by UnHerd News
Friday, 30
September 2022
Spotted
16:15

The Business Department’s new priority: menopause for men

A leaked email to all staff reveals a surprising initiative
by UnHerd News
Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg. Credit: Getty

Given the turmoil in the financial, currency and energy markets, you would imagine the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy has been having a busy week.

It seems they have. An internal email leaked to UnHerd has revealed a rather unexpected priority within the department: how to get men to talk about the menopause. The BEIS’s Head of Intelligence sent an email to all staff:


Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email

Already registered? Sign in


At the start, it was hard for me to even say the word menopause out loud in meetings… I set myself the task of running sessions on the ‘menopause for men’ to make sure there was space to learn about the menopause (keep saying it out loud – it only gets easier) and what this means for women across the department.
- BEIS internal email

What these sessions actually entail remains unclear, but the civil servant says that he wants to break the “taboo” around the subject. He goes on to thank “brave Menopause Working Group colleagues” who spoke “honestly and openly” about their experiences, despite the fact that it is a male leading the programme.

As a member of the Women Empowered Allies Working Group, the civil servant is still conscious of his own shortcomings as the ideal spokesperson on the topic of menopause:

I’m diversity kryptonite. I’m middle class, male and pale (though not quite stale – despite what my children tell me) and have benefitted from the following wind which comes from a private education.‘I’m also an erratic ally, who doesn’t always notice micro-behaviours that impact colleague’s careers. I sometimes fail to share the mental load with my partner, and I know there are blind spots in my understanding of how to be an ally (the unknown unknowns) that make me feel like an imposter.
- BEIS internal email

It’s a difficult path, he admits, “but my fundamental learning point is that it’s always better to ask the question, or grapple with the issues of allyship, than to stay quiet for fear of getting it wrong”.

Many thanks to the department for their important work at this difficult time.

The email is reproduced in full below:

Let me begin with a couple of confessions. One is the fact that in many ways, I’m diversity kryptonite. I’m middle class, male and pale (though not quite stale – despite what my children tell me) and have benefitted from the following wind which comes from a private education. I’m also an erratic ally, who doesn’t always notice micro-behaviours that impact colleague’s careers. I sometimes fail to share the mental load with my partner, and I know there are blind spots in my understanding of how to be an ally (the unknown unknowns) that make me feel like an imposter.

Why am I telling you this? Firstly, because allyship isn’t about perfection – it’s about thoughtfulness and action, and it’s about being self-aware – understanding that your life experiences can be used to help colleagues, partners, family members to maximise their potential and help them to overcome challenges they might face. It’s something we can all do, if we want to, and it doesn’t demand time, but a change in the way we do things.

Sometimes small actions – adding in pronouns to your signature; sometimes big actions – like challenging misplaced assumptions or banter even when it feels awkward can make all the difference. These actions can ensure BEIS is a better place to work for all of us. In taking action, in choosing to do something differently, to deviate from the path previously travelled, one can fall foul of doubt. Even in drafting this blog I’ve deleted these lines multiple times for fear of mis-using language or making assumptions about how this might be read (and am sure I will do long after it’s published) but my fundamental learning point is that it’s always better to ask the question, or grapple with the issues of allyship, than to stay quiet for fear of getting it wrong.

In trying to give as good as I blog, I’ve been working closely with both Women Empowered and the Menopause Working Group to champion menopause awareness among male colleagues. At the start, it was hard for me to even say the word menopause out loud in meetings such is the taboo around the subject. In fact, given I’ve been a civil servant for 10 years and line-managed throughout this time, the fact that I’d never had a single conversation about the menopause, despite it being a major event in a woman’s life was pretty shocking.

Inspired by the launch of BEIS’s menopause policy, I set myself the task of running sessions on the “menopause for men” to make sure there was space to learn about the menopause (keep saying it out loud – it only gets easier) and what this means for women across the department. With thanks to some brave Menopause Working Group colleagues who honestly and openly talked about their experiences and some fellow allies – we discussed the issue and started to chip away at the taboos. It was eye-opening and we all left the meeting better equipped to be allies to colleagues (and friends and partners) going through the menopause. It’s a small start but shows the power of allyship to help increase awareness of issues and empower women across the department.

A BEIS spokesperson told UnHerd: “The blog is about supporting female work colleagues through the menopause. One 45 minute session, which was entirely voluntary to attend, was held over lunch time. This was done at no cost to the department.”

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
41 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Aaron James
Aaron James
2 months ago

Sometimes small actions – adding in pronouns to your signature; sometimes big actions – like challenging misplaced assumptions or banter even when it feels awkward can make all the difference. These actions can ensure BEIS is a better place to work for all of us. ”

Or he just could have said:

Colleagues, we have scattered egg shells all over the building. Stepping on one will result in a negative comment on your HR record, possibly even up to being fired. So off you go, and watch your step.’

Laura Pritchard
Laura Pritchard
2 months ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Is this something you have experienced? Or is the negative behaviour something you partake in? Are you worried for your own job in some way?
I abhor the idea of tiptoeing around any subject but this is why men AND women should talk about the menopause. It doesn’t just cause hot sweats, you know, although even those are pretty miserable and extremely difficult to deal with in a workplace that belittles them. (Note one can have a laugh over this subject but with understanding rather than ignorance.).
Other profound symptoms include severe anxiety and consequent depression, fibromyalgia/muscle/joint pain all over the body, osteoporosis, increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia.
If a woman wants to keep her health status private, she should have that right but to keep half the population in ignorance of something the other half will definitely experience and which will affect them all is what’s absurd and unbelievable.
The reaction on this site, even to post this email, shows a great degree of immaturity. It has nothing to do with worrying about how far the woke crowd has gone. I respectfully ask that you earn to tell the difference.

Brett H
Brett H
2 months ago

Chill out, Laura. The comments are largely addressed to the nonsense of the email, not menopause itself. By half the population I presume you mean males. But obviously not all men are ignorant of menopause. How many are actually ignorant is impossible for you to know. Stop stereotyping half the population.

Last edited 2 months ago by Brett H
bill blax
bill blax
2 months ago

Did I just hear some eggshells crackling?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 months ago

No it’s your reaction that demonstrates a fair degree of bigotry.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 months ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Not “colleagues”. ‘Allies’.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 months ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Top voted comment Aaron! You’re letting down the devils advocates big time!

Richard 0
Richard 0
2 months ago

If this was a spoof, it could be amusing. Unfortunately, it is probably genuine. God help us.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
2 months ago

This isn’t about men being submissive to women; it is about men invading female spaces in a passive aggressive way.
Menstruation, pregnancy and the menopause are female experiences and, for centuries, have been kept to private conversations between women. That’s how it should stay, but private female spaces are no longer allowed. How dare men in senior positions demand that women discuss their experience of the menopause in front of them. It is nothing to do with them.
The best way to support menopausal and peri-menopausal women in any workplace is to keep lavatories single sex (not the nonsense ‘gender’) and have a washbasin in each cubicle so that excessive bleeding can be dealt with privately. The office environment should also be made more comfortable for all staff, with less crowding and cool, quiet areas where people can choose to sit rather than being forced to be with their ‘team’. Homeworking helps massively of course.
Men should concentrate on sorting out the practical details and leave the talking about a wholly female experience to women.

Laura Pritchard
Laura Pritchard
2 months ago

I completely disagree. A man doesn’t have to be invading a female space if he learns how female hormones impact the women he cares for or works with. The complete opposite, in fact. I can’t fathom the idea that this needs to be some female secret. Specifically some of the main symptoms of the menopause can affect a woman’s mental health and to have support at this time, just like anyone for any reason in any other context, is something to be supported by everyone. If in doubt, I recommend reading or watching anything by Dr Louise Newson, a specialist in the field who is extremely supportive of women’s needs but doesn’t preclude the idea of men being able to talk about this subject or that it should be kept secret. If nothing else, we need everyone talking about it so that the services and medicines that can help women start to be funded and accepted more in the NHS.

Brett H
Brett H
2 months ago

“I can’t fathom the idea that this needs to be some female secret.”
And your correct, it’s not. It’s talked about all the time by men and women in many different ways, from serious concern to humour.

N Forster
N Forster
2 months ago

Sounds like you want everyone to do your bidding Laura.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 months ago
Reply to  N Forster

It’s Laura’s dictat or else.

Anne Torr
Anne Torr
2 months ago

There is so much fertile ground to cover here to show how difficult life is being a women and how we can spend all our working time discussing period pains, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, perimenopause even before reaching the menopause itself. We can spend all our time emoting and its so much better than just getting on with our jobs.

Jane Tomlinson
Jane Tomlinson
2 months ago

I agree. I am post menopausal and would have been horrified to have asked and expected to share my experiences at work. I shared with friends, male and female, and my male partner, because work is work, and personal is personal. Especially when it’s women personal. Happy for men to try to empathise, don’t want to have a Menopause Circus.

Kat L
Kat L
2 months ago

Uh, women wanted to invade the traditional male realm of work didn’t they?

N Forster
N Forster
2 months ago

If true, this blog post illustrates well how Critical Theory and its many offspring are so well designed to induce a form of autocastration in men who adopt it. There is a highly submissive quality to the author. Along with an assumption that men would be better if they were more like women.
It would be less of an issue if this way of thinking didn’t have such an aggressive evangelical side to it. That is when it becomes a problem for the rest of us.

Last edited 2 months ago by N Forster
Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
2 months ago

Does anyone else have a problem with the word ‘allyship’?
No matter what the subject under discussion is, when people start using newspeak you know what’s coming

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 months ago

It is so absurd it must be a spoof.

I don’t know what sort of benighted creature would feel uncomfortable talking about the menopause with women particularly as he claims to be married with children. I share the characteristics he claims though rather older than middle aged and have never regarded the menopause as taboo material although I wouldn’t regard any conversation about it as allyship. It is simply something that comes usually unwelcome to women at some time in their life. I suppose he regards discussion of a woman’s period or a man’s enlarged prostate as a taboo to be overcome.

Fortunately, this allyship tends only to work one way and women are probably spared having to discuss their colleagues prostate problems during lunchtime to demonstrate their allyship.

J K
J K
2 months ago

Fellow Whitehall civil servant here. That email is remarkable to me because of how unremarkable it is. I could leak 3 or 4 of this sort of thing a day if I were so inclined.

Brett H
Brett H
2 months ago

I don’t know what to think about these stories anymore. Is it another hoax? I feel like we’re being turned into dogs salivating in anticipation at being thrown another bone.

Glyn R
Glyn R
2 months ago

It is clear that this person simply does not have enough to do so is busy making stuff up. Needs to go.

Last edited 2 months ago by Glyn R
William Shaw
William Shaw
2 months ago

God’s teeth.
Who will save us from nappy wearing, bed wetting, Civil Servants who don’t have enough real work to fill their day
Let’s all talk about the menopause so women can add to their status in the oppression Olympics.
Coming soon… lunch time meetings where men will discuss menstruation and it’s impact on their lived experience. Women welcome to attend and provide examples.

Last edited 2 months ago by William Shaw
Brett H
Brett H
2 months ago
Reply to  William Shaw

I’ve never had a job where there was time for an organised meeting to discuss menopause.

Neil Cheshire
Neil Cheshire
2 months ago

The blogger lacks empathy and inclusivity – nowhere does he mention trans-women.

R Wright
R Wright
2 months ago

God help this country.

Brett H
Brett H
2 months ago

“In fact, given I’ve been a civil servant for 10 years and line-managed throughout this time, the fact that I’d never had a single conversation about the menopause, despite it being a major event in a woman’s life was pretty shocking.”
I don’t deserve your respect, I’m a lowlife, yes, hit me, hit me, oh yes, I deserve that, I’m not worthy, oh yes, harder, please master, oh … ohh … ohhhhh … yes, more.

Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse
2 months ago

Play Bs bingo

S Ash
S Ash
2 months ago

Many of us who are the “ other” in multiple ways: to whit women, of minority ethnic background, menopausal DONT want to be treated any differently from anyone else. We don’t really want to be asked about our innards, our mores or our alcohol consumption. We just want to be normal in the workplace and in society. The more these kind people try to allow for our differences, the more “ othered” we feel. So can we please just get on with taking about our work, and our common cultural interests, or failing that there’s always the weather.

Anne Torr
Anne Torr
2 months ago
Reply to  S Ash

Hear hear

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
2 months ago

Surely it should be “Womanopause”? or Men/woman/non-binary O’ Pause if you are, woke and Irish?

J. Brelner
J. Brelner
2 months ago

Silly me. I thought it was an article supportive of men! That never happens, so I wasn’t too surprised when it wasn’t.

TERRY JESSOP
TERRY JESSOP
2 months ago

I’m starting up my crowd-funding appeal to send this guy off to Alaska on a course with Bear Grylls. He badly needs such an intervention!

Kat L
Kat L
2 months ago

You know this is so funny. I thought this would be an article about…male menopause! So much for finding out how to prevent ‘grumpy old man syndrome’…

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
2 months ago

My partner is going through the menopause.
I really despise the male impotence in being able to talk about it. What are they doing whilst their wives/partners are menstruating, taking their seed and giving birth to their children? Pretending it’s not happening? The menopause is simply another aspect to this feature of life for women.
Some men are really pathetic.

Brett H
Brett H
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Some men, yes. But not all men. That’s what counts, isn’t it?

N Forster
N Forster
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Glad you could find time from all that empathy to be so vitriolic. Truly, an inspiration.

Laura Pritchard
Laura Pritchard
2 months ago

It’s an email. About something that affects everyone but half the population very profoundly. It doesn’t imply that anyone at this government department isn’t getting on and doing their job. Get over it.

Brett H
Brett H
2 months ago

It doesn’t always affect women “profoundly”. I know some women suffer badly from it, but not all women. Just like not all of the male population are ignorant of it.

Last edited 2 months ago by Brett H
Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 months ago

You are, of course, correct. There is nothing wrong with men discussing with women the nature of menopause and how it affects them. I think what most people here objected to was the language used by BEIS’ Head of Intelligence in his email. It managed to be needlessly cautious, ingratiating, and condescending all at once.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Obsequious as well, perhaps?