Content looking middle-aged women

Menopause: what does ‘normalising the conversation’ mean? by Katie Day

Location, location, location. Education, education, education. We’re all used to the power of ‘three’. Interesting, then, that last year an academic at Leicester University said everyone, in particular men, should say the word ‘menopause’ three times a day (1).

Menopause with Katie Day
Menopause, menopause, menopause. Hmmm, perhaps not. Whilst we support the energy behind this statement, it runs the risk of demoting the importance of the topic. To quote an old saying: “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” People will rarely react positively when ‘forced’ to do something. With our years of experience working with organisations on diversity and inclusion agendas, along with corporate social responsibility issues, we have witnessed the same phenomenon. What has proven, time and time again, to be the only successful way of changing culture, is to ensure everyone is part of the that change, everyone takes ownership of their part in the process, and everyone fully understands and ‘buys in’ to the rationale directing that change. Failure to do any of these and an organisation is doomed to fail. Changing the culture around menopause, and all matters of midlife (let us not forget men in the conversation) should be a key focus for all forward-thinking and innovative organisations. It is a no brainer in terms of the business case.

How do you change the conversation then?

There are some key success markers:
  • Ensure you have a champion: ideally as senior as possible and preferably a man
  • Up-skill everyone all areas of D&I and make sure menopause and midlife are clearly included within D&I policies, not appearing as ‘add on’s’.
  • Empower women to find out about this natural life transition and how they can best support themselves
  • Support line managers and leaders in how to ditch the embarrassment, enabling them to have open conversations that are supportive and non-judgemental
  • Go back and look at your D&I policies and guidelines to check they are fully inclusive of midlife for both women and men
  • Value all employees, at whatever stage of their life / career / age they may be. The younger ones bring a fresh eye and youthful enthusiasm. The midlife group deliver expertise, experience, specialism, loyalty, potency, power and stability – ignore these gifts at your peril!
If you a woman going through your menopause transition:
  • Use the right terminology. It’s the menopause, not ‘the change’, ‘that time of life’, ‘women’s problems’, ‘your age’ …
  • Own the word ‘menopause’ with pride, it’s a natural rite of passage and marks the point we become stronger, more powerful, give more (to ourselves and others potentially) and have the opportunity to own our brilliance
  • Talk openly and without embarrassment (choosing your discussion topics.) Painful sex and dry vaginas may have limited appropriateness!
  • Find out how to support yourself and share the information with other women
If you are someone not going through the menopause (female or male), yet work with those who are:
  • Find out what you can about this phase of life and up-skill yourself on the potential impact (both personal and professional)
  • Be aware of any changes within those you work with. If you see a negative change in productivity, personality, stress etc. have the courage to open the conversation.
  • Ensure those conversations are ‘coaching’ based. Ask open questions and allow the other person to have the confidence to be honest with their experiences
  • Know where to signpost women, both internally (what does your organisation provide) and externally
  • Be a champion
  • Suggest ways in which the organise could make reasonable adjustments to ensure everyone at midlife feels supported and valued
  • Challenge any inappropriate behaviour by others. If you don’t, you become part of the problem
  • Encourage women (or anyone) to start a focus group to ensure the topic remains on the agenda

The menopause has always been part of a women’s life. The only thing that has changed recently is that is has now become a topic that is much easier to discuss within the workplace. Thank goodness. Make sure you take the lead, whether you are woman experiencing the menopause, a man at midlife, a colleague working with people at midlife, a manager or leader. Don’t wait for others to do something. Start yourself. Be the person others wish to follow. Let’s ensure we all celebrate women and men at whatever stage of life they are, and that includes midlife.

Katie Day is a Director of RDP International Ltd RDP International works with organisations on: leadership / communication / all matters ‘midlife’ Join the conversation: LinkedIn: Midlife Matters Group Twitter: @Midlife_Matters Facebook: Midlife Matters Community 1 Dr Andrea Davies, Leicester University 2018. Dr Davies is co-author of a 2017 Department of Education report on menopause transition and economic participation.