Today is World Menopause Day, so to mark the occasion, Livv Housing’s Sharon Marsh discusses how the organisation is challenging taboos to create a more inclusive workplace
True or False… whales are the only other mammal to experience menopause.
It’s perhaps a quirky entry point into the subject of menopause for a social housing organisation (it’s true by the way); it’s an even greater conversation starter, as part of awareness raising sessions for our colleagues as part of World Menopause Day 2023.
It’s also a question that helped get our colleagues talking about a subject that’s been a taboo topic for far too long in society, and in UK workplaces historically.
Yet that’s framed around an ironic context. Women over 50 are the fastest growing demographic in the workplace, and the average age of menopause in the UK is 51. However, symptoms can occur many years before.
Ending the taboo
Two years ago, Livv commissioned an independent Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) review to challenge us even further on our approach to inclusivity.
The review informed a new EDI strategy, and a host of innovative approaches to inclusivity awareness raising and education for our 480 colleagues on a swathe of diverse themes. This important work has been underpinned by the introduction of a series of events, activities and learning sessions as part of our rolling Wellbeing and Inclusion calendar.
True or False… Menopause is just for women of a certain age (it’s false by the way).
Menopause has been a key marker in our calendar’s inclusivity strand not least because 44% of our colleagues are female. And because it has, thankfully, started to become a ‘topic of our time’, thanks to profile raising endeavours including TV personalities like Davina McCall and her documentary Sex, Myths and the Menopause.
Our approach at Livv has been to look at menopause from an inclusion perspective – the sessions were open to all genders, but also helping men to understand menopause to support their colleagues, family members and friends.
The conversation around menopause is getting louder, but there’s still a great deal of myth. The British Menopause Society is marking this year’s world awareness day with a strong theme: Misinformation and Management.
At Livv, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to mark this world-wide awareness day or pivotal British Menopause Society theme.
Our response? We brought in Miss Menopause, a bold Geordie with a fresh, and more importantly, entertaining approach to talking about the menopause. An educator that we felt would hit the mark with all sectors and seniorities in our social housing business.
Sharon MacArthur, a leading menopause educator, has helped us hit the topic head-on with her honesty – telling the story of her own menopause journey while working.
One that started with night terrors, waking at 4am with a feeling of impending doom, feeling exhausted all the time, feeling not like herself, not able to remember names and anxious about meeting people. The final straw for Sharon – falling asleep at the wheel of her car while driving at speed.
From this stark story stemmed her awareness and training sessions of the facts and symptoms, and how organisations can best support their workforces. They help educate employers and employees about what to expect regarding the menopause and how best to manage it, in a bold, informative, fun way of learning.
Cue her creative and colourful quiz-based approach to menopause and myth busting, which starts with the mammalian question.
The output on this world awareness day, and closer to home for colleagues at our Knowsley-based social housing organisation, is a clear call to action, not to miss the mark on menopause but to educate on the topic and to get colleagues talking about it openly – without any sense of secrecy or taboo.
Our colleagues response to the call to action
“As a male, in my personal experience the menopause has often been a taboo subject revolving around historical sayings and understandings. This brilliant session helped to break down some myths and perceptions and has provided me with a better awareness/ understanding on how to approach, discuss and manage colleagues, and to support my partner and friends who maybe experiencing the menopause.” – Michael.
“It removed myths, and it was good the way it was presented as a quiz. I came home and shared some of the things with my husband and my mum.” – Louise.
“If we’re going to be allies, then we need not to feel awkward about discussing the symptoms and issues caused by menopause. I went away from the session and made an effort to be more aware of how people around me are impacted by it.” – Guy.
“We need to have an inclusive culture that doesn’t shy away from these topics and to get over the idea of ‘women’s issues’ being taboo. What the session really drove home is that everyone is affected by menopause either directly or indirectly. To not accommodate people going through menopause doesn’t make sense. What the session showed me is how to have those conversations in an open and light hearted way and that everyone needs to be invited to talk about it.” – Pippa.
Organisationally at Livv, we’re committed to making menopause an everyday part of workplace dialogue and without any concerns about employees requesting adjustments to help support them during menopause, whether that’s women going through it themselves, or their partners/family members who are supporting women experiencing this life event.
Main image: Sharon Marsh, executive director of customer insight, Livv Housing Group
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