Closing the gap on Equal Pay Day

Helen Normoyle calls for better support for women to beat ageism and close the gender pay gap

Helen Normoyle

Co Founder My Menopause Centre


Nothing highlights the agonisingly slow progress of equality in the workplace more than Equal Pay Day – the day when women effectively stop earning for the rest of the year relative to men – this year on November 20. In 2018, it fell on November 10, meaning it has moved just ten days in four years.

While we still don’t know the full impact of Covid restrictions on pay disparity, figures from the ONS show the country-wide gender pay gap stands at 14.9%, down ever so slightly from last year’s 15.1%. And the gender pay gap is even more acute in the creative industry: the gap in advertising agencies is 15.5%, with one in four agencies having a gender pay gap of more than 25%.

Just as only 12% of UK ads feature women over the age of 50, according to a Channel 4 report from last year, so too do very few advertising agencies have female representation at executive level. So deeply entrenched is society’s lack of interest in midlife women that they are expected to become invisible, to simply disappear, and the advertising industry is complicit. We need to face into the chronic ageism that permeates all areas of marketing and advertising both behind and in front of the camera. Until we do, the gender pay gap will never reduce, let alone close, because the concrete actions needed to support women to remain in the industry won’t happen.

We need to face into the chronic ageism that permeates all areas of marketing and advertising both behind and in front of the camera.

Helen Normoyle, Co-founder, My Menopause Centre

As organisations look to create more inclusive workplaces and retain their talented staff, workplace flexibility has shot up the agenda. We’re seeing a welcome increase in opportunities for hybrid and flexible working being offered to all employees, and enhanced support for parents for example through paid paternity and parental leave in addition to maternity leave and support. We now need to do the same for menopause. 

The lack of menopause awareness, care and support in the industry drives many women in their 40s and 50s out of work. Across the UK and all sectors, a stagging one million women are considering quitting their jobs because of menopause; 900,000 women already have. The IPA’s most recent annual census indicated a sharp increase in the number of women moving to part-time or freelance work and, disappointingly, some quitting the industry altogether. This represents a talent and experience drain that the industry can ill afford with a major talent shortage and a fiercely competitive recruitment market.

It’s important to call out the progress that has been made over the past few years thanks to some trailblazing women and organisations - there is more open discussion and acknowledgement of menopause issues than ever before. But with around 15.5 million women in the UK at some stage of the menopause transition, we need more than words. We need agencies to do more than introduce policies that are reputationally enhancing. We need to see action on those policies, tangible outcomes set out, investment allocated, and results and learnings shared across organisations.

With 8 in 10 women experiencing a range of physical and psychological symptoms as they transition through the menopause , for example anxiety, brain fog, depression, and hot flushes, it is easy to see how this can impact their working lives. But a supportive and inclusive workplace can help women manage those symptoms and remain in their jobs. In Adland, where there is already a lack of female representation across the board, agencies would continue to benefit from the valuable skills and knowledge of these experienced women, which in turn will help with more authentic representation of their audiences in front of the camera.

Creating an inclusive workplace for midlife women often starts with putting a menopause policy or guidelines in place. Excellent resources are already available as a starting point for agencies with open source menopause policies available from creative agency Dark Horses and Channel 4. Dark Horses policy, written by CEO Melissa Robertson, provides information not just for women in the menopause  transition but the whole business on offering the kind of support that creates a flexible and empathetic workplace.

As the UK’s first advertising agency to receive official accreditation as a menopause-friendly workplace, Ogilvy UK is leading the way in creating an inclusive environment. It offers a range of menopause support services, including private health care for women experiencing symptoms, agency-wide educational sessions to reduce stigma and line manager training to enable managers to get the best out of their teams.

These policies and support services, alongside valuable training programmes such as Visible Start, backed by The Brixton Finishing School and the WPP-based Uninvisibility Project, are beginning to fight back against gendered ageism. These brilliant initiatives are making a difference, but as an industry, much more is still to be done. We need a sea change in attitudes coupled with genuine action across agencies from leadership level down if we can ever stem the exodus of brilliant middle aged women and find we no longer need an Equal Pay Day.


Helen Normoyle is co-founder of My Menopause Centre, which offers advice to individuals and provides clinical menopause support services as well as awareness and education workshops for businesses and has worked with companies including DFS, HSBC, Brewdog, the NUJ, Boots and law-firm Sackers.

Related Tags

Women Pay Gap