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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Menopause at Work


Menopause in the workplace is under the spotlight, finding its way into discussions in Congress and in the media headlines. Reassuringly, research on World Menopause Day in October 2021 said that one in five employers are taking action.


But what do employers need to do from an diversity, equality and inclusion perspective?

When you’re planning your menopause campaigns, training and initiatives, it’s always key to keep diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I) in mind. These documents, sessions and conversations are for everyone across your whole organization. Of course, all employers are different. There are different leadership styles, cultures and types of work – offices, manufacturing, in stores, supply chains. So each will need to tailor the support and communications to reflect this.

Start by making sure it’s clear how your organization supports menopause at work. If you have a policy, remember it’s not just a document for completing and putting in a filing cabinet. All policies should be easily accessible and regularly communicated so everybody knows they’re there.


What to include from a DE&I point of view?

Content

This will be different for each organization. Some focus entirely on menopause, some consider all life stages. But it’s key to appreciate that not all individuals who experience menopause will identify as a woman. LGBTQ+ is included in many, guidance for same sex partnerships, and andropause. Always make sure sure the content is inclusive.


Language

Start from the position of ‘everyone can be affected by menopause’. We often hear the phrase ‘menopause affects half the population’. But it affects us all. Some first hand, some through relationships, maybe a partner, family member, friend or colleague. This is an inclusive subject everyone needs to know about.

Most employers have moved away from gender-specific language, not just for menopause but for all policies. Writing in the first or second person is not only warmer but naturally more inclusive. Also, remember English might not be everyone’s first language, so do use ‘plain English’ and you might want to consider translating some of your documents too.


Visual imagery

Thankfully it feels like we’re getting through about when menopause happens, it’s a lot younger than many people realize. Choose your visual imagery to reflect this. The menopause transition, or even menopause as a result of surgery or illness, can mean that someone could experience symptoms in their 20s, 30s and 40s and menopause is a lot earlier than many people assume.

Make sure imagery is inclusive and representative.


Culture

Creating a culture where menopause can be talked about openly is one of the best thing employers can do. It’s about what’s right for the communities – all communities – in your organization.

When we’re looking at best practice from a cultural perspective – are your senior leaders on board? When we see those at the top of the organization talking about menopause it gives everyone permission to be open and share their stories. What are you doing in your organization to change the lived experience, to make menopause as normal to talk about as any conversation?


Accessibility for all

It’s usually easy enough to reach desk-based colleagues through emails and your intranet. Remembering language, remembering disabilities, remembering different ways to get the message across. But what about those on a shop floor, station platform, in a factory? Consider using posters and flyers, look at the best ways for absolutely everyone to access the information.


Sharing stories… keeping the drumbeat going

We so often hear ‘I thought it was just me’. It’s reassuring for people to understand they are not alone. Keep the communication going. It can be a sensitive subject and one campaign alone won’t shift hearts and minds in an organization.

There are some good times of the year, like International Women’s Day, World Menopause Day and Women’s Health Week, to really raise awareness. If you have other internal campaigns, such as a wellbeing week, talk about menopause here, too. It’s keeping the drumbeat going until you know you’ve the understanding has changed for good.

Talking about menopause can sometimes feel a bit alien at first. But the more you talk about it the easier it will get. You might be surprised who joins in, people you might not have realized are struggling with symptoms or those supporting someone who is. We’ll soon get to a point where menopause is as easy to talk about as the weather.


Providing the right training and support

This is important for menopause and for diversity, equality and inclusion. Consider the colleague journey. If one of their next steps is talking to their manager and the manager hasn’t been educated on menopause they won’t get the response or support they were hoping for.

Ask yourself: ‘Who are the key people who need to be upskilled to provide the right support?’ Project managers and workplace advocates are really trending at the moment. HR and OH need to be involved, so they can support colleagues. You don’t need to undertake huge training programs. With managers you can take them from saying ‘I don’t know enough about this’ to saying ‘yes I understand enough and know how to help and how to respond to this subject’ in an hour.

It’s also important to look at your Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) if you have one. Do they offer menopause support, or do they need to be included in your training? Again thinking about the colleague journey from awareness to helpful support.


Uniforms and facilities

Do your employees wear uniforms or have a dress code? If so, it’s worth looking at these. We’ve seen some amazing best practices. For example, HSBC UK redesigned their uniforms to be in a breathable fabric and a more comfortable fit. Sainsbury’s have also included a breathable fabric shirt.

If you don’t want to change them, can people order extra items?

Think about your workplace facilities, too. Listen to what your colleagues are asking for. It’s not usually much. Things like access to cold drinking water, restroom facilities and toilets. It’s about really thinking about every individual, all the different roles within your organization.


Cultural considerations

Talking about menopause is difficult for some people. In some cultures it’s simply not talked about. But for these people, they may feel comfortable talking in community groups and faith groups, spaces they feel they can open up. The University of Bradford did some amazing work in this area.

Other people just think menopause is personal and don’t want to talk about it. Which is also fine. It’s about giving people the opportunity to talk about it, not forcing them to.


Thinking about ED&I in terms of menopause really just means widening your approach so you’re embracing every individual, every job role and every aspect of your organisation. It’s rarely difficult or time consuming, but it can make all the difference to your colleagues.


by Deborah Garlick, Founder - Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace

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