Last week I was honoured to be part of The Better Menopause panel, hosted by Anna Jones, and surrounded by so many like minded, inspirational women. While it was an incredible event with a strong community of women brought together through a shared goal, I couldn’t help but be dismayed by the fact that we still need these kind of platforms to speak out about an issue that clearly lacks support from our health service, the government and the wider society. Despite some high profile campaigning over the last few years – is the menopause as underrepresented and misunderstood as it ever was?
To be fair, there is a little less taboo surrounding this time of life, and conversation around the menopause has certainly edged into mainstream awareness in the last couple of years; but it seems we are still lagging behind when it comes to the practical aspects of going through the menopause – particularly in the workplace. For many women their experience is brutal, with symptoms that affect every aspect of their day and night, and yet research tells us there is still a general lack of education and a whole host of misconceptions.
Over the last few years a number of women have added their voice for greater menopause awareness. Andrea McLean sharing her own menopause journey after an early hysterectomy, Davina McCall with her Channel 4 documentaries; Meg Mathews and her informative website MegsMenopause; Louise Minchin, who teamed up with a number of campaigns for wider menopause awareness in the workplace; and more recently Lisa Snowdon (also part of The Better Menopause panel last week), who co-hosted the Midweek Menopause Madness series with Dr Naomi Potter, and whose book – Just Getting Started: Lessons in Life, Love and Menopause – highlights her own struggle with the menopause.
Menopause Mandate is a not for profit organisation founded in 2022, chaired by Mariella Frostrup and whose patrons include Carol Vorderman, Davina McCall, Emma Kennedy, Gabby Logan and Jo Whiley – to name just a few of the supporting high profile women. They describe themselves as: “A group of motivated women from all walks of life who share a common interest in perimenopause and menopause.” Politicians, menopause experts, celebrities and journalists – all lending their voice to campaigning for workplace rights, better healthcare and more in-depth education for women going through the menopause.
So the conversation is most definitely there – to support women with fact-based menopause research, to ensure safe hormone replacement therapy, to educate healthcare professionals and employers and to campaign for inclusive menopause care worldwide – but what’s depressing is that there is still such a very long way to go in terms of translating this talk into action. It is the practicalities of going through this time in life that still need to be addressed.
The toll that menopause can take on our physical and mental health is immense and while, of course, there are many women who will breeze through it with barely a hot flush to mention, there are equally many women for whom the strain on their wellbeing can be serious and overwhelming. For career women – when you consider that we make up almost half of the workforce – this has a devastating effect on their working lives and hugely impacts workplace efficiency and productivity. The lack of help can only be counterproductive.
Menopause Mandate say: “Women need to be supported right now. Not after a consultation period, not after the proposal is kicked around for a year or more, not as a tick in the box and a pat on the head, and definitely not when a male-dominated government decides they might do something. We are working for change. NOW”
Change is exactly what we need. When you consider that most women at some point in their life will experience symptoms of the menopause, we need to make sure that in decades to come when our daughters are going through the same experience, we will have created the changes we want to see – and articles like this will no longer be necessary.