4 Womxn has had such great internal and external impact, even though its leading Menopause initiative was not a widely discussed topic when you launched. Why was it such an important initiative for Channel 4?

We became aware that many of our friends were struggling with menopausal symptoms and this led to us asking the 4Women committee whether it is a topic worth looking into and that prompted a wave of stories of women that we thought we knew well. Colleagues shared a whole range of symptoms – from migraines to panic attacks – and all while continuing to work, afraid to tell their line managers. Shocked by how widespread but unspoken an issue this was, we created a menopause focus group and that led to a further outpouring of stories of the many ways that menopause was affecting working lives. It was clear that more support and education around the topic was needed and so, on World Menopause Day 2019, 4Womxn created the UK media industry’s first ever Menopause Policy. Our goal was, and still is, to end the silence and stigma around the menopause and encourage a better understanding of it among employees.

What other policies related to women’s health are you spearheading with 4Womxn?

In 2021, we launched what we believed to be the world’s first Pregnancy Loss Policy to support all Channel 4 employees who suffer the loss of a pregnancy, whether it happens directly to them, their partners or their baby’s surrogate mother, regardless of the nature of their loss, and whatever their length of service. The policy which, as with our menopause policy we make available to the public, includes two weeks paid leave, a phased return to work, support via the BUPA helpline, counselling, flexible working and a buddying scheme to support employees returning to work after a loss.

In November 2022, in another initiative spearheaded by 4Womxn, Channel 4 partnered with Hertility to start offering annual reproductive health and hormone testing to its employees. The ‘at home’ blood test can highlight why someone may be struggling to conceive or where a hormonal imbalance may be causing a wellbeing issue and highlights what healthcare steps should be taken next. This led to the introduction of our Period Policy in March 2023, designed to enable employees who are experiencing difficulties with their periods to get the support they need in order to manage their symptoms at work, includingkiraty access to free period products, heat pillows and quiet working areas, paid leave and flexible working.

In addition to menopause, pregnancy loss and periods, 4Womxn campaigns for numerous other women’s health issues, such as breastfeeding, cervical cancer, childlessness and maternity. Women’s health remains at the top of our agenda and, following Channel 4 signing up to the Fertility Workplace Pledge, we’re currently looking at how we can provide further support for women experiencing fertility issues.

What would be your advice for any woman experiencing health issues and looking for support from work? 

Get the conversation started - speak to your employee networks, line managers and colleagues to see what, if any, policies, guidance or other healthcare support you have in place. If your employer doesn’t have a policy in place, let them know that they are behind the curve and show them Channel 4’s publicly available women’s health policies as examples of what they should seek to introduce. 

What impact do you think this initiative and other companies' initiatives will have on the careers of women? 

More than half the population menstruate and will therefore face the period related symptoms and the menopause. To date, countless businesses will have lost experienced and knowledgeable staff who have struggled to manage their period/menopause symptoms in the workplace. Similarly, fertility and pregnancy related issues and losses affect a huge proportion of women. Supporting women at work is not just good for employees; it also benefits the employer in the long run by ensuring experienced staff stay, increasing productivity, and improving morale. A healthier workforce is a happier one and supporting women will ensure that they can continue to prosper in the workplace.

What would be your advice to any other company wanting to launch something similar?

It’s in your company’s best interests to support women through their health issues and it costs very little, if anything at all, to introduce policies. Our tips are:

  • Take a strong stance - we suggest introducing a policy, rather than guidelines, as guidelines suggest that the advice is optional. 
  • Educate your workforce don’t just introduce a policy. Make sure staff are aware of the common symptoms and long-term effects that the menopause can have so that managers are equipped to have conversations around treatment, support and adjustments through educational workshops or menopause awareness courses. Education is crucial for ensuring the well-being, engagement and productivity of those staff experiencing menopausal symptoms. 
  • Speak to your private health care provider – here at Channel 4, employees who are experiencing menopausal symptoms can seek additional support through our private health care provider (BUPA) in which they can consult with a specialist doctor. Make sure employees are in the know so that they are able to access and make the most of any and all support available.