Voices

Policy and progress: celebrating those who lead the charge with menopause at work.

Bloom celebrates some of the women in the industry who have got the ball rolling on conversation around menopause, implemented policy and worked to make the journey a little easier for the women around them

Samantha Frankel and Jules Castenskiold

Bloom

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October 2020. After more than six months of deliberation, hesitation and frankly fear, I tentatively hit publish on a Linkedin article declaring my perimenopausal status to anyone who cared to read about it. It felt daring, exposing and possibly slightly foolish. But the near-furious urge to challenge the stigma surrounding menopause and the lack of workplace support for its many symptoms forced my hand. I’d had a tough time and I knew I wasn’t alone: the level of heartfelt support and shared stories I received confirmed this. Tellingly though, most were via private message, pointing to the level of professional shame this subject provoked.

Fast forward to October 2021 and in comparison, this really does feel like a moment for loud celebration. With the unrelenting mainstreaming of the menopause in the UK media, courageously led by the likes of Davina McCall, Caitlin Moran, Meg Matthews et al, the hideous taboo surrounding it is at long last beginning to diminish. People (women and men) are becoming familiar with terms like perimenopause and the many symptoms that might occur before it starts, before they’re struggling. And crucially before they consider leaving or are forced out of work. This is such progress. 

Menopause, alongside other areas of female health, has been put front and centre in government with the Department of Health commenting in The Times that they are creating ‘the first government-led women’s health strategy for England’ and, thanks to Carolyn Harris MP and her All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) set up this year to create a ‘menopause revolution’, we may finally see prescription charges for HRT scrapped in England (currently free in Scotland & Wales) making it accessible to all. Looking closer to home, there have been a plethora of workplace menopause policies appearing that point, hopefully, to a long overdue change to the terrible midlife discrimination of women in our industry.

But let’s not get over-excited here. I’m not suggesting for a second that we don’t have a very long way to go. In reality, workplace policies designed to support women through this are still a rarity and ‘active’ policies (rather than those buried in a staff handbook, languishing on a dusty shelf) are rarer still. The most recent IPA gender representation statistics are still horrendous for women over the age of 45, not to mention the appalling representation of this life stage on screen, particularly in advertising. But I’m in a good mood and this is PROGRESS. Real, valuable, undeniable progress. And this hasn’t happened by any accident. It’s down to the courage of certain women who stood up, spoke out, shared their stories and agitated for long overdue action.  

So, on this World Menopause Day, Bloom would like to celebrate some of the women in our industry who have done exactly this. Who got the ball rolling on conversation, implemented policy and who have worked to make the journey a little easier for the women around them. There are many more of course and this list is happily growing but for now here’s our top 5:

4Women co-chairs Landy Slattery, Jane English & Navene Alim, Channel 4

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Landy Slattery

4Women co-chair
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Jane English

4Woman co-chair
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Navene Alim

4Woman co-chair

The undisputed D&I trailblazers to whom every woman in the land owes a debt of gratitude, these three wonder women at Channel 4 were behind the UK media industry’s first dedicated menopause policy to support employees experiencing symptoms and provide guidance for their managers. Landy had a very difficult time with symptoms herself and on discovering that other colleagues were suffering in silence she, Jane & Navene felt compelled to act. 4Women won immediate support from CEO Alex Mahon and the rest as they say, is history. A recent survey suggested that 78% of staff felt better about Channel 4 as a place to work since the launch. A year later in October 2020 its policy was updated to reflect remote working conditions and published publicly for any company to download and adapt for their own use, in the hope that others in the industry would be inspired to support their female talent in a similar way. This policy and any updates continue to remain free for all to use. 

Helen Matthews, Chief People Officer Ogilvy UK

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Helen Matthews

Chief People Officer Ogilvy UK

Over on the agency side, Helen Matthews’ penny drop moment came when she stumbled on an article listing some 41 symptoms of the perimenopause. Astonished at the gaps in workplace support for this she soon after launched Ogilvy UK’s menopause policy on World Menopause Day 2019. Ogilvy’s policy not only looked at offering practical help in a bid to support and retain top talent who were right in the eye of the storm of their symptoms, but also worked hard to create conversation around menopause and break the stigma across the business with panels, webinars and educational events open importantly to men also. Helen was ahead of her time in understanding the need to address how the lack of conversation and support led to other issues such as senior level attrition and the subsequent impact this has on diversity and gender at leadership level. 

Katie Edwards, Managing Partner at Publicis.Poke

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Katie Edwards

Managing Partner at Publicis.Poke

Inspired by the work of Channel 4 before her, Katie led the creation of Publicis.Poke’s policy designed to mitigate the negative impact of menopause on people’s personal and professional lives, whether working from home or in an office. It’s available to all people experiencing symptoms whether they identify as female or not. Alongside five key areas covering physical and emotional support, the policy importantly developed training to raise awareness and educate all employees, specifically managers, about the menopause and its many symptoms. This policy is to be rolled out throughout Publicis Groupe UK, starting with Publicis.Poke.

Melissa Robertson, CEO, Dark Horses

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Melissa Robertson

CEO, Dark Horses

After an overwhelming response to her brave article in campaign which described with humour but detail the horrors of her perimenopausal experience, Melissa researched and wrote a detailed and now open-sourced menopause policy for Dark Horses. Despite being in a menopausal minority at her own agency, Melissa decided that a policy was not just for her, but for the women down the line to benefit - together with the men they come into contact in their personal & professional lives - and for others in her workplace to be more aware so they can support. ‘It’s time to start preventing such a mass exodus and retain a more substantial layer of experienced and talented women in our industry. It’s time to change the change’ she said. Like Channel 4, Dark Horses open-source policy is available to all companies to use so there really is no excuse not to adopt a menopause policy in your business today.

Samantha Frankel, Marketing Consultant, Founder of Bloom Mpower

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Samantha Frankel

Marketing Consultant, Founder of Bloom Mpower
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Jules Castenskiold

Bloom Mpower

Finally, we couldn’t end without mentioning one of our own: Samantha Frankel and the wonderful women who make up Bloom’s inclusion group: Bloom Mpower. Sam set up the group shortly after joining Bloom as a result of her own difficult experience of perimenopause and her frustration at the ageist/sexist double whammy affecting women over 40 in the industry. She was sideswiped by her own symptoms and determined that other women could be better informed. The Mpower group is about empowering midlife and beyond and was created to help Bloom members better understand and deal with the challenges of perimenopause, menopause and midlife, to educate, elevate and empower this stage and ultimately to lead policy change in the industry. In a relatively young female network Sam, along with co-lead Karen Carter and the active members of Bloom Mpower, has continually pushed for the conversation around perimenopause, menopause and midlife to change. Favourite phrase: forewarned is forearmed! 

We’re indebted to the work of these women and to so many more who are adding their voices and creativity to ‘changing the change’. Much progress has been made since October 2019 and with 2021 already being termed the ‘millenopause’ – the year that the oldest millennials are reaching 40 - we remain hopeful that workplace attitudes and policies will continue to emerge and evolve.  

However, support and understanding at work is still the exception not the norm, so on this World Menopause Day 2021 Bloom Mpower would love your help. Please help us to gain a robust picture of how the menopause is understood, viewed, experienced and supported in our industry by completing our first industry survey on this topic. You don’t need to have experienced or know those who have experienced it to take part and please feel free to pass this on to anyone you feel might want to participate.

If you’d like a deep dive into some symptoms and treatments mythbusting – have a listen to our Naked Truths Podcast episode – The Storm Before the Calm.

Words by Samantha Frankel, Founder, Bloom Mpower.

Additional support by Jules Castenskiold, Bloom Mpower.

 

Guest Author

Samantha Frankel and Jules Castenskiold

Bloom

About

Samantha is a consultant in brand & marketing strategy and has worked in creative communications for over 20 years spanning high profile brand, agency, production company & non-profit roles. She is passionate about initiatives in her industry that enhance life chances and encourage talent, particularly for women. Over the past two years she’s been an active member of Bloom across the marketing and allyship groups and leads on external event production. She also mentors a younger woman in the industry & co-mentors in The Exchange programme which actively engages senior men in the fight for gender equality. An active voice on the subject of midlife discrimination and the need for workplace menopause support, Sam has written several articles, produced campaigns and a podcast for Bloom and founded a group within the network - Bloom Mpower - to celebrate midlife, help women better prepare for the challenges of perimenopause and ultimately encourage policy change within the industry. Jules has spent 20+ years in advertising, design and media agencies in client service, marketing and business development roles. Jules has also worked client side, as Head of Marketing for industry charity, Media Trust. She has a passion for developing agency brands for growth and in particular brands as a force for good through BCorp principles. She completed a Sustainable Business Strategy course with Harvard Business School online in 2021 to help support this work and see change in our industry practice. Jules currently uses her skills of brand marketing and business growth working together to help companies see the opportunities within to be strategic and targeted for Growth plans. Jules joined Bloom network in March 2021 and has been involved in Mentoring, Events, Allship, and Mpower inclusion groups to help support the work of each group and most importantly to see change in our industry both for now and future.

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Women Menopause