Interview with Lauren Chiren, founder of Women of a Certain Stage

Read how her own experience with the peri-menopause inspired Lauren Chiren to launch Women of a Certain Stage (WOACS).

How has your career background shaped you?

I have basically always taken opportunities that arose or gone for things that seemed interesting and challenging. In my 20’s I was often second choice for senior roles, but I’d get them eventually.

Sometimes when the first choice had used the offer of a new job as leverage in their existing firm, or when a firm was being created and there was a recommendation that there was a female presence at senior level. I feel that I came through a period where men were expected to take on leadership roles. Ultimately, I always ended up as the boss or one of the senior team.

I loved the intellectual complexity of my corporate roles and I love watching my clients soar when we have worked on their aspirations and they start seeing them happen – nothing quite so exciting as watching someone self belief take root witnessing them fly! 

I believe that if you want something, you just have to go for it. It may not always happen how or when you expect, but I have never been led by others boundaries. I may respect them, just don’t always adhere to them.

You are the founder of Women of a Certain Stage, can you explain what your organisation does and how it’s helping so many women? 

We are taking every opportunity to have a voice to educate on all things menopause – through the media, on stage, in businesses, in fact anywhere that we can make a positive difference. We support organisations to understand the impact that menopause can have on a woman and her colleagues and how this can be supported. Women should be nourished through this life stage, and we help business with policies, strategies and practical advice to make this happen.

We also run bespoke 121 and group programmes for women (and men) going through life transitions.

You suffered severely with peri-menopause, can you explain what this is, and your personal experiences and how they changed your life?

Peri menopause is the time when a woman’s hormones are changing, leading up to the time when they have ceased altogether. During peri menopause. periods may become lighter, heavier, longer or shorter. Symptoms like hot flushes, anxiety, low mood, poor concentration and memory loss and about 30 others (yes, there are loads of symptoms!) are common.

Typically, this phase starts in the early 40s onwards. Women become menopausal around 45-55, the average being 51. This is defined in the UK as the time when a woman has gone 12 months without a period. It can also happen much younger and be brought on by various surgeries and cancer treatments.

I personally had a period of around 18 months when I became increasingly emotional, suffered with poor sleep and memory and generally found it harder to concentrate.

At work this manifested itself in me having to make more notes in meetings and create a reminder system to make sure I ticked everything off my to do list. My direct team were awesome and were great at making me lists and updating reports so I had up to date information available at all times. I did not know this was all down to menopause.

I thought I had early onset dementia. I left a senior role and found myself wondering ‘what next’? Ultimately,  am using this experience to ensure no other woman or business goes through what I did and leaves a job unnecessarily. 

What advice would you give to other women going through similar experiences?

Educate yourselves around your symptoms and understand them. Keep a diary and for for triggers or patterns. See your GP for medical advice and find a good health coach for a lifestyle MOT to work out where you can help yourself. Top tips are to be well hydrated, eat a natural diet, surround yourself with uplifting positive people, sleep and relax well, learn new things. move your body in fun ways and learn how to say no!

You work with businesses to help normalise menopause in the workplace. Why is there such a stigma around menopause in the workplace, and how can businesses tackle this?

Women spend most of their lives at work, and with maternity leave, women’s health issues and menopause, we have a lot to deal with, which can really affect our lives. How can senior business leaders take practical steps to eliminate the negative effects that menopause can have on women in the workplace?

Get educated. Rise awareness through the business. Put policies in place. Ensure line management, and all staff understand how to recognise signs of menopause. Provide cool areas for women to go to regain their composure when they are feeling hot or a little unsure. Use flexible working policies where possible and allow loose clothing.

Why is it important that senior business leaders understand menopause? Why is it in their best interest to help their female employees in this stage of their life?

 We have a spike in divorce aged 45-55. There is a spike in women going through disciplinary action or leaving their roles 45-55. There is a spike in suicide in women aged 51-55.

Menopause typically occurs, 45-55. Women are making up an increasingly large part of the UK workforce – In excess of 5 million women aged 45 and over are now working, and this number is growing.

A generation ago, a woman may have been at home while her husband worked, the children may have left home and her parents may have passed on. In 2018, many women are juggling family life, have elderly parents, a full time job and everything that comes with a modern 24/7 life

Women are valuable resources. By this mid life stage, they have amassed huge knowledge, skills and experience ready to share with younger colleagues. They are in their wisdom and by nurturing them, as they nourish everyone else, you can retain your female talent, enrich teams and improve performance. No matter how good a businesses processes are, long term employees have knowledge that is simply not written down anywhere.

It costs an average of £37k to replace a member of staff & that does not include any back fill, performance issues due to not having back filled a role or severance costs, which can often stretch into 6 figures.

It just makes good business sense to look after your ladies! 

How do you coach businesses to help them understand menopause better, and help their female employees? 

That is my secret sauce! Essentially, you need to meet a business where it is culturally and take it from there. Everyone is at a slightly different starting point. Typically, we start by looking at the business case for learning about menopause and 100% of the time it is pretty compelling.

Through awareness programmes, coaching and mentoring and annual events, like World Menopause Day and International Woman’s Day, I partner with my clients to raise awareness publicly.

Does every business have different needs? How do you ensure, as a coach you cater for them, and create a tailored solution and strategy?

Ultimately businesses are run by people. In so far as work goes, we humans thrive on safety, belonging & esteem. A big part of that is simply treating each other well and being respectful and inclusive of one another. Different businesses have different cultures, so by listening, listening and listening to their needs, I can create a tailored solution. By using the right questions and listening carefully, to what is and is not being said. 

Why is your work so important to you?

Simply – I do not wish anyone to go through the experience that I or my employer went through. It should never be an issue. Menopause should be as well understood as pregnancy, if not better. All women will go through menopause should they live that long! 

What one thing do you want people to know and understand about the work you do? 

It’s entirely accessible to men and women; it will transform your relationships and allow everyone who is experiencing menopausal symptoms to be understood and supported, Their children, partners, friends, colleagues – everyone – can benefit by just knowing what is going on.

WOACS is available across the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.