June is Pride Month, a month of awareness and celebration.

Many organisations will mark this month with at least one event to raise awareness around inclusivity. Others will be represented at one of the many Pride marches that are happening across the country.

While there doesn’t seem to be an obvious connection between Pride month and menopause, there is and it needs to be incorporated into the way our places of work think, talk and behave around this phase in life.

We often think of menopause as a female experience – it is – but it is also one that transmen and some non-binary people go through as well. Ovaries are the qualifying criteria for menopause. All these people will have their own struggles with symptoms, relationships and maintaining their career. They need empathy and support.

While many women still struggle to speak up and access support at work for fear of the negative impact on their immediate and long-term career, this is even more challenging for those who don’t fit into our standard expectations around menopause. Bias and stereotypes which can already be prevalent for these groups, can add an additional layer of complexity during this time, causing many to struggle in silence.

One of the biggest challenges in the field of menopause is the behaviours of others. Banter, micro and not-so-microaggressions are mislabelled as ‘office humour’ or over-sensitivity of the victim. Unfortunately, in some instances, poor behaviour is overlooked when the perpetrator is senior and/or successful, which sets a cultural precedent within the team, department or organisation as a whole.

This is never a positive outcome, as it drives a non-inclusive culture. Being open about expected employee behaviours is a key part of organisational compliance and management training. While HR are often expected to manage difficult conversations in this area, it is unreasonable to assume that this will be sufficient to challenge established unhelpful behaviours.

Policies and guidelines have an important role in this process and should strive to be inclusive. They are a statement of expectation for all employees and form a framework for people to follow and refer to. This is in addition to the actual law of the land.

Being inclusive requires an appreciation of its importance from all employees about all employees.

Positive conversations are a tool to aid recognition that this is a more diverse issue than many may have previously thought. It also normalises the process of coming forward and accessing the support needed no matter what the identity of the person concerned.

There are some simple and easy to implement actions that every organisation can take, that will ensure everyone feels included in the menopause conversation:

  1. Awareness

The first step is always awareness. Simply being aware that menopause is a diverse experience is a big step forward. This means that awareness sessions need to outline all groups going through this life phase.

  1. Communication

Because most organisations don’t make menopause education compulsory for all employees, the coverage of awareness can be limited. Internal communication is often the key vehicle for awareness across the wider cohort. When mentioning menopause and available adjustments all parties need to be mentioned so that not only they, but their colleagues know as well that this is a wider issue. Being aware when selecting associated images is a small but key point of inclusion as well.

  1. Management

Management communication both verbal and non-verbal is highly influential which means that focussed training needs to include the wider perspective of menopause to enable them to be inclusive in their team talks and one to ones.

  1. Support

Commonly organisations focus on ‘Women’s health’ in their meetups, menopause cafés and forums. For those who don’t identify as female, it can feel as though these groups are not for them, likewise where support is categorised in the same way. It is a small step to use different naming conventions such as ‘menopause wellbeing’.

  1. Policies

Currently, there is no legal requirement for a menopause policy. Policies and guidelines are a statement not only of what will be offered to those experiencing menopause, but the expected behaviour of all employees. Many of the organisations I have worked with produce usable and accessible guidelines that sit alongside policies.

  1. Legal

Discrimination (direct or indirect), harassment or victimisation on the grounds of sex, age or disability are the common focus for legal action in the field of menopause. However, in this instance, gender reassignment and sexual orientation are two further characteristics from the Equality Act (2010) that could apply where poor employee behaviour occurs. This accentuates the need for a comprehensive approach to the previous five points.

This Pride Month, it’s an ideal time to take a look behind the celebrations and ensure the groundwork to make menopause truly inclusive is done too. Inclusivity is a win-win for everyone. It’s also wise to remember that Pride has always been about activism and campaigning so it’s a perfect time to take some ‘action’ within forward-thinking companies and organisations.

Kate Usher Headshot
Kate Usher
Menopause Coach at Menopause in Business | Website

Kate is an experienced Menopause Coach and gender equity consultant. She works with women and organisations to create simple strategies that enable modern and supportive Menopause conversations. Ensuring women retain their careers and organisations continue to benefit from some of their most brilliant employees. She is an internationally published author, her book 'Your Second Phase – reclaiming work and relationships during and after Menopause' was shortlisted for the Business Book of the Year Award.