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Breaking the Stigma: Menopause in the Workplace with Lauren Chiren

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If you’ve ever experienced the dread of having to wait for everyone to leave a meeting because you’ve bled through your clothes, you know first-hand the impact of menopause on your career. Challenges like this (and many more) like brain fog, sleep deprivation, and hot flashes can seriously impact job performance, often leaving women feeling overwhelmed and unsupported.

That’s why I invited Lauren Chiron, founder and CEO of Women of a Certain Stage to help explore the impact of menopause on women's careers and discuss innovative ways to foster a menopause-friendly work environment.


Lauren shares her personal journey of experiencing early menopause at 37 and the misconceptions she faced. Her story underscores the urgent need for workplaces to recognize and address these challenges. Creating an inclusive workplace means more than hosting one “Lunch and Learn”. It involves implementing comprehensive strategies that support employees throughout their journey.

One key point we discuss is integrating menopause support into job design, recruitment processes, and HR systems. When companies do this, they can better accommodate menopausal employees and ensure their continued productivity and engagement. Including questions for midlife women in employee engagement surveys can help identify specific areas where menopausal support is needed. This data can provide tailored plans that include awareness-raising initiatives, line management training, and soft skills development.

Lauren also noted that fostering a culture of open dialogue is crucial. Regular social events and peer support groups provide safe spaces for women to share their experiences and feel empowered. Simple measures like providing desk fans, accessible sanitary wear, and thoughtful architectural designs can make a huge difference. Communal washbasins for all genders and personalized wash bags with essential hygiene products enhance comfort and dignity.

Employers can take concrete steps to start the conversation and implement supportive policies. Including questions about menopause in employee engagement surveys, flagging menstrual and menopausal absences in HR systems, and organizing awareness-raising events are some ideas of where we can start. World Menopause Day, celebrated on October 18th, provides an excellent opportunity to launch such initiatives.

Creating menopause-friendly workplaces isn't just about supporting women through a natural life stage; it's about fostering an inclusive and respectful work environment that values all employees. By taking proactive measures, companies can ensure their staff feel supported, empowered, and capable of performing at their best. This episode is an incredible resource for anyone committed to making meaningful culture changes around menopause awareness and support in the workplace.

For more insights and practical tips, listen to the full episode. Let's break the stigma and create workplaces where everyone can thrive, no matter what life stage they are navigating!

To learn more about Lauren and her work, be sure to check out her website at, and grab her free course: Menopause The Basics
Linkedin @laurenchiren


Jenn Salib Huber: 0:00

Hi and welcome to the Midlife Feast, the podcast for women who are hungry for more in this season of life. I'm your host, dr Jen Salib-Huber. I'm an intuitive eating dietitian and naturopathic doctor and I help women manage menopause without dieting and food rules. Come to my table, listen and learn from me trusted guest experts in women's health and interviews with women just like you. Each episode brings to the table juicy conversations designed to help you feast on midlife. And if you're looking for more information about menopause, nutrition and intuitive eating, check out the Midlife Feast Community, my monthly membership that combines my no-nonsense approach that you all love to nutrition with community, so that you can learn from me and others who can relate to the cheers and challenges of midlife. Hi everyone, welcome to this week's episode of the Midlife Feast.

Jenn Salib Huber: 0:53

Do you have a job Meaning? Do you work outside of the house? Do you go to a workplace? Maybe go to an office or wherever you go to work? If you work outside the home?

Jenn Salib Huber: 1:04

If you do, and if you're in midlife any stage, and if you're especially having symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, chances are midlife and menopause have gotten in the way of you feeling confident doing your job. Maybe it's because you're not sleeping, so you're feeling more tired. Maybe you've got brain fog and you're forgetting things, or maybe you're having those really fun crime scene periods and you're afraid to stand up after a meeting. If so, you are going to enjoy this conversation with Lauren Chiron, who is the founder and CEO of Women of a Certain Stage, and she has spent the last decade championing the cause of transforming menopause from a taboo topic into a powerful conversation about empowerment and systemic change within corporations.

Jenn Salib Huber: 1:52

I've wanted to talk about the workplace side of menopause for a long time, and Lauren is definitely the perfect person to have had that conversation with. So, as always, enjoy this one and let me know what you think. If you haven't noticed, there's a new little send me a text button on the bottom of the show notes, so just below the podcast intro, and this is a fun new little feature that we're trying out, and I would love to hear from you. If you have comments or questions about this episode or any of them, just let me know by using that little function. Hi, lauren, welcome to the Midlife Feast.

Lauren Chiren: 2:29

Hi, it's so good to be here. I'm excited about our conversation today.

Jenn Salib Huber: 2:32

I am too. So we're talking about, you know, kind of a very important conversation, but one that isn't as front and center all the time when it comes to menopause, which is talking about menopause. Which is talking about menopause, midlife and the workplace.

Lauren Chiren: 2:49

And you know so there.

Jenn Salib Huber: 2:51

You know, we know that I think the stats are something like a third of the workforce, of women in the workforce are over over 50. I'm sure that you know those numbers better than I do, but, you know, when we think about professions where people are working well into their 50s and 60s, all of those people anyone with a uterus in you know is going to be going through menopause, and so they can potentially be spending a decade of their career going through this, this major transition. So, but I'd love to hear a little bit about you and kind of tell us about you and what you do and why this area in particular has become something that you're so involved with.

Lauren Chiren: 3:32

Yeah, really interesting. I would say that perhaps someone like myself is probably going to go through at least half their working life in menopause. I became menopausal at 37. I didn't know I had my son and it was a fairly traumatic birth. He was very ill for a period ofause. I became menopausal at 37. I didn't know, I had my son and it was a fairly traumatic birth. He was very ill for a period of time. I became an unintended sole parent and I was senior leader in financial services.

Lauren Chiren: 3:54

So at the time I was just losing my self-confidence. I was losing my self-esteem. I was getting very anxious for no apparent reason. I was even sitting in meetings where I was having to sip hot water because my throat was so tight with anxiety I couldn't even squeak little words out. And I was very fit, very healthy.

Lauren Chiren: 4:11

You know I've got backgrounds quite a senior background in sport as well and I left my job thinking I had early onset dementia in my early 40s.

Lauren Chiren: 4:22

So I was really convinced I would have to find someone else to bring up my son, that I would be rocking in the corner of a home somewhere. And when my doctor turned around and said it's just menopause, I was the happiest menopausal woman in the UK and I knew in that minute I had to do whatever I could to learn about the topic, to understand what it was, to support employers to make sure they could embrace menopause in the workplace, and also make sure people knew what menopause was and how it could impact them and what they could do about it. So for the last 10 years I've been working with large corporate organizations across the world to help them become menopause savvy and menopause supportive, and I'm spending the next 10 years training people to do what I do so that we can get more people out in the world to really change the narrative on menopause and make it a non-issue, because it shouldn't be. We're at the peak of our lives.

Jenn Salib Huber: 5:13

It's true, and so I want to kind of share some of the stories that I hear from people, and maybe this can you know, lead into you telling us a bit about what employers don't know but need to know.

Jenn Salib Huber: 5:25

But you know, I, when I talk to people who, for example, work in an office where they might be sitting around a table you know boardrooms come to mind, but just any kind of like group team situation One of the things they often say is oh, I hate having to give presentations now because I'm guaranteed to have a hot flash either just before or just at the start, and it often leads them to not volunteer to do things, so they'll step back from taking the lead on a project, or they'll step back from being the face of a project or something because they feel embarrassed. They don't want to admit because often it's a group of men. They don't want to admit that, oh my gosh, I'm in menopause because it still feels or is seen as a sign of weakness. And there's a lot of anger, obviously, but it just seems crazy that in 2024, this is still something that we're having to navigate. Is that kind of a story that you've heard as well?

Lauren Chiren: 6:45

she's had a flood or she's had leakage because she's suffering with bladder issues and she's she's gone right through whatever she's been wearing. Um, I've actually personally, when I worked, when I was in the office, I remember a girlfriend of mine calling me over at the other side of the building and said bring my, bring your kit bag and bring your coat, just come behind me, put your coat around my waist and follow me to the ladies and she literally bled through a tampon and pads and she literally put on my sweaty gym kit just because she didn't have anything to change into and that was all that was available for her. So these things are real and the reality is our biology means that we bleed. We may or may not have pregnancies and miscarriages, we may have all sorts of responsibilities, and then we go through perimenopause.

Lauren Chiren: 7:28

But who told us? You told us, you know I definitely hadn't had a conversation with my mother about when you get to this age, these things could happen to you. And then you know you stop having a cycle and this is what it's all about and it can last for this length of time. Nobody, nobody, told me about that growing up, and I've got a really deep background in human performance. So background in psychology and personal training, sports therapy, nutrition, mental health. You know I've studied anatomy and physiology and I've never really touched on endocrinology or anything to do with our hormones until the last 10 years and it's fascinating that we could have been so blindsided with a topic like this.

Jenn Salib Huber: 8:06

And so imagine I mean all as recently as you know, the last year I think it was Dr Joyce Harper co-authored a study that found that something like 60% of people in perimenopause did not feel informed, did not know that they were in perimenopause. So imagine if the the uterus owners going through it weren't aware that it was happening. What percentage of the people who aren't in that stage of life even have this on their radar? Right, whether we're talking about younger female co-workers, whether we're talking about men, whether we're talking it doesn't matter. There's such a gap in awareness that this is happening, let alone an understanding of what's happening. It's just an awareness that could be happening. I mean the flooding that. I mean that happened to me. That was one of my worst symptoms. I call them crime scene periods and it doesn't it didn't matter.

Jenn Salib Huber: 9:05

Yeah, like I mean, it didn't matter how prepared you are for it, even when you're in the thick of it. There were times when I was like no, I'm not leaving the house today, like I don't have confidence to leave the house, so I can't even imagine being in an office. I have, you know, I've worked from home for the last five years and I'm postmenopausal now, but you know just, I can't imagine the anxiety that that would cause. Oh sorry, go ahead.

Lauren Chiren: 9:32

No, no, no. I was going to say I think anxiety is. You know, every one of these symptoms if you're in an environment where you're facing other human beings. If you've got any of these symptoms, then they're likely to be anxiety provoking. So anxiety is right up at the top of the list of most of the women I've worked with.

Jenn Salib Huber: 9:49

So we have hot flashes, we have these crime scene periods that interfere with work, but also not sleeping right, so not sleeping. You know this fear of dementia as we go through brain fog, feeling like you can't quite do your job. I've heard that from so many people that they fear every performance evaluation because they'll say I know I'm not on the top of my game and I know that my boss knows that. And even when they have a great working relationship and can be very open about what's happening, there's still a fear that there isn't going to be understanding. Yeah, so what, what? How do you, where do you even start? Where do you start when you're, when you're going into a workplace and you're trying to make them menopause aware? What does that even look like?

Lauren Chiren: 10:38

Oh, it's exciting. It's exciting. I mean I've been. You know this is my third business but it's definitely where I've become an unintended CEO, because I had never planned on this being something that would, 10 years later, be developing and carrying on doing and traveling all around the world. So I've been really fortunate that my customers tend to come to me because organizations, especially large organizations, have an appetite to attract and retain senior female talent and be inclusive and have diversity of talent and in the more senior leadership roles. So they are open and they are looking to see what does that look like. So that's a great place to start.

Lauren Chiren: 11:18

The culture change doesn't happen overnight and culture change doesn't happen with a once-off lunch and learn about a menopause awareness session where people are invited and then a handful show up. That does not change make. So what I tend to do if I'm working with an organization that genuinely wants to become menopause savvy and supportive, we look at their entire colleague journey. So we'll look at job specs and person specs, job design. We'll look at how they go about their recruitment process and their entire colleague journey, from onboarding right the way through to exit. We'll look at whether they've got flags in the HR system so that we can identify whether people are taking time off for menstrual issues or for menopausal issues. So we can identify whether people are taking time off for menstrual issues or for menopausal issues, so we can start to get some metrics and understand what's going on, serving population and asking them what do they know about, what do they want to know, what do they see as being relevant to having menopause in the workplace?

Lauren Chiren: 12:06

So if we take the employee engagement surveys and we take that information and then we talk to the organisations and we create a plan, and that plan will include awareness raising, it will include line management training and soft skills training, which I think is quite lacking.

Lauren Chiren: 12:20

You know, I think, since so many people have gone remote, there is a real dearth of those soft skills being able to really notice when a colleague isn't behaving in their normal way and then, if they are or not behaving in their normal way, do we allow them to go on for so long that it does become a performance issue, or do we step in nice and early and understand how to have that conversation, how to signpost, help and support, how to adapt their working conditions to be really truly supportive. So then we'll look at policies and guidance, and I'm not a massive advocate of a menopause policy. Personally, I think that it's more important that we blend menopause into all the handbook sections so that we just have it as part of the normal rather than the standalone piece. Loads of effort and energy are poured into creating it and then it's forgotten about.

Lauren Chiren: 13:07

But different organizations, different things will work and also depend on the role types as well. So you know I work a lot of manufacturing organizations, organizations. I work a lot of oil and gas as well. So you know, different organizations get different roles. We need to make sure that we're reaching their people in an appropriate way and that it's not once and done so the training's designed around the organization, around the culture, making sure we're using inclusive language and being sensitive to, you know, depending what part of the world we're delivering the training in right. So if we're in the middle east, or if we're using inclusive language and being sensitive to, you know, depending what part of the world we're delivering the training in Right. So if we're in the Middle East or if we're in, you know, southeast Asia, we're going to be using different language.

Lauren Chiren: 13:40

The numbers are different, the research is different, people experience menopause in a different way. So I think you know really it's just about understanding where the organization's at, understanding their appetite for change and then supporting them with, you know, effective means to be able to deliver that change and just review it and then look at the next year, review it and the next year and keep on going, because the way we are experiencing menopause is going to be our experience and then, as generations come through, that's going to evolve and change. There's a lot of new medicine coming through. There's new research coming through that is giving us so much information about our experience that we'll probably manage it very, very differently in 10, 15 years time.

Jenn Salib Huber: 14:22

That's fascinating. I mean I love how thorough the process is because I mean, obviously, like you said, it really is going to depend on the industry and where in the world and things like that. When you talk to people to, to employees in in companies, what do women, what do people want as support, you know, like what do you hear them say Like, oh, if only my boss would like. What is it that they want?

Lauren Chiren: 14:51

I think it's more simple than that. I think that the reality is that once an organization is talking about menopause, one of the easiest, quickest, most cost effective things that they can do is actually to run a menopause social event every month. Now, whether that's online or it's in person, whether they have them randomly around the country or the world, you know, allowing people to feel hard, be listened to, share their experiences that, for women, is the most powerful thing. So any people that are going through menopause are absolutely going to gain so much value from just having that connection and not feeling like they're alone.

Lauren Chiren: 15:26

I definitely remember thinking I was the only one, and I was like is that kind of you feel as if you're looking over your shoulder and you just feel as if you're kind of weak or vulnerable?

Lauren Chiren: 15:34

If you're looking over your shoulder and you just feel as if you're kind of weak or vulnerable and you're trying to hide it and you're wearing more of a corporate mask and you and at the time I was in an office so what I see a lot of women doing is like the makeup was on and the hair is perfect and the nails are done and it's the perfect suits and the perfect heels and you know, pre-covid obviously, um, but you know, people put on this mask to kind of cover up what they're experiencing.

Lauren Chiren: 15:56

And I think when you get a group of people together going through menopause and they can have those conversations, that's the most powerful thing. If there is an awareness to do that, then then they can start to share what's going to be effective. So access to doctor, access to prescription, access to you know the health and lifestyle changes that can really help them navigate their way through. And when I train people like menopause coaches or menopause mentors and menopause champions, it's really emphasizing the fact that no two people's journey through menopause is going to be the same, and so when you're coaching someone or mentoring someone, there is no one-size-fits-all. Not everyone wants to or can take HRT, but there's so much more that we can do, so it's about empowering people to create their own personal menopause plan and to make sure they feel supported, they understand that they're being heard, and I think that sense of belonging is literally the most powerful thing that we can do at work.

Jenn Salib Huber: 16:48

I agree 100%. I mean, even outside of the workplace community, helping people to feel seen and heard and to know that they're not alone. There's so much therapeutic value in that, where you know, just knowing that you're not alone, right? So I mean, I've heard, you know, living in the Netherlands, being Canadian, I feel like I kind of have a pulse on both sides of the ocean of what's happening in the menopause workplace world. And whenever this discussion comes up, there's so many suggestions around flex time and fans and air conditioning and things like that. And so do you find that employers or workplaces are open to these kinds of accommodations and are they doing them Like? Are they, you know? Do they have things that they're actually doing kind of on the ground to make the day to day more comfortable?

Lauren Chiren: 17:41

Yeah, I think so. I think you know, the other thing that I've seen a lot of employers do now is just have desk fans as standard on everyone's desk. So it's not right, so it doesn't become a. There's a menopausal woman, she's got a desk, a desk fan right, because that's what we don't want to be seen to be kind of standing out and having a label on us. We want to just be able to blend in and get on with our job. So one of the other things I love now is a lot of my organizations where they have refurbished buildings and they haven't any longer got like a unique desk or a cabinet where we can store stuff. So they'll have a central locker where they have a whole um wash bag and they've got like hair bands and hair you know hair products and they've got makeup and they've got, you know, cleansers and toners and moisturizers.

Lauren Chiren: 18:27

They've got all the sanitary wear in all their toilets all sizes of sanitary wear as well, not just the small and slender um right which are like useless if you're in a heavy stage exactly, and and then they'll go as far as having a change of tights, change of, like you know, disposable pants, having different sizes of black trousers that people can borrow and bring back so that if there is an accident it's not a problem. They can just they can go and freshen up, they can go and change and come back simple things like when they're doing a refurbishment that the. I was in new york recently sorry, new jersey recently doing some training and I went to this amazing location. It was a theater location, it was amazing. Everything about it was, you know, over and above from a customer service, from a colleague experience point of view. I went to toilets. They've got communal toilets for everybody and then they have the toilets, then you come out into the wash hand basins.

Lauren Chiren: 19:30

So, if you're a woman, if you're a person who uses a menstrual cup, and you've got to come out of the toilet in front of everybody and rinse that in the wash hand basins.

Lauren Chiren: 19:34

So do you know it's?

Lauren Chiren: 19:34

It's just giving the architects the the kind of thinking around what it means to to support all genders, to support all, all sexes, and, you know, just having that inclusive lens on everything that we do.

Lauren Chiren: 19:45

So there's lots of stuff that I am seeing companies doing, and one of the organizations I work with they actually bought all their employees a wash bag that they could keep and it had their name on it, their name labeled, um, what's it called? Embroidered, embroidered into it, um, with little, a little, you know, a tano, a flannel and a towel and and everything that they needed of a shower, and they were all given one so that if you had a menstrual issue or a menopause issue or you were just having an anxiety moment where you wanted to go and freshen up, it was okay. So there's different ways to do these things that don't have to label somebody as menopausal, and I think that's taking the overarching kind of. You know, the diversity, inclusion lens on this and for me I see that as being super impactful because it starts really seeing when treat you like a human being oh my gosh, yeah, that's amazing.

Jenn Salib Huber: 20:40

I mean, all of those things, I think really reflect respect. You know, it's not just placating, it's not. You know, it's really kind of like I want to respect you and what you're going through and not just, you know, check a's, really kind of like I want to respect you and what you're going through and not just, you know, check a box and do something nice. Um, so that's really great. What would your dream be in 10 years from now? Um, yeah, well, yeah, I mean I, I, I get that, but you know, just thinking of like what, what's on your wish list that maybe is not happening to the extent that you would like it to be.

Lauren Chiren: 21:20

Yeah, I'm in the middle of making a really big switch for the business and I realized that if we are going to have somewhere in the region of one billion one point one billion people in menopause by 2030 and women over 50 are the fastest growing economically active demographic with that in mind, we need support. Right, you know, it takes a village and I love um. On a friday afternoon from two to four in the uk time, I train people to become menopause coaches. I run a run a cohort twice a year and I would love to have 20 000 menopause coaches out in the world be able to do all the corporate training, do all the corporate training, do all the corporate support and do all the actual coaching of individuals as well. So that's my goal for the next 10 years is to have 20,000 menopause coaches right across the world, making sure no person goes through menopause alone. That's amazing.

Jenn Salib Huber: 22:09

Oh my goodness, is there anything that you, if there's an employer listening, maybe somebody who hasn't thought about this. Who hasn't thought about their midlife employees? Where would you suggest that they start?

Lauren Chiren: 22:34

can tell you based on your industry and your demographics and your culture. I can tell you where the really poignant place is going to be for you to get the the biggest impact. Um, in the most positive way. I would say that the most important thing people can do is start to talk about menopause now. You can do that in a number of ways. You can include a question or two in the next employee engagement survey. You can have a flag on your HR system. You can just put a comms out coming up to World Menopause Day on the 18th of October, same day every year.

Lauren Chiren: 22:59

So if you do something for World Menopause Day, you know, get someone like me to come in and help you design something to deliver to the whole organization. Do your first lunch and learn. Do your first launching of a podcast. Do your first something coming up to october or for international women's day, if you've. You know some companies want to have something to hang things on to and to tag on to.

Lauren Chiren: 23:24

International women's day in march or world menopause day in october can be a really good start and you know we've all got to put the the stake in the ground at some point. Got to get that, that that spade and break the ground and start somewhere. But once you do something, once, I guarantee there will be a ton of feedback from the people in the organization and that feedback will then help you shape and guide and design what you're going to do forward. And there's plenty of organizations out there that can help you do that, apart from me. But, um, we've been doing it for a long time and there is so much that can be done. You know, no matter what role whether it's frontline workers, whether it's people working, you know support individuals, whether it's someone in a factory or an office there's a lot we can do and we can always design stuff so it can be bite-sized and easy to digest and really accessible to make a difference and get people feeling really confident and competent to talk about the topic of menopause.

Jenn Salib Huber: 24:18

That's amazing. Thank you so much for this conversation. It's been really fascinating to kind of hear from you know someone who does this full time, but also just to kind of hear the process that you know there really is a lot of it sounds like kind of foundational work being done in organizations that hopefully will only continue. Lauren, what do you think is the missing ingredient in midlife?

Lauren Chiren: 24:43

Community, yeah, community. I think we get so busy looking after everything and everybody else, we can often forget to look after ourselves, and we, you know we've become quite transactional. Look after ourselves and we, you know we've become quite transactional. So I think, just be kind, care, be compassionate, listen, slow down, take a moment for yourself, look after yourself, and your capacity to to look after each other will just be so much better that's amazing.

Jenn Salib Huber: 25:08

I completely agree. Thank you so much for joining me. We will have your links and everything in the show notes for anyone who wants to learn about your work, which is amazing. But thank you so much for taking time out of your sounds like very busy schedule to chat with me today. Thank you, jen. Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode of the Midlife Feast For more non-diet, health, hormone and general midlife support. Click the link in the show notes to learn how you can work and learn from me, and if you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, please consider leaving a review or subscribing, because it helps other women just like you find us and feel supported in midlife.

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