How the sports industry can support women through menopause
In recent weeks we have been having some incredibly exciting conversations with leaders in women’s sport about how we can support women in their workplace and communities as they go through menopause. The sports industry is in a powerful position to lead the way when it comes to social change - how we treat people, what our standards are, and breaking down barriers to improve outcomes for all.
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Sport has a history of driving social change
We have seen the sports industry pave the way for greater understanding when it comes to everything from mental health to sexuality. That’s sometimes thanks to the actions of the brave few who use the spotlight that's been cast on them to highlight the challenges of others. Sometimes it's the swell of a collective response to support one of their own and in turn encourage systemic improvements that drives change. Either way, sport is a wonderful and experienced environment for driving change, compassion and improvement when it comes to our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, and it can do the same for menopause.
Menopause has come under much greater focus in the last couple of years. We began The Menopause Plus. Even in that time things have changed enormously. In many ways, that change is thanks to individual celebrities who have spoken about their personal experiences with hormonal change. Although we have been 'celebrating' World Menopause Day for years I was heartened by how loud women's voices were this year, from approaching parliament about women's rights in the workplace to sharing stories so that other women feel less isolated.
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Turning conversation about menopause into action
However, where sport can really escalate change is in its ability to influence action at scale, galvanising groups of people to educate themselves and to make practical changes to the way they support colleagues, employees, friends and loved ones.
It's fantastic that there's so much more conversation around menopause and how it impacts Women's health on a variety of levels. However, now we have established that menopause needs to be talked about, the focus has to be on meaningful solutions and support - not simply making noise or slapping 'menopause' on product labels for marketing purposes.
Our belief is that there are multiple ways that sport can support women in menopause, both within their own organisations and through leading by example.
Educate yourselves about how menopause impacts women on all levels
Understand how menopause impacts women physically, emotionally, professionally and mentally. There are incredibly knowledgeable practitioners in the UK who specialise in menopause and who would be delighted to share their wisdom. In particular, it's important that as a business, sports organisations understand the impact hormonal change can have on women at work. Reports have found that around 10% of women leave their jobs because of menopause symptoms and a lack of support. These are valuable, experienced people in your team - if you don't support them you are highly likely to lose them.
Communicate meaningfully with the women in your team
Communicate with women about how you want to support them, not just as a box checking exercise, but meaningfully. Ask for their thoughts, collectively and on a personal level, to help you meet their needs in the workplace so they can thrive in menopause and feel supported in their jobs - just like you would do if a woman in your team was pregnant.
Educate your team about menopause
Create a culture of open communication and support at work. Horrifyingly, 41% of women in a reputable study said that they felt menopause symptoms were treated as a joke by people at work. That speaks to an outdated, dismissive and misogynistic attitude towards female stereotypes. A healthy team is a supportive one and educating everyone will create a much better working environment for all.
Contribute to the research into menopause
Contribute to the growing body of research by encouraging women in your team to complete The Menopause Million survey. It is the largest global research study into menopausal symptoms ever undertaken and it's dedicated to improving healthcare outcomes for women experiencing hormonal change.
Make practical changes for women in the workplace
Take proactive steps to support women at work based on your own research as well as established recommendations from the likes of public service union, Unison, and their Guidance and Model Policy. That might be things like:
• Maximising the benefits of flexible and remote working
• Reconsidering how the working day and tasks are organised
• Reviewing performance management measurements
• Practical considerations, for example, if a woman is struggling with hot flushes, can her desk/ position at work be moved to a cooler location or could the provision of small desk fans be implemented? Is there easy access to cold drinks, well-maintained toilets or even shower facilities? If they wear a uniform is it a fabric that will exacerbate symptoms or do they need additional uniform items?
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Holistic support for women in menopause
Given the particular knowledge and interest that sports businesses have in the wellness industry, they are also an excellent space in which to open up the conversation about options for women when it comes to managing hormonal change. GPs will usually prescribe HRT and/or antidepressants depending on a woman's menopausal symptoms, but these are not suitable for everyone, not everyone wants to take them, and even if you do take them they are not solutions for supporting the whole person.
There is increasing, evidence based research for other holistic approaches to support women in menopause in addition to medical options, ranging from massage to acupressure and skincare. This is where we have focused our attention with MPlus. We created dedicated touch therapies for hormone balance (we offer training for therapists and healthcare practitioners), as well as skincare products targeting the unwanted consequences of menopause.
Research is essential, and we began with our State of the Art Scoping Review, commissioned from the UK’s Keele University. It provides academic validation and statistical scrutiny of holistic therapies on specific symptoms. The research validated the use of acupuncture to ameliorate the unwanted physical and emotional consequences of menopause. We then translated this knowledge into the less invasive acupressure approach, matching symptom groups to acupoints.
In addition, our skincare products (used in the treatments) use 100% natural ingredients including phytohormones (plant hormones) shown to support women in menopause, and essential oils to influence the endocrine and nervous system, which impacts hormonal responses and mood.
For many women, the feeling of isolation and lack of control in menopause is just another challenge that they face. Providing options to have a healthy menopause and to have more autonomy over it is an important step in the right direction for helping women to thrive and sports environments are in a wonderful position to share that message and to think more broadly about how to support women in menopause.