Say menopause three times a day - and shift the stigma
We are loving the University of Leicester's new campaign to normalise menopause on campus - and in society. No more hushed tones, no more awkwardness, the idea is to talk about menopause out loud several times a day.
Leicester is the UK’s first University to have a menopause policy, following on from its pioneering research and Government report on menopause in the workplace last year.
Its latest campaign plans to destigmatise menopause by encouraging staff to talk about it candidly and informally, and to engage men to talk more about menopause. There are monthly menopause cafes on campus, and tips on coping and working through the notorious brain fog that accpmpanies maneopause.
“We are taking steps to remove the taboo at Leicester and this is marked by the more open conversations around menopause” says Dr Andrea Davies of the university's School of Business.
“We set out that menopause should be not a women's only issue - men and women attend the menopause roadshows and at our monthly Menopause Cafes numbers are growing each meeting, and it has been great to also see some male colleagues come too. This shows that we are actioning menopause to be inclusive - for everyone and every age group to know about. This is our approach to breaking down the taboo."
Conversations around menopause
“What we have seen is that the facts about menopause are not well known, and to share information and raise awareness is the first key step to building confident conversations around menopause for everyone. We’ve also found that men are keen to know more to support their own family and female colleagues.”
The four aims of the policy are:
- Making all colleagues – not just mid-life women – aware of the facts about menopause. This means caring about it as a significant workplace issue and being confident to act accordingly, either for other colleagues or on their own behalf.
- Removing any taboo around menopause in the workplace so everyone could talk about it openly without embarrassment.
- Women experiencing symptoms to feel able to discuss this and ask for support and reasonable adjustments so they continue to be successful in their roles and enjoy the right life-work balance.
- University leaders and line managers to be able to have supportive conversations on the same basis and to be clear on the University’s policy and practices, supported by HR, Health and Wellbeing and the Occupational Health teams.
Menopause at work: a priority
“We decided early on that we needed to compile a formal policy because this would signal that menopause at work was a priority." says Dr Davies. " Embedded in the policy is guidance for line managers and for women to start confident conversations and there are examples of workplace adjustments. Alongside this is a menopause factsheet as well as a video. What is important is the cafeteria approach adopted. Menopause transition is different for all women and a one size fits all approach does not match what we know about menopause.”
Since the policy’s introduction eight months ago, the uni has been helping women feel at ease with their menopausal symptoms at work - through menopause roadshows and cafés. At these events, women come together to discuss their experiences living and working with the menopause.
Breaking out of the brain fog
“Our monthly Menopause Cafes are informal gatherings which we began as part of International Women’s Day celebrations, and we’ve worked closely with Rachel Weiss in Perth who started the Menopause Café idea." Dr Davies goes on. " We have continued these each month, held in a public space, and so not hidden away. We share conversations over tea and coffee and it has been great to hear experiences of menopause."
“People share tips on how they are managing menopause symptoms at work and at home. A recent share I really liked was to have a menopause book on the work desk. This is a place to write lists and say how her menopause was today. She wrote things herself but also encouraged her work colleagues to do the same and this has really helped with not forgetting things if you experience that intermittent forgetfulness, or what we call menopause brain fog. There is no shame but an acknowledgement and a caring way to work with the brain fog.
The menopause policy has been linked to a new policy on maximising attendance, and will also form part of a new online training programme for new managers.The University of Leicester Coaching Academy have also designed a specialist coaching stream for menopause which is due to launch in the upcoming months.
“We are removing the taboo – menopause is visible and in the everyday. We are confident the policy will be an unquestioned part of management and operating at the strategic heart of the University.”