Voices

Menopause by a man

Steve Howell talks about the impact of having a Menopause Policy in the workplace

Steve Howell

CCO Dark Horses

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Trigger warning: man talks about menopause. Obviously, my account is never going to be from a first hand perspective, but to fully understand any experience, it’s always worth hearing from every standpoint.
Needless to say, as someone without a uterus, I’m never going to go through the menopause. By menopause, I’m really talking about the perimenopause and postmenopause. As I’ve come to learn, the menopause is actually just one day – it’s the days, months and years preceding and succeeding that single day that are when the symptoms are most prevalent.

My first experience of someone going through menopause, was back in the 90s when my Mum would be fanning her hot flushes away. I often thought it was just some of my dubious adolescent behaviour getting her flustered and annoyed. But mood swings are another symptom I didn’t realise were connected. And the list continues: skin crawling sensations, mind fog, memory lapses, night sweats, chills, burning tongue, hair loss, insomnia… but what all this really adds up to is a loss of confidence and self-esteem. Which as a manager of a team, is what concerns me most.

At the heart of the policy, albeit not explicitly written in words, but fully imbued in their meaning, is a simple request for empathy and understanding for each other.

Steve Howell the CCO at Dark Horses

On a business level, I want everyone to perform at their best, which could be tough if your joints are hurting or you’re suffering throbbing, debilitating headaches. On a human and more important level, I want everyone to be happy who’s working at our agency.

A path to finding that happiness is creating safe spaces for everyone. It should be an environment where people never feel alone, or ostracised, but know they’re part of the team no matter what they might be experiencing.

This is where our Menopause Policy at Dark Horses has been so successful. As the aphorism goes, ‘the rising tide lifts all boats’. It’s been as revelationary for the 20-something-year-old males as it has for those who might be going through it. Because at the heart of the policy, albeit not explicitly written in words, but fully imbued in their meaning, is a simple request for empathy and understanding for each other.

When we produced the policy, you would look at our workforce mainly in their 20s and 30s and think it was almost unnecessary, or at worst, tokenistic. But to have an inclusive culture, you need to set a fully inclusive mindset.

The more open the conversation became, the more people shared their own experiences. One of our team members in her 20s, who was going through chemotherapy at the time, was also experiencing premature menopause as a side effect of her treatment. (As if she wasn’t suffering enough). With the inception of our policy, she opened up about her own experience and changed again what many of us thought we knew about menopause.

Whilst the policy is about menopause specifically, it also sets the precedent for anyone going through any stage of life. Be it having kids, suffering loss, suffering physical illness, suffering mentally illness, you should know that your career will not be affected by it because we are here to support you.

If you need time, we will give you it. If you need to be a bit MIA, then we understand. Or if you just need me to help you find that word lost on the tip of your tongue, then I will offer my best guess.

For any team member to feel confident and comfortable to have any open conversation, it needs to start from the top. What we never want is for people to suffer in silence, feel embarrassed or feel marginalised by whatever they’re going through. There are many experienced, talented women in our industry that we need to do our damnedest to retain. Education, understanding and empathy is all part of that process.

Which is what our Menopause Policy was all about, and why we made it Open Source so any business can use it.

About

With 15+ years experience in the industry Steve has not only established himself as a talented multi-discipline creative and leader but latterly an sports advertising specialist. 2021 saw him creating some of the biggest campaigns in sport, including: TikTok Euros, Just Eat Takeaway Euros, Shelter #NoHomeKit and the Wrexham sign for Vanarama. His 3+ years at Dark Horses has seen Steve create truly iconic campaigns such as Chels Chat and creating the FA’s Heads Up work that inspired the biggest ever conversation about mental wellbeing in football fans. He has won more than 20 Cannes Lions and back-to-back British Arrow Grand Prix amongst many others, he was also the creative on the launch of Dark Horses very own sports nutrition bar Home Run.