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For millions of women all around the world, today is 'Bring Your Menopause to Work Day'. As is tomorrow and the next day, and the next day...you get the gist. But with more women than ever now bossing in high profile business roles, it's time for the work environment to adapt, accommodate and get with the programme.
A UK parliament committee found that in 2019, 900,000 women in the U.K. left their jobs over an undefined period of time because of menopausal symptoms. Now, the resulting aim of those findings is to implement supportive working conditions for women experiencing menopause because when you’re not firing on all cylinders, you don't feel able to show up from a place of confidence. No one, male or female, can be dynamic and innovative in their job role when they're suffering from stress, anxiety or irritability.
This is also something currently being spearheaded by GenM founders Heather Jackson and Sam Simester. GenM is a platform that endeavours to enable brands to better support women going through menopause and normalising the menopause conversation in the workplace.
Sam Simester was knocked sideways by the perimenopause. “I was running a global supply chain at the time, travelling a lot every month throughout Asia and the US, but I was all over the place and woefully unprepared for the stresses and overwhelm of menopause,“ she confesses. “It got to the point where I was experiencing anxiety attacks, heightened stress and a huge loss of confidence.”
Sam was struggling to keep it together at a time when the business needed her most and so she resigned. “For those of who know me well, that was just not something you would expect to see in the same sentence as Sam. I've always been fully dedicated to my career, so it was only when I sat down and had a truly honest conversation with my very compassionate CEO, that we managed to come up with a solution.”
They identified she needed support and deserved some essential time out, “and the great news is, I'm still working.”
This candid approach to her menopause symptoms is the reason that Sam remains a board member at Innocent Drinks and what triggered the GenM mission. In the 2020 GenM Invisibility report, 88% of the women surveyed said that they wanted their employers to do more in supporting them and to be aware of what they’re going through.
Women make up vital roles in businesses that simply cannot survive without them and this is why it has to be a collaborative effort from all involved. “These are women whose careers are on a high and who are vital to the productivity of their workplaces. Their employers should be well-informed and properly able to support their employees through this stressful time. We have a responsibility to the 15.5 million women currently going through menopause in the UK - and potentially 1 billion globally by 2025 - to cultivate greater understand and awareness, ” explains Heather Jackson, the other half of the GenM dynamo.
However, many women in very senior positions in larger global organisations are surrounded by men (or other women) who are fiercely competitive. So, trying to start a conversation about a very personal experience, like menopause stress, is probably not something that they feel that comfortable doing.
“It starts with saying it out loud, showing your vulnerability and helping yourself take control - this is a symptom, it's what I'm feeling and there might be consequences. I didn't know what was coming next but what I wanted to be able to do was to feel comfortable saying, I don't feel great today or I'm feeling a bit warm, I'm just going to go outside or I might just need a little bit of time out here or I'm sorry I can't quite remember that.”
Owning your menopause symptoms and opening up the conversation not only allows your colleagues and management to better understand your circumstances, but creates the environment for you to work in the best way to fit your life and maximise your productivity, creativity and drive. "That may be working from home, having more flexible hours, being able to respond to work developments over email or set essential boundaries. Braving that initial vulnerability also sets the standard for the other women in your team. This, in turn, helps to create a stronger, more supportive female workforce for the future," Jackson explains.
Show your workings
If you're lacking in confidence, include your boss in your workload. Invest 10% of your work time to communicating what you’re doing. Reach out to say: can I share my project with you? Can I get your input? Human beings are naturally collaborative, and when that project becomes a roaring success, they’ll feel they played a part and will be more invested in your success.
A confident core comes from knowing your strengths
It’s easy to have no concept of your strengths because they’re so obvious to you. When you have an innate strength, it is so natural to you that you presume everyone has it. They don’t. Spend time identifying your top assets and rather than attempting to be good at everything (which no one is) concentrate on utilising and showing them off.
Know your blind spots
You will only look better for saying that you excel at X but for Y, go to your colleague. It shows you are profoundly secure in your own strengths and you’re a team player that recognises strength in others.
Honesty and openness is a superpower
Trying to suppress your menopause symptoms will only cause further stress and heartache. Instead, communicating them in a professional manner will only strengthen your position, gain you respect and promote understanding around you.
There is such a thing as a bad fit
Know when you’ve tried everything and, if after exhausting all avenues you’re not being appreciated at work, move on. Change offers a fresh start and a new perspective for everyone.