The past few years have seen a groundswell of change in discourse and understanding of menopause, thanks to outspoken celebrities, menopause advocates and public figures raising awareness. Much of this has been led by Gen X women who have been hitting the peak of their careers and spending power and demanding more. What’s next? The eldest millennials are now hitting their 40s and are set to drive further change in the menopause experience from brands, health providers and employers. This generation, raised on brand transparency, consumer centricity and hyper convenience is set to demand a higher bar. Not to mention greater inclusion and empowerment in culture. Havas presented a session on the now, and the future, of menopause during Cannes Lions, with a panel of experts.
-Lucie Greene, founder and CEO, Light Years
-Tamara Greene, managing director, global brands, Havas
-Laura Mizrahi, EVP, chief creative officer, H4B Chelsea
-Chelsea Moran, associate director, patient partnerships, Astellas Europe
-Blair Waite, director, global marketing, women’s health, Astellas
-Alison Weissbrot, editor, Campaign US, Haymarket Media (moderator)
Whether it’s personal care brands, celebrities or employers, menopause is a subject many are increasingly willing to address publicly. That’s a promising step. However, considering the meager advancements in treatment, an abundance of misinformation and lack of awareness that remains around a condition that affects 50% of the population, there’s a lot more work to be done. Where do we go from here?
Gen X women, hitting the peak of their careers and their spending power, are pushing for more open conversations about the topic and more products to address symptoms. The momentum and pressure for advancement will only continue. In 2021, women aged 50 and over accounted for 26% of all women and girls globally, according to the United Nations. This was up 22% from 10 years earlier. The eldest millennials are hitting their early 40s, making them the next generation to experience perimenopause and menopause. This session at Cannes, hosted by Havas, explored where the landscape might be headed.
“The number of women who are over 50 globally is growing exponentially,” reported Lucie Greene, founder and CEO of Light Years, a trend forecasting and brand strategy consultancy. “Venture capitalists realize there’s an opportunity to help women through this interesting and important stage in their lives, not just in healthcare, but in all adjacent well-being categories.”
And it’s not a minute too soon. Blair Waite, director of global marketing, women’s health at Astellas, pointed to the gap in treatment developments for menopause and women (especially considering the seismic treatment advancements for male-centric health concerns such as erectile dysfunction), but added that dialogue was starting to shift — thanks to more women sharing experiences with each other, while also asking more from physicians.
The discussion is changing
As millennial women age into perimenopause and menopause, the push for transparency around it will intensify.
“Millennials are really going to change the conversation,” suggested Laura Mizrahi, EVP and chief creative officer at H4B Chelsea. “They’re going to demand technology, transparency, inclusivity, access to information and the tools to have better conversations with their HCPs.”
The problem, Waite explained, is that at the same time women are demanding more information and details about treatment, physicians are often undertrained — or worse, dismissive — about menopause symptoms. In fact, as the panel noted, a recent survey of U.S. obstetrics/gynecology residents found that fewer than 1 in 5 polled reported receiving any formal training on menopause.
“It’s an interesting dynamic,” he said. “There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation out there.”
“Doctors don’t know what they don’t know,” pointed out Mizrahi. “As marketers, we have a role in creating space for education and dialogue around this stage of women’s lives”
Marketers can also play a key role in helping physicians understand the complexities of perimenopause, menopause and post menopause, and, most importantly, to encourage them to listen to their patients.
“Our job is to also remind doctors that every woman’s experience is different,” added Waite. “They need to appreciate that.”
Indeed. Look to the menopause, fem-tech, and mid-life women’s health space and many of the latest start-ups to not only to spread education, but also make treatment more accessible to all women. Following the rising precedent of talking about menopause, the panel explored how dialogue is now expanding to recognize the myriad of hyper-individual experiences of menopause — which are shaped by personal circumstances, race, country and culture.
Meeting various needs
Women’s menopausal experiences can differ hugely based on race and ethnicity, so understanding how menopause affects different populations and including diverse patient groups in clinical trials is paramount, the panel agreed.
“Medical advancements need to be considered for those different communities as well,” advised Tamara Greene, managing director, global brands at Havas.
Grassroots groups and influencers have made a big impact on amplifying the conversation about the lack of research and information on menopause, as well as highlighting the experiences of under-represented groups. (See examples such as U.K.-based Karen Arthur and her popular podcast Menopause Whilst Black.)
The Peanut Menopause app, a women’s menopause community, “has done a huge campaign about medical misogyny and the massive gap in research into menopause treatment echoing comments that people such as Amy Schumer have made about how illnesses that affect only women, like endometriosis, still lack investment and treatment,” added Light Years’ Greene.
Naomi Watts’ brand Stripes, a beauty-and-wellness company focused on menopause health, has done “a lot of information and stigma busting,” noted Mizrahi. The brand also provides online tips to help women talk to their doctors about the condition.
When it comes to new products, pharma brands and over-the-counter brands have a role in providing options based on what women really need, she continued.
“We have to bring women together with nurses and healthcare professionals to talk about their priorities and needs so we can listen, learn and meet their demands,” counseled Chelsea Moran, associate director of patient partnerships at Astellas Europe. “We need to be mindful, when trying to move this conversation forward and share education, to do so in an inclusive way. Otherwise, we’re contributing to the problem.”
Mizrahi expects data from apps and wearables to be an important driver of product development.
“Women recording their experience of menopause will contribute to research from a grassroots level,” she said.
Havas’ Greene believes the emotional aspect of menopause is an important and underexamined area ripe for future growth. She notes that menopause not only affects women from a health perspective, but has an impact on their professional lives as well. The U.K.’s National Health Service has encouraged conversation about menopause in the workplace.
“There are lots of support groups and conversations about it in the workplace,” she reported. “We have a menopause policy in place and a menopause guide for managers.”
The panel concluded that the next step for menopause was not only treatment advances, education and greater accommodation in the workplace, but for an ever more layered, empowered and individual approach for all.