Why we have to talk about the menopause

Guest post by Judy Mackenzie Stuart, chief knowledge officer at City firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

Mackenzie Stuart: Menopause Champion

At Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP), we have an established wellbeing programme that’s been running for the last four years. Every year, we look to build upon our core programme, incorporating new themes and starting conversations on subjects important to our people.

Some of these subjects have often been considered ‘taboo’ topics, and aren’t often discussed, such as mental health awareness, baby loss, and of course, the menopause.

Women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing group in the workplace, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, which is also the average age of the menopause transition. Looking at the make-up of our own people, it’s therefore a given that many of our people will be experiencing menopausal symptoms.

There’s a real need to do more to ensure that individuals are supported during this phase of life. The menopause is a natural phase in every woman’s life. There is no stopping it! We know from a number of our people that the menopause has significantly impacted them personally and professionally, often at the peak of their working life.

Working in the legal industry does carry a certain amount of pressure, with chargeable hour targets, client expectations, and tight deadlines. That’s often considered ‘part and parcel’ of the profession. So, when the menopause comes along and you potentially start to experience brain fog, concentration lapses and less sleep, it can be a very unsettling time.

It’s also not something we talk about openly; instead of discussing it with our team and those we work with, we ‘battle’ through, doing the best we can. This is something I, and the firm, are keen to change.

We’re therefore delighted to be working with Peppy to help us in this area. Our wellbeing team initially met the Peppy team last year at a wellbeing conference. We were immediately drawn to the service and could see the benefits it would provide our people.

Peppy offer access to expert advice, available 24/7 with no need for appointments. A number of our people trialled the service and the feedback was glowing. We knew then that we had to offer the service out more widely and partner with Peppy.

We see this as a complementary service to our existing private medical cover and other partnerships, none of which cover the menopause specifically. Peppy offered something much needed to our people, which no one else in the market looks to currently be offering.

The partnership with Peppy has been only one part of our newly launched approach. We are also looking to roll out line manager awareness training, to ensure that our people managers are equipped to have conversations about the menopause, and to support their teams.

I am also delighted to be one of the firm’s new Menopause Champions, alongside Tessa Kimber, a partner in our real estate practice. We will work with the wellbeing team to drive this initiative forward.

For both Tessa and I, it has been especially important to remember this issue during the current pandemic. While there may be other health concerns and issues for us all to contend with, the menopause hasn’t stopped. If anything, we are hearing that individuals’ symptoms have been worse during the pandemic and lockdowns.

Added stress and worry has made things even more challenging and has impacted us mentally and emotionally. I am reassured that we are launching our Peppy partnership at such an important time.

We’re still at the early stages of our journey, but already we’ve received amazing feedback on the new support. At the start of October, we hosted a launch event with Kathy Abernathy, a high-profile menopause specialist and the former chair of the British Menopause Society, who heads up Peppy’s menopause offering. The session received amazing feedback, and we were also blown away by the readiness of our people to discuss the issue openly.

Looking ahead, we are planning an event to coincide with ‘Time to Talk’ in February, which will focus on the impact the menopause has on our mental health. The webinar will also focus on raising understanding of the menopause for us all – not just those who will go through it.

We want to start a conversation with everyone, and how we can all support our partners, family members, friends and colleagues. We’re very excited to continue to raise awareness of the menopause.

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