Pauline, a Director in our Financial Outsourcing team, shares a very personal and honest account of her experience with the Menopause and how this affected her ability at work.
I will start by saying this is a difficult piece for me to write as it’s very personal. Today (18th October 2022) is World Menopause Day, which is an annual event that aims to raise awareness about the effects of menopause on health and wellbeing around the world.
Why talk about this at work?
Women over the age of 50 are the fastest growing group in the workforce, and according to research carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, three out of five women say menopause symptoms affect them at work.
Of those who were affected negatively at work, issues included:
- Nearly two-thirds (65%) said they were less able to concentrate
- More than half (58%) said they experience more stress
- More than half (52%) said they felt less patient with clients and colleagues.
The symptoms of perimenopause can impact many women at work – in my case they affected my ability to do my job well.
I hadn’t heard of perimenopause until I was in my 40s and I wasn’t aware of the range of symptoms until I was 47. Given the average age women reach menopause is 51, and the stage before (perimenopause) can last 10 years, I learned about it very late and certainly suffered for a while.
The first time I considered whether I was going through perimenopause, was a throw away comment from my daughter on my mood. I hadn’t appreciated the emotional symptoms of perimenopause prior to that comment.
A couple of years ago, women who approached a GP with symptoms were often misdiagnosed with depression and wrongly prescribed anti-depressants. This is now changing as awareness is improving, but access to a medical professional who is knowledgeable in this area is key. I got lucky after talking to a GP I accessed via Mazars doc [Babylon].
I was prescribed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and, having tried a couple of variations, my symptoms have settled down to a manageable level.
Symptoms at work
The symptoms that affected me most at work were over-thinking, brain fog and memory problems. The week before I started taking HRT, I would begin a working day feeling overwhelmed and having no clarity in my thought process.
In our profession we need to juggle constantly, and this was near impossible. I got through the day, just tackling one step at a time and by afternoon the fog had cleared a little allowing me to focus better. This was really worrying, and I understand why some women feel it necessary to resign when dealing with perimenopause.
The International Menopause Society has released a leaflet to mark World Menopause Day on Brain Fog and Memory Difficulties, which is worth a read here.
Why raise awareness and share this?
I’ve written this for two reasons.
- For those women who are not yet perimenopausal, if you do start experiencing symptoms, it is important to go and see your GP. There are many apps you can use to track your symptoms which can be useful when talking to your GP.
- For managers and partners at work, it’s about awareness and being mindful of what your teams are going through. It’s hard to talk to people at work about menopause so be as supportive and open as you can. At Mazars, we have training in place to help inform others, and if you’re educated then we are part of the way there.
I have had some positive reactions within Mazars from senior partners. I confided in one (male) senior partner that perimenopause was difficult, and I felt like I couldn’t do my best – his response: “Maybe you have to accept you can’t be your best every day”. This meant the world and really made me feel heard and supported.
The first step is breaking down the taboo that is menopause and talking about it more, and education is a key part of this.