Menopause: the silence from the PR and comms industry is deafening

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 12 months (which you may have been, due to COVID-19) you can’t have failed to notice a rise in women talking about the menopause.

We need to talk about the menopause, says Jo Carr
We need to talk about the menopause, says Jo Carr

Whether it’s Davina McCall busting mid-life myths in her excellent documentary Sex, Myths and the Menopause, or ex-magazine editors Lorraine Candy and Trish Halpin debating it on their podcast, Postcards from Midlife, the menopause is having a moment.

And about time, right? Especially given how 13 million women in the UK are either perimenopausal or menopausal. And menopausal women are one of the fastest-growing demographics in the workplace.

I’m all for smashing another taboo. Yet I’m intrigued as to why the PR industry has been uncharacteristically quiet on this subject, particularly as we’re an industry dominated by women – and strong-minded ones at that.

So, my question: why aren’t we debating the menopause more vocally in PR? And what are we doing to offer reassurance to women facing into mid-life that they can still have a rewarding career in comms, post-50?

My hunch on the silence is a reluctance to “out” oneself as either perimenopausal or menopausal in an industry dominated by twenty- and thirtysomethings, and where the power is still held largely by men. Fessing up to a hot flush opens you up to the double whammy of both sexism and ageism, so it’s better to say nothing.

I also think we lag behind when it comes to developing forward-looking HR practices. Let’s face it: bar a few of the larger firms, many agencies don’t have dedicated HR functions. Sometimes we are simply late to the party getting policies in place to support our people.

As someone with a tendency to over-share, I am happy to admit that not only am I over 50, but also that I’m perimenopausal.

So far, I’ve got off lightly; night sweats, interrupted sleep, mildish anxiety and the occasional rage (directed at unsuspecting husband or teenage sons). But given that perimenopause can last between four and 10 years ahead of periods stopping altogether, there’s worse to come.

And while I don’t necessarily want to become the poster child for menopause, I do believe we need to talk about it more openly if we want to normalise it, and create better working practices to support it.

We all know how important it is that we hold on to senior female talent. We already lose too many brilliant women from their 30s onwards; it’s why agencies invest heavily in better parental leave policies, more flexible working and a more inclusive culture.

But what a shame it will be to win the working parent battle only to then lose these amazing colleagues at aged 50 because of the menopause.

There is so much we could be doing: greater flexible working, more paid time off to manage symptoms, more training in the workplace to bust myths and build empathy. We could even pay for specialist medical advice on hormone levels, given that so many women feel fobbed off by their GPs and just want some answers fast.

Whatever the solution, what I do know is this: menopause is a conversation we need to be having, and fast – first, by giving it a voice, and second, by developing kick-ass HR practices and policies that help mid-lifers flourish in their PR careers.

Jo Carr is co-founder and chief client officer at Hope&Glory


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