friendly employer through accreditation with Home – Henpicked
We cannot underestimate the importance of making menopause part of our everyday conversations in the workplace. So, let’s keep talking, sharing, supporting and campaigning.
This blog was written by Michelle Baker, Associate Director and Social Value Lead at Atkins Global.
Michelle has worked in the built environment for 20+ years, in a variety of roles for mostly private organisations. She is passionate about creating wider outcomes on the projects she delivers to benefit communities, local economies, and the planet by collaborating with stakeholders and client teams. Her role at Atkins is to shape, develop and lead the social value consultancy of their Infrastructure business to provide both strategic support and operational delivery services for their teams, projects and clients
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Posted 14th December 2022