The menopause is far too often talked about in hushed tones, rather than said out loud from fear of embarrassment. This has to change. All women will go through the menopause. We are half the population, and we need to be more open about the impact of menopause on our physical and mental wellbeing. The silence and consequential lack of support are prompting many women to abandon their careers at great cost to themselves, their employers and the economy.
But does the menopause affect women from ethnic backgrounds differently? I explored this issue as a panellist at #4Talks and WACL’s The Menopause in Colour event recently.
The answer is yes. One factor is the hardwired inequalities in our healthcare system, as evidenced by the shocking statistic that black women in England are four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than white women.
As women of colour, our symptoms are more likely to be dismissed by healthcare professionals which puts many off seeking medical attention. Research also suggests women of colour may begin perimenopause earlier and experience more intense side effects.
Women of colour are also more likely to have low paid jobs where it’s harder to get the flexibility and workplace support needed to deal with symptoms.
As my fellow panellist at the event, Channel 4 Agency sales manager, Maria St Louis, said: “There’s a real need for safe spaces for open conversations and education about menopause.”
The menopause experts on the panel, Dr Tonye Wokoma of My Menopause Centre, and Pamela Windle, women’s health coach and founder of Smarter Change, urged women to inform themselves about the menopause as much as possible. Dr Wokoma said: “It’s about finding the right support wherever you are on this journey. Every woman is individual, and you need someone who can personalise your care and give you the right advice.”
Everyone agreed employers must actively implement menopause policies. Crucially, the conversation around menopause also needs to be normalised to break the stigma.
The advertising and media industry has a big role to play. It’s time it stopped depicting menopausal women as past it. Lots of older women (which in adland all too often means women over 40) lead vibrant lifestyles and have disposable income, yet the industry either ignores us or bombards us with ads for incontinence pads.
Brands have made efforts to tackle the taboo around periods recently with much success. We need the same with menopause. Women need to be reminded that though we might be menopausal, we still have lots of life to live.
Watch Tanya and the full session here.