The Musicians’ Union, like many organisations, is in the process of writing a Menopause Policy for its staff. This came about as a request from Jenny Simpson (our Midlands Membership Services Assistant), who was looking for some support and guidance from her employer - the MU - and realised there was a gap that could be filled to support other colleagues going through a similar experience to her.
Jenny and John Shortell (National Organiser for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) have been leading on this work alongside Matt Wanstall (Assistant General Secretary), who has overall responsibility for HR at the MU.
As part of the process Jenny floated the idea of setting up a group of Menopause Champions.
The idea was agreed, and an invitation seeking volunteers went out to all staff. There are currently seven Menopause Champions, including myself.
As a Menopause Champion I provide a safe space to truly listen to a colleague’s experience
I volunteered to become a Menopause Champion for several reasons. First and foremost, I am all about helping others, both in my personal and professional life.
As a Menopause Champion, this could take the form of providing a safe space to truly listen to a colleague and their experience of the journey through one/some of the many symptoms of the peri/menopause - or it could be offering support and sharing knowledge with a colleague who has not had to address conversations around the peri/menopause before.
Either way, my role in this area is to remain calm and non-judgemental, to offer help if requested and to hopefully have a positive impact on what can often be an uncomfortable or negative situation.
What we hope to achieve as Menopause Champions
The role of the Menopause Champion covers several areas:
1. To raise awareness
- of the different stages of the menopause,
- of the many symptoms that women may experience and how they may impact personal and professional relationships.
2. To provide support
- to all colleagues who seek it,
- by offering an empathetic, non-judgemental listening ear,
- either in a one-to-one or group setting.
3. To reduce the taboo / stigmatisation
- being aware that some may be embarrassed to talk about the menopause,
- speaking openly about the menopause - maybe from personal or learnt experience,
- increasing a general awareness and understanding of the menopause.
4. To advocate for practical solutions
- reasonable adjustments to be made in the workplace to help alleviate symptoms e.g. desk fans for hot flushes, adjustment to start and finish times to avoid peak travel time etc.
5. To share resources and signpost
- there are many organisations, details listed below, that offer help and guidance as well as sharing research and statistics.
By talking openly and honestly, from an informed perspective, we can help to destigmatise the menopause
Like many women, I will experience the peri/menopause at some point in my life. From a more personal viewpoint, to educate myself will not only benefit me, but will also benefit those around me too.
By talking openly and honestly, from an informed perspective, we can help to destigmatise the peri/menopause, and hopefully promote a better awareness and understanding among the workforce and wider society.
Different cultures view the peri/menopause in different ways. I like to align myself with the Japanese/Chinese viewpoint - they describe the menopause as a woman’s ‘second spring’. This positive outlook encourages me to see the peri/menopause journey as an exploration, a new version of me growing and discovering. One that I can experiment with and find what works for me during this inevitable natural process.
Pilates and the menopause
As a Pilates Mat Work Teacher in my spare time, I have a specific interest in the way that exercise plays a part in the peri/menopause journey and can help relieve symptoms, alongside diet and other treatments.
Pilates is a low impact form of exercise that focuses on small, precise, controlled movements, guided by the breath. The concentration required to do this develops mindfulness.
One of the symptoms of perimenopause can be a decrease in bone density, which can sometimes lead to Osteopenia or Osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercises in Pilates, using the participants own body weight, positively load the bones which helps to rebuild and strengthen them.
Some of the other symptoms experienced during the peri / menopause include anxiety, loss of the sense of self, brain fog, and joint stiffness. Pilates is a fantastic holistic exercise that can help alleviate these symptoms by concentrating on improving posture, balance, co-ordination and confidence.
I will be celebrating World Menopause Day on Wednesday 18 October by continuing to raise awareness and enjoying more Pilates.
External Menopause Resources
- Menospace - An organisation offering menopause at work training via online and face to face workshops, webinars and events, delivered by expert trainers.
- Menopause Matters - A comprehensive website and quarterly magazine offering information, forums, and articles to help women understand and manage the menopause.
- LGBT Foundation - The LGBT Foundation provides a range of resources and support services for LGBTQ+ individuals, including those going through menopause. They offer information, advice, and a safe space for discussions.
- ACAS - An independent public body that works with millions of employers and employees to improve workplace relationships.
- NHS - An explanation of what the menopause is, symptoms, things you can do, treatment, help and support.