Evelyn Dickey is the former HR Director at Severn Trent, where she introduced menopause in the workplace best practice back in 2017. The company training sessions, launched a menopause support guide for all employees, and carried out ongoing awareness raising. She’s now a Non-Executive Director at Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
Here’s what she has to say about menopause in the workplace:
Why is it urgent and important employers do this now?
As many people know, in the UK and Europe, the workforce is ageing. As the proportion of the workforce over 50 grows it’s going to become more and more important that we maintain and make maximum use of all those fantastic skills and experience.
We know menopause symptoms can pose significant problems for some women and make them feel less confident and even consider leaving their jobs. And in the workplace today, and in the future, we can’t afford to lose those fantastic skills.
So doing something now is really critical.
What was your experience of introducing menopause awareness, education and support into Severn Trent?
Hugely positive. It was like we opened a tap and all this enthusiasm just gushed out. It was all about learning, sharing experiences and improving the working environment. And we also improved people’s home and personal environments. It was incredible that women and men at all levels in the organisation – indeed union colleagues – were really enthusiastic about tapping into this topic, learning more and improving the workplace for everybody and retain fantastic women in their jobs.
Overall, a fantastic engaging experience for everybody.
What surprised you most about your colleagues’ reaction?
This was really interesting as I wasn’t sure how to start the conversation and what sort of reaction we would get. I was completely overwhelmed and bowled over by the amount of enthusiasm from colleagues across the organisation.
We filled a meeting room with over 100 people within a few hours of announcing the first menopause training session on the intranet. I was overwhelmed how enthusiastic and interested people were.
We then ran many more sessions as the level of interest was so high.
Who do you think needs to know about menopause?
I think everybody needs to know about menopause. The group I found most interested were women who were coming up to menopause or going through it. They knew far less about menopause than anyone had realised.
However, I was also interested in how many men wanted to know about menopause. Some of that was from a managing others perspective, but others wanted to understand the impact on their partner or their mother, for example.
So I think everyone needs to know because once you start talking about it there are things that individuals can do, there are things that businesses can do and there are things that family support can do to make life much better for people going through this.
How does menopause awareness, education and training support underpin HR priorities
That’s an easy question now I’ve been through it. It actually really helps with attracting, recruiting and retaining fantastic staff, so I have no doubt the value of doing this in terms of getting the best out of current employees as well as future employees. Knowing you’re the sort of organisation that wants to support this makes a huge difference.
I think it’s a no brainer in terms of HR or people policies, it’s a fabulous tool to have in your toolkit.
What one thing would you say to someone thinking of starting a menopause campaign?
Learn a little bit more about menopause and then just get started. What will be needed in one organisation may not work in another, so just learn a bit about it yourself. And then just roll the conversation forward.
You’ll be incredibly surprised how quickly people come to you and be part of it.