Continuing our focus on wellbeing, Clare-Louise Knox of See Her Thrive, focuses on breaking the stigma about women’s health, men’s health and mental health in the workplace.
Beverley Le Cuirot, Founder of WellBeing World has invited Clare-Louise Knox and Dr Justin Varney to speak at the Leaders in WellBeing – Re-imagined 2020 Summit this week. The theme for Day three of the Summit is Breaking the Stigma. For as Mrs Le Cuirot says, “it is most definitely time we became comfortable speaking about women’s health, men’s health and mental health in the workplace. This is an opportunity after all to embrace the world of work and improve our respective businesses by being more inclusive and productive.”
Let’s take the Menopause. We all know that last month was World Mental Health Day. How many of us also know that one week later it was World Menopause Day? A day to raise awareness, reduce stigma and offer support to the millions of women globally going through or feeling the effects of their menopause.
Of course Menopause doesn’t just affect the women directly, it indirectly affects their family, partner and work colleagues. So we had better start talking about it. That’s exactly what Clare-Louise Knox does. Clare-Louise is a business psychologist. She is also an expert in the field of female reproductive health and the impact it has on women (and men) in the workplace and she spends her working life educating managers, women and men alike, about the Menopause and other reproductive health conditions.
Clare-Louise says “We’re on a mission to create more inclusive organisations where women can thrive. We empower employers with the knowledge, tools and confidence to support women’s health at work. The menopause is at best mysterious, misunderstood perhaps, but at worst sniggered at, and a real source of hidden discomfort for millions of women, affecting their mental health and physical wellbeing and for some even becoming a barrier to performance or attendance.”
Did you know:
- 8 out of 10 of menopausal women are in work and are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce today.
- 30-60% of women experience physical and/or psychological symptoms during the menopause transition.
- A recent BBC survey showed that 48% of women surveyed between the ages of 50 and 55 said that menopause affected their mental health.
Clare-Louise and her team at See Her Thrive recognise that the menopause is something many employers and managers feel uncomfortable or embarrassed discussing, but the good news is, this need not be the case. Just as discussion and awareness around mental health has become far more open and comfortable it is time for women’s reproductive health to have the same priority on the workplace agenda.
In a world where our focus is on equality and empowerment more than ever before, it really matters how employers and co-workers support and adapt for their female employees with just a few simple changes. Like any health issue or life event, menopause matters, you don’t need to know every intimate detail but you do need to be able to support your employees and have policies and procedures that are inclusive and that are an embedded part of your business model.
Clare-Louise is passionate about ensuring no woman is ever disadvantaged at work or in her career because of a reproductive health problem. Take Endometriosis, for example. This affects much younger women, and far more than we, or they often realise.
Endometriosis affects around 10% of women, that’s 1.5million women in the UK alone. The condition is characterised by recurring symptoms such as chronic period pain, pain in the lower back, intestinal pain, and more, and although each person will experience it differently, it can lead to fertility problems and cause extreme fatigue, depression and isolation. It is therefore important to consider the physical and emotional impact.
Given the chronic and repetitive nature of the condition, Endometriosis is classed as a disability in the UK under the Equality Act 2010. This means that reasonable adjustments should be made to help employees with Endometriosis. It is also the right thing to do.
One of the shortlisted nominees for the Leaders in WellBeing ‘Breaking the Stigma’ Award is Les Amis. They were nominated by one of their employees for embracing all types of illness without judgement. She suffers with Endometriosis and has been particularly reassured that they wanted to learn more about her illness, and how it affects her, ‘rather than brush it under the carpet as a time of the month women’s problem’. This in turn has given the employee tremendous psychological support, improving her mental wellbeing, which she says, in turn has prevented her chronic illness flaring up as much as it could due to stress.
At each back to work meeting, Les Amis consider the aspects of work which they could change to help support her. She considers this so important for a long term illness sufferer such as herself as it makes her feel valuable, rather than a burden. She feels able to disclose any or all aspects of her illness which range from physical aspects and pain management, to more mental challenges.
It is not just the way they handle the sickness absences but also the way they train their employees to handle the administration process of absences which is done in a fair, sympathetic, and non-discriminatory way.
These topics and more, including mental health, and the need for men, in particular, to open up about their feelings and worries especially during times of crises will be discussed at the Leaders in WellBeing – Re-imagined Summit this week.
Dr Justin Varney is the Director for Public Health at Birmingham City Council with responsibility for leading on strategic plans to improve the health and wellbeing of the citizens in Birmingham, the largest local authority in the UK. He originally trained as a General Practitioner before specialising in Public Health Medicine where he has led national programmes on physical activity, health and work, sexual and reproductive health and HIV prevention, pharmacy and allied health professionals.
“I am absolutely delighted that both Clare-Louise and Dr Varney will be joining us for the Summit,” said Mrs Le Cuirot. “The more we can create a positive, open environment in the workplace, where taboos and stigma are eliminated and health on all levels is taken seriously, the better it will be for the whole business.”