Today, over half the legal profession are female. This, combined with the growing number of people who are remaining in their careers into later life, means there is a real need for comprehensive, relevant menopause support within the legal sector.
We have teamed up with The Law Society to launch a brand-new Menopause Support Resource. The guidance has been designed to:
- Help individuals and organisations understand more about menopause
- Promote workplaces that are supportive, inclusive and diverse
- Lift the stigma that surrounds menopause in the workplace
On Thursday 17th September, we celebrated the launch of the new resource and kick-started the conversation about menopause support in the legal sector with a virtual event.
We invited an expert panel of speakers to share best practice, discuss their personal experiences and think about the changing landscape for women in the working world.
Our speakers were Amandeep Khasriya, Senior Associate from Moore Barlow LLP and the Law Society Women Lawyers Division Committee member, Theresa Winters, Culture Lead at Santander, Jacqui Timmins, Partner and Head of Office at Pinsent Masons, Deborah Garlick, Director at Henpicked and Kathy Abernethy, Director of Menopause at Peppy and Former Chair of British Menopause Society. The panel was moderated by Dr. Mridula Pore, CEO, Peppy Health.
Menopause and the legal sector
Kathy, one of the co-writers of the new Menopause Support Resource, began by defining menopause. She emphasised that menopause can impact people of all ages, challenging our usual expectations of the middle-aged menopausal woman. In law firms, Kathy explained that over 25% of people going through menopause experience symptoms severe enough for them to have to make changes in their working environment.
The most troublesome symptoms cited by people experiencing menopause at work are largely psychological, including poor concentration, tiredness, fatigue, memory loss and a general feeling of losing control. This is particularly concerning when you’re working in a fast-paced, pressurised industry.
Kathy acknowledged the challenge of talking about menopause in the workplace. She has hopes that this resource will set the tone to turn menopause into an everyday conversation.
Amandeep added to this by saying that Christina Blacklaws’ leadership project really pioneered the conversation about menopause in the legal sector. Amandeep made the point that if we want to see more women in senior leadership roles, it is inevitable that many of them will go through menopause. By offering menopause support, we are more likely to help the talent pool thrive.
A view of the legal sector
As a Senior Associate at a law firm, Amandeep recognised that law firms are often more traditional and that discussing menopause is no exception. Her ambition is to normalise discussions about menopause.
“Let’s start normalising it! People talk about their pregnancy symptoms all the time … communication is key.”
Amandeep is thrilled to have pulled together a practical resource that will cut through in law firms’ “pressure-cooker” environment, and hopes it will kick-start menopause support in law firms.
Mridula noted that it takes a significant amount of bravery to broach this topic within a more traditional industry.
Deborah mentioned the fact that the legal sector is incredibly time-pressured; “the pressure cooker environment is something we see a lot in law firms”. Taking time off work is difficult, and psychological symptoms that slow people’s rate of work can become an increasing source of concern.
She has seen that the menopause symptoms that people repeatedly find get in the way of their work are anxiety, lower self-esteem, lack of confidence and struggles with concentration. These psychological issues need to be addressed, and as fewer women than ever are making appointments to see their GP there is a huge need for accessible, app-based support, for example the support offered by Peppy.
Deborah has been impressed by the support offered by companies like Santander, as well as other forward-thinking law firms that are breaking new ground in menopause best-practice.
Kathy recognised that there had been an increasing interest in educational sessions about menopause, lunch and learns and webinars. Currently, this is still largely driven by women’s networks, but she hopes to see these conversations pushed wider in the future.
A journey to normalise menopause: Santander
Theresa, Culture Lead at Santander, who have recently rolled out Peppy’s menopause service to their entire UK workforce, spoke about her experience of the journey of normalising menopause in the workplace.
“The most important thing is about starting that conversation”. Banking, like law, is very traditional. Theresa saw a lot of similarities between the two industries. With over 23,000 colleagues in the UK alone, there was a need to start talking about menopause with more than just standard guidelines.
Wellbeing is at the centre of Santander’s ambitions for Culture, Belonging and Inclusion. With 60% of colleagues female and 3000 at menopausal age, offering menopause support was absolutely the right thing to do from a company perspective.
“… it’s about an opportunity to help your colleagues thrive in a workplace at a time when they want to be doing that in their lives”
Theresa also cited internal sponsorship as incredibly important. Awareness, she said, is brilliant, but having a sponsor to embrace the company’s menopause work has helped hugely (“And it doesn’t hurt he’s a man!”).
Menopause support for all people
Theresa also touched upon a very important point; that menopause support is not just for women. Menopause can touch all people, whether they are experiencing personally or care for someone who is. Santander have tried to be as inclusive as possible, making sure that guidance and support touches all people.
Santander’s journey to provide the best menopause support is still very much underway; they are seeking advice and trying to normalise the conversation. Their target is to build a network of passionate women and men who want to talk about menopause.
Deborah agreed: at a recent ‘menopause in the workplace’ event she had held, 67% of attendees were not experiencing menopause, but were there to support others.
Theresa detailed her key advice for companies on the journey to offer better menopause support as:
- Ongoing awareness and discussion
- Training and education that is expansive and inclusive
- Creating opportunities for individuals to engage, discuss and seek advice.
Santander’s work with Peppy
As well as driving awareness and information, Santander wanted to provide practical support, which is where Peppy comes in.
“One of the reasons we’re working with Peppy is because there is that huge gap for people to get great, quick, tangible advice and support, and it was really important for us to provide practical support.”
Accessibility, best practice and training
Deborah spoke about the importance of any policy, guidance or resource to be easily accessible by all people. She also agreed with Amandeep and Theresa that great sponsorship within the organisation is really important.
Deborah believes that training is vital; we need to be educated, to understand that – when it comes to menopause – every person’s experience is different. Whether for an HR lead, a line manager or any other role, Deborah feels there is one simple aim of any training:
“… it’s [for people to know that] somebody is there for them, that they’re understood, that they’re not on their own and that their organisation gets them. That’s all they need.”
An opportunity with Covid-19
Mridula highlighted that, often, only small changes are needed to make a big difference. For example, removing the barriers posed by an internal process required to get a desktop fan.
Theresa agreed, and called for more training to focus on the small adjustments that can have a significant impact. She also suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic and sudden change in our working environments and patterns has presented and opportunity for us to understand our colleagues’ needs, and to be even more flexible than before.
Personal experience of menopause
Finally, Jacqui Timmins gave a personal account of her own experience going through menopause. When she started experiencing anxiety and mild depression, her GP could identify the issues but not the reason why. It took her family and friends to identify that this could be a result of hormone changes.
Having felt void of emotion and flat for months, starting HRT was like flicking a switch; within months, she felt full of energy, “it was like a silver bullet”.
Whilst Jacqui recognises that this was “very much my personal experience”, and that everyone’s experiences menopause treatment are different, she sees now more than ever that more training is needed within the legal profession to better understand the impact of hormonal changes on the body and the mind.
Kathy added to this that, often, GPs only have basic training of menopause. A specialist clinic is great, but most women do not necessarily need a full menopause clinic. What they need is one-to-one support.
“There are two terms that are the most widely searched on the NHS website: depression and menopause. That’s what people want to know about”
The discussion led onto an engaged Q&A session with the audience.
One particular issue which was voiced by participants was that symptoms (both physiological and psychological) of menopause were causing increased time away from desks or impacting productivity. This, in a billing working environment, was a real cause for concern, and highlights a need for better understanding, improved support and resources for people going through menopause in the legal sector.
Whilst many questions were answered in detail, we will also be following up with tailored blog posts and articles that focus on the most frequently asked questions, including the topic of billed hours and menopause. Keep an eye on our news page for any updates.
We would like to thank Amandeep, Jacqui, Deborah, Theresa and Kathy for taking part in this discussion, and invite you to join the conversation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and downloading the Menopause Support Resource.
If you’d like to explore Peppy further, please click here to look at our website and the services we provide.
Peppy provides next-generation health support to employees going through life’s big transitions, such as becoming a parent, fertility treatment or going through the menopause. The company was founded by Max Landry, Evan Harris and Mridula Pore in 2018 and works with a wide range of employers to provide support to their employees.