The issue of how workplaces can responsibly handle menopause isn’t a new one. Almost a million women in the UK have left their jobs as a result of experiencing menopausal symptoms which has a knock-on effect that directly impacts the gender balance of the workforce, the gender pay-gap and the gender pension gap.
As the music industry continues to try and achieve a more gender balanced workforce, we must also look at ways to support women and people who experience symptoms of the menopause to stay in work.
We know that there can be specific challenges for musicians experiencing symptoms of menopause, as MU Executive Committee Member, Millicent Stephenson brilliantly explains in the blog that we published last World Menopause Day.
Currently, there is insufficient legal guidance and support regarding menopause – that could be set to change as the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee has recently closed an inquiry into Menopause and the Workplace.
While we wait for the results of that inquiry to be published and recommendations to be made, there are steps we can take, as an industry, to support women and people who experience symptoms of menopause.
Cultural change against the stigma associated with menopause
The stigma attached to talking about menopause means that many people hide their symptoms out of embarrassment. A survey earlier this year found that:
- 43% of women in the UK who experienced menopause symptoms said they have felt too embarrassed to ask for support in the workplace, rising to 63% of women aged 18-44 in the UK.
- Two-thirds (64%) of women in the UK agree there should be more workplace support for women going through menopause.
Encouraging women and people who experience menopausal symptoms to be open about the impact it has on their working lives is a great place to start in helping to remove the stigma associated with it.
In the same way that mental health has become much less of a taboo topic in recent years, we need to approach menopause in the same way and make it a key part of wellbeing initiatives and strategies.
Sharing experiences and solutions
Informal support networks such as the MU Women Members Network can be a great space to share experiences, create a supportive community and empower women and people who experience menopausal symptoms to share their knowledge and create solutions that work for them.
The MU Women Members Network is a space for members, led by members, to discuss issues specific to women. Find out more and join the network.
Training can help remove stigma and equip people with knowledge
Educating people is one of the best ways to support women and people who experience symptoms of menopause at work. Training can help to remove stigma, normalise conversations about menopause and explain the symptoms and issues that people may experience. Training helps equip people with the knowledge to help implement change.
Menopause will impact the entire workforce directly or indirectly so it’s important that men and people who won’t experience menopausal symptoms are also engaged in these conversations, training sessions and in helping to create solutions.
Various resources and guides exist to help people create menopause friendly workplaces. Wales TUC have produced a toolkit that covers essential information about the menopause and Acas have also developed a menopause toolkit that gives simple, straightforward advice on managing the effect of menopause at work.
Creating a Menopause Policy
Having a policy supporting women and people who experience symptoms of menopause, that gives clear guidance for managers and engagers is an essential step in creating menopause friendly workplaces.
Channel 4 launched the UK media industry’s first dedicated menopause policy on World Menopause Day in 2019. The policy has already made an impact, with a recent 4Women survey suggesting that 78% of Channel 4 staff feel better about Channel 4 as a place to work since the policy launched.
When designing policy, consult your workforce, including freelancers on what they need. Take a look at some of the guidance that’s been published on creating menopause at work policies:
Gender equality isn’t just about recruiting more women or women being more visible, it’s also about ensuring that women can stay in work. Creating long term sustainable careers for women means thinking about what we do as an industry to design workplaces and policies that support women, throughout their working lives.
Members who experience discrimination related to menopause or have difficulty talking to their employer or engager about the support they need should contact their Regional Office for advice.