The women in tech who are talking about menopause
The prospect of paid menopause leave is something that has been frequently discussed in the news this year, with Labour claiming if it wins the next election it will require large firms to have menopause action plans, and the DWP appointing a menopause employment champion to encourage employers to develop more inclusive menopause policies.
While the current government has decided not to make menopause a protected characteristic or test out menopause workplace leave in the UK, some in the technology sector have begun to make their own policies.
For example the Tech Talent Charter found in its recent report than many tech companies are starting to offer support to employees going through menopause, as well as those experiencing other reproductive health issues.
At the 2023 Everywoman in Tech Forum, Jane Ashworth, global retail programs director at Lenovo, said: “Everybody at some stage in your life will be impacted in some shape or form by menopause.”
Ashworth, who is also the lead of Lenovo’s women in the workplace enterprise resource group (ERG) and a sponsor of its menopause in the workplace ERG, pointed out almost all women go through the menopause, meaning anyone who has a female colleague, partner, friend, or family member will come into contact with this issue at some point.
Her own experience found her feeling frustrated after not understanding her reaction to certain situations, often being dubbed an “emotional female”, and it wasn’t until talking to two other women at a tech event one night a “story of struggling came out”.
While a huge topic of discussion throughout the Everywoman Forum was whether people feel comfortable enough to disclose their differences in the workplace, Ashworth considered herself “fortunate” to be in a leadership position that would allow her to openly discuss the topic of menopause at work, hopefully creating that safe space for others to feel open to share.
After talking about her experience during a webinar to hundreds of people within the business, her bravery helped others to share their own or their loved ones’ experiences too.
She said: “That webinar was the start of everything in my firm. And I cannot tell you how many people reached out to myself or other people from that call to say ‘Thank you’, ‘Thanks for sharing your story’, ‘I’m struggling, now what do I do?’, ‘How do I get support?’. We started changing the shape of things.”
The ERG now helps people with finding the information and support people need, but helping people feel like they can talk about their experiences, removing the taboo around the subject, is equally as helpful.
Cleone Nuttgens-Wright, director of IT delivery at Three, also spoke at the Everywoman Forum about how talking openly about being menopausal has served to garner allyship with men in the organisation.
She claimed: “I go on about menopause all the time. Every man who works with me knows I’m menopausal and I’m not ashamed of it. The more I talk about it, the more comfortable they become. So, I don’t think it’s one big thing you can do. I just think it’s that constant kind of talking about women’s issues, talking about the things that you’re passionate about, in an open way and in a non-accusatory way.”
Menopause affects different people in different ways, and while for some it may not be debilitating, for others it will prevent them from being able to do their best.
The discussion around diversity and inclusion has always been focused on helping people to be themselves in the workplace to generate better outcomes for employees and businesses, so support for issues like menopause can play an important role in reaching that goal.