A taboo conversation.... Continued!
Menopause. You’d be forgiven for not having it on the top of your list when it comes to fun topics to discuss at work. But it’s experienced directly by half our population, so if that’s not you personally, then it’s your work colleague, partner, sister, mum, auntie or friend.
At the end of October, we kicked off the conversation, a first of its kind in our industry, with our panellists Liz Clayton-Jones, Dan Warrick, and Susan Gordon, at a virtual event with over 100 AXIS members joining us. It was informative, frank, and inspired all of us to continue the conversation on, beyond the end of the call. We caught up with our panel - Liz Clayton-Jones, Dan Warrick, and Susan Gordon - for their own reflections post-event.
Screenshot from AXIS Network & Spirit Energy event | Menopause in the Workplace | Oct 21
First of all, our thanks for taking part in our first ever conversation about Menopause in the Workplace. Can I ask you why the event was important to you, and what your reasons were for getting involved?
SG - The idea for the event was sparked when I was speaking to some friends about menopause and one (male, mid 50s, senior manager in oil & gas) indignantly said “Menopause? That’s not a topic for the workplace!” And I thought “Oh really???”. I was then determined to get this unwanted discussion to take place and start to raise awareness of what impacts there may be in our male dominated industry. As I am one of the few lucky ladies who have had no significant menopausal symptoms, I didn’t feel equipped to lead this discussion. And so, knowing Liz and her informed, pragmatic and straightforward approach to the menopause, thought she’d be a fabulous ally to help us get into this taboo topic. I was then further delighted when Dan offered to be part of this conversation to add a male perspective.
LCJ - As someone who has lived experience of dealing with debilitating menopause symptoms within a high performance working environment, I am determined that no-one should feel they have to suffer in silence; neither the women who are directly affected nor their partners, colleagues and managers. When AXIS invited me to join this conversation I was delighted to be part of this, and additionally delighted at Daniel's involvement - we need wide allyship within industries for this, not just interest from women.
DW - I do believe the only way for taboo topics to become normalised, is we all need educate ourselves and discuss them. In this day and age it’s easy for Google to answer our questions, but this doesn’t make thing less taboo - if anything, it could make them more taboo.
Our audience told us that they learned a lot during the conversation – is there anything you’ve learned either in the run-up to, or during this event, which you think has been a revelation for you?
SG - Other than learning a bit more about the symptoms and effects, the main revelation to me was just how many people are actually suffering in silence. They either don’t know how to, or don’t want to, raise the conversation with their employer and similarly, some employers don’t know where to start with getting into this conversation. I believe that now we’ve broken the silence, we need to keep going with encouraging education and open communication on this topic.
DW - We need to discuss the menopause in the work place – 60% of women experiencing the menopause say it has a negative impact on them at work and 90% of workplaces fail to offer any menopause support. With the pursuit for gender balance, and an aging workforce, this is a topic we need to understand.
LCJ - For me, understanding the specific challenges of certain roles within the oil and gas industry has given me great food for thought; creative thinking will need to be applied to make appropriate adjustments in some cases (i.e. fire-retardant garments / hot flushes; the challenges of off-shore support). It has helped deepen my perspective even further.
Susan and Dan - Now that we’ve had the conversation, is there anything you think you’ll be doing differently going forwards?
SG - Maybe not differently, but I will do 'more of' - more sharing of resources, more being vocal and show I am very happy to talk about this with anyone, more encouraging people to have open conversations to help normalise an uncomfortable topic for many, more mindful about the hidden issues and help to uncover and address them. Through AXIS I can help support this by continuing conversations with individuals and organisations, by helping our AXIS mentors be more informed about the topic. Outside AXIS I am also better equipped to support the folks whom I coach to better address this topic.
DW - I think the Rock my Menopause and their #Menovist movement summarises it best. We all need to support women experiencing the menopause. I can do this indirectly by being a person who openly encourages and engages in conversations around menopause and plays a part in stamping out the taboo.
Liz, as our expert on the call, what advice would you offer to people who perhaps have only joined or started the conversation on menopause in the last week?
LCJ - my number one piece of advice is, BE CURIOUS! Listen in to the recording if you missed it, and explore some of the resources shared on the follow-up sheet. Put aside any preconceptions to listen empathetically to the stories people choose to share with you. Ask questions and don't shy away from the topic. And do reach out if you would like support running further conversations on the topic in your own communities.
And, final question, now we’ve had our first taboo conversation, what do we as an industry need to do next in the pursuit of gender balance?
SG - I think we are only just scratching the surface of this particular taboo topic so would encourage us to stick with talking about the menopause for a bit longer before moving to something else. We have ripped off the plaster, now let’s have a proper look at the issue in a sensible, balanced manner. Whilst AXIS can drive this, it needs a wider recognition within organisations to incorporate meaningfully into their internal processes and practices. The Scottish Government has set out a goal in the Women’s Health Plan for organisations to develop and promote menopause and menstrual health workplace policies - perhaps the OGUK D&I Task Force would like to partner with AXIS and our Pledge Partners to get ahead of the curve and build a coherent industry response.
DW - I believe the industry’s pursuit of gender balance has made great inroads into creating a more diverse and inclusive industry, but as all things there is always more we can do. I think as an in industry we need to educate ourselves and discuss more openly what gender means. I think as an industry we can at times focus on gender balance as seeking balance of male and females workers, this risks isolating trans and non-binary people who still face immense challenges in this industry.
Great answers, and thanks again to you all for helping us to get this conversation out into the open and started. For anyone who missed the call, we are working on making it available via our YouTube channel. Please find the factsheet shared with attendees below, and don’t forget to check out our Resources page, which we refresh frequently.