I recently had the wonderful opportunity to spend some time chatting with Jacqui McBurnie. Jacqui is Chair of the NHS England Menopause Network and an Executive Committee member of the Cross Government Menopause Network. She has been instrumental in getting menopause higher on the agenda within the NHS and developing frameworks and toolkits to support women through the menopause at work.
Our chat was both an inspiring insight into how much work is taking place within the NHS (an organisation with a work force that in places is up to 80% female) and how positive it is to see Menopause so high up the strategic agenda.
But of course this was balanced with a reminder of how much there is still to do and how nascent some of this activity is (and how many more workplaces could benefit from signing the menopause workplace pledge). Jacqui spoke insightfully about how one of the key impacts is the risk of creating a ‘leadership gap’ in organisations. The impacts of menopause occur just as women are reaching a stage in their career when their knowledge, experience and networks have an almost unquantifiable potential value for the organisation as they could be becoming leaders and mentors helping to develop, evolve and innovate. Too often instead of this being a time of reflection and shaping of the next stage of the careers of talented and experienced women, it is instead a time of additional challenges at work that can lead to stasis, or worse still, leaving for early retirement.
What is exciting for me however is to see and discuss solutions and interventions that can make such powerful differences in changing this pattern.
There are two important elements to this.
The first is putting the right structures in place to support women at this life stage experiencing menopause. Jacqui talked about the importance of three key pillars:
- An overarching formal architecture that recognises menopause and ensures that women experiencing it feel recognised, heard and supported.
- The right set of policies and frameworks that provide moral, legal, financial and cultural support within the organisation.
- Signposting and communication to make sure individuals know what is available, how to access it and to create an open environment where menopause can be talked about (but also enabling the discrete accessing of services so it does not have to feel visible or overly define the individual).
But changing structures on their own isn’t always enough. The second critical element is providing personal support to help individual’s manage their careers and see menopause as part of themselves, not as a ‘career problem’.
This is where the conversation resonates so much with our experience at Cognomie. One powerful role transformational coaching can play is to help women thrive through menopause at work and ensure that, rather than it be a point in their career that leads to stasis or even departure, it can instead be precisely that point of reflection that opens up the next chapter of working life and leads to empowered leadership.
This isn’t about “Coaching for Menopause” and defining that as a single issue in someone’s life. Rather it is about recognising that as part of the lived experience of women at a particular life and career stage and exploring that as part of who they are. It is an opportunity for the individual to understand themselves better, explore who they are and what is important to them, to understand themselves with their symptoms and physical and cognitive experiences included, to understand how much of what they are experiencing relates to menopause and how much might be other factors such as stress or other life challenges. All of this can then help them to navigate and make use of any structures that may be in place (or even help to shape and adapt those structures as they enter leadership roles in the organisation).
A practical illustration of this can relate to some of the cognitive challenges that can emerge as a symptom of menopause. Left on one’s own a symptom like brain fog can be experienced as an inability to keep performing their role. This can sap confidence and lead to a sense of impostor syndrome or a lack of self belief that can result in stepping back from one’s career. By being able to bring these experiences to the safe space of transformational coaching the outcome can be very different. Being able to disentangle those feelings of damaged confidence, reflect on one’s achievements and capabilities and consider career goals can mean a very different outcome and ensure that the individual finds their way to their full potential.
On a personal level chatting and sharing my own experiences, both as a female entrepreneur and leader and evangelist for the power of coaching feels energising and inspiring and represents a step towards the actions Cognomie committed to when we signed the Menopause Workplace Pledge.
If your organisation has signed the Menopause Pledge and is taking steps to understand and support more and more women as they transition towards and through the menopause and would love to chat more about how coaching can help on that journey then I’d love to talk.
Want to take this further?
We’ve created a coaching programme that is specifically focussed on the areas that affect many people during Menopause with our partners My Menopause Centre.
Or do you want to gain insight into personal transformation? Do you want to learn how your own Mental Fitness can be the framework for understanding how you can develop greater self-awareness and grow in your own capability and resilience?
Or, if you play a role in your organisation’s development and that of those who work with you and their Mental Fitness, we’d love to talk.