A substantial percentage of educators are within the menopausal age range but the subject is still taboo.
Donna Berkert attended a WomenEd conference challenging this.
This weekend (Jan 2022) I attended a virtual conference held by @WomenEd on Twitter. It focused on leadership and the menopause. I wasn’t sure what to expect. The menopause certainly feels like the buzz word of the moment and since Davina McCall’s programme on Channel 4: Sex, Myths and The Menopause in May 2021 was aired, it has become the focus of many large organisations.
The zoom conference that I attended was therefore welcomed as an insight into how this incredibly important change in a woman’s life could be addressed in schools. With a substantial percentage of our teaching workforce within the age range of The Menopause or The Perimenopause [period of up to ten years leading up to menopause], then this would seem a well overdue discussion to have.
What ensued was an amazingly informative day. The wide range of speakers were eloquent and knowledgeable. Dr Olivia Hum outlined the medical changes, symptoms and treatments available, Jess Rad [@thewomen_hood] emphasised the need to support each other and to really listen to what our bodies are saying, Nicky Bright [@nickybright – menopause, mayhem & teens] spoke about the many teachers and mothers who juggle their own changing hormones with girls also going through puberty, Mary Morris [@Marymorris72] talked about embedding menopause within the 2010 equality act and informed listeners about the many changes they have made, and continue to make, in her school to allow staff space to discuss and deal with menopause related issues. There was discussion about the need to include information about menopause within lessons at school to ensure that children grow up aware of the hormonal changes that can occur at certain stages of life, not only so that students have knowledge to recognise it for themselves when it happens, but so that they could equally recognise, understand, and support their mum’s or other female members of their families and extended families that might be struggling with symptoms.
Patrick Ottley-O’Connor [@ottley-oconnor] spoke passionately about how he ensures funding to support staff and felt that colleagues – especially male colleagues – should help by ‘calling out’ derogatory comments with regard to what can be an incredibly difficult time for some women. And there were many more speakers all supporting the incredible need to support women through this change rather than force them to struggle, and in some cases feel disempowered, to fulfil their role.
Nobody, I’m sure, would question the need to have frank and open discussions about how to support their staff through the many debilitating symptoms that some women have to face. And yet, it remains a fairly taboo subject.
I, for one, will certainly be taking some of the excellent information back to my own SLT for consideration within our own policies.
The question is: What has taken us all so long?