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Coaching women in the workplace during the menopause

Menopausal women are the fastest growing workforce demographic. We are an ageing population; one in three of the workforce will soon be over 50, and retirement ages are now 68. I cannot claim to be an expert on the menopause, but I do have personal experience and I am a witness to the impact of the menopause on women in my coaching practice.

Going through the menopause is a very personal journey and one that is different for every woman. It is like no other transition – compared with maternity which has a clear beginning, middle and end – perimenopausal symptoms can start in our mid-thirties through to our mid-late forties.

The list of symptoms is vast, with women often experiencing hormonal swings whilst also raising children and holding down a demanding job. The most common symptoms that Newson Health menopause specialists see are low mood, anxiety, irritability and sleep deprivation – all of which are likely to create increased stress, lead to exhaustion and impact on our ability to be present, available and productive.

Thankfully this is a topic that is increasingly being talked about thanks to the likes of Davina McCall, Dr Louise Newson, Joeli Brearley and a whole host of podcasts (see some links below). There is much that women are encouraged to try to manage their menopausal symptoms, but what can organisations and line managers do?

In my experience, many line managers feel uncomfortable talking about the menopause, especially if it is something they haven’t any prior experience of. Additionally, given the nature of the menopause with its ambiguous start and end, and the likelihood that women may want to keep their symptoms private, it can be tricky to know what to say or how best to provide support.

Much like in our maternity coaching work, line managers can be crucial in a woman’s experience of this phase of her life. Creating the psychological safety for women to be able to talk about their menopause without feeling embarrassed is the first step.

Organisations should ensure they have the appropriate policies, processes and training in place and support line managers to explore any reasonable adjustments that might be needed. Where women are also parenting children, whether small toddlers, school age or teenagers, coaching can be a valuable intervention to support women as working parents.

This doesn’t need to be focused on their menopause, although, of course, that may be a topic brought to the coaching. Working parents benefit from having a safe space in which to explore the challenges they are facing in their lives and in their career.

It is well documented that that gender diversity is one of the important factors in the performance of an organisation. Retaining female talent is critical. Going through maternity and becoming a parent is a common pinch point in a woman’s career, but the menopause is also a time of fundamental change, with some women experiencing debilitating symptoms leading them to make some major life decisions.

The McKinsey report is telling. They found that women leaders want to work for companies that prioritise flexibility, employee well-being and diversity, equity and inclusion. Organisations need to take action to ensure they retain their women leaders, and the next generation too.

You may also be interested in this video series Sarah recorded with Kate Usher on the topic of the menopause.

This blog post is a collaboration between Maternity Coaches Laura Duggal and Sarah Turner. They are working together, sharing their experiences and bringing the best of their joint advice and knowledge to you.

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