This month, February 2018, we celebrated the centenary of the suffragettes winning the right to vote for women. Despite winning this incredible fight, one hundred years later, much of the media coverage was quick to notice the persistent lack of gender inequality in the workplace. And rightly so. Fewer than 1/3 of MPs are female, all chancellors to date have been male and there are just five female bosses in the FTSE 100 companies.
Liv Garfield the CEO of Severn Trent Water was interviewed that day on Radio 4. She spoke about the women’s careers and cited some impressive stats to show that women have a great platform for their careers at Severn Trent Water. She was inspirational, sharing her personal experiences in the workplace, and how she is finding relevant and meaningful ways to support women in the workplace.
A big issue raised by Liv Garfield was the menopause. You might find yourself asking what the menopause has to do with being at work. For many talented career women it is a huge challenge to their confidence; often needing to juggle the unpredictable physical and psychological experiences of menopause with a demanding career. Many women find there is little support in the workplace for their experiences, even worse, the fear that being open about them might damage or even cut short their career.
Here at Work Psychology Hub, Anna Kane is focusing her doctoral research on confidence at work. A particular issue for women is how they relate to and manage their monthly cycle and subsequent menopause, whilst continuing to deliver at work.
In collaboration with menstruality expert Mandy Adams, Anna Kane ran a workshop recently at a wellbeing week for a cluster of London universities. Anna said “this was a bold step by these particular universities, who are among the early adopters for this type of honest and forward thinking workshop. It will be interesting to see what other organisations soon realise the benefits of something so fundamental yet overlooked”. Discussing menstrual cycles in the workplace is probably more of a taboo subject than discussing mental health, yet our workshop helped women break down that taboo.
An afternoon of exploring the menstrual cycle, and self-compassion gave the women an opportunity to take a different, more empowered perspective of their monthly cycle. They found ways to manage their cycle so that they could take better care of themselves and ultimately be more productive at work. One participant found it to be “one of the most fascinating and stimulating courses ever”. Not only did this programme help the women with their own cycles, but they also reflected upon how they might relate to team members differently, and colleagues they manage who have a monthly cycle or are experiencing menopause.