What do your hormones have to do with your career?


in Coaching, Recruitment


Do we know what hormones are? Well, by definition they are our bodies “messengers” sending signals into our bloodstream and tissues. They work slowly, over time, and affect many different processes including our growth and development affecting our physiology and behaviour.

I believe that our physical state and how we behave is both present and bearing on what and how we work. If so, then our hormones can too.

I am really interested in the part hormones or the imbalance as well as deficiency of them play in the working lives of women (those identifying as or biologically are women) specifically during Menopause. We can take for granted that people and not just women understand what menopause      is. The Menopause is often described      as a period of “hormonal transition” with multiple types from early/peri/surgical & post menopause experienced as early as our 20’s right through to your 60’s and beyond. The NHS reports that 51 is the average age of “reported” menopause.

More often than not as identifying women, our working lives are beholden to career perfection on a linear trajectory of promotions, responsibility and workload having likely transversed another hormonal experience of fertility or infertility. With that behind us if we are lucky enough, our hormones can show up in how we are in our physical, emotional, mental and cognitive health very differently. With huge effect! The facts speak for themselves!!

  • 52.7% of the UK workforce is female (HMRC Gender pay gap report 22’)
  • The menopause is not the preserve of just white women wearing beige aged 55 having a hot flush. 
  • Translate that percentage of women into numbers and we are looking at 34.49,000,000 in the UK that have, are or will experience the Menopause.
  • 1 in 10 women are reportedly leaving the UK workforce due to menopause, that is over 1,000,000 leaving with up to 1 in 4 considering leaving.

This is all against a backdrop of a currently volatile job market where we now have more vacancies than people to fill them. Interestingly, women over 50 make up the fastest growing demographic of working people. Clearly there is a conflict here, but one that is  avoidable.

Looking openly and honestly how Menopause manifests itself in our workplaces is vital to challenging stereotypes and shifting the dial on the realms of women leaving our workforce right now.

What we see in basic terms is lost productivity due to time out, loss of key highly trained skills, gender inequality and costly hiring practices that businesses can ill afford.  Individually, women lose their sense of purpose work gives them, experiencing up to 43 differnt symptoms ranging from brain fog (this is the most cited symptom according to a recent Study from Nottingham University) to depression, anxiety, migraines, vomiting, sleep disturbances, hot flushes, mood swings, poor memory or perception of other diseases.  The list goes one and women can experience many  at the same time and for many years.

This is a pretty bleak picture and that doesn’t even mention the many women that take their own lives.  Those aged 45-54 have the highest suicide rate among women (Office for National Statistics 2021). 

However, it doesn’t have to be this way with appropriate provision, policy, guidance, support and dialogue. These all massively impact the health, choice and trajectory of our female careers.

So where do we look for change and help?  There are many places, social platforms are building communities, momentum and collective spirit such as @menopausemandate & @menopausematters. These are just two examples in the instragram space. Then, individuals such as Mariella Frostrup, Davina Macall, Carolyn Harris MP, Karen Arthur and countless more are talking and not shutting up.  They are taking action to give women their space and voices as what it is like in this experience. Only this week, I read Dr Sam Hiew’s post on perimenopause ADHD attributes because of the impact oestrogen has on dopamine. 

So, what does the role businesses and government have on the individual experience?  Central      funding on elements as basic as prescription charges can make a transformative difference for a woman to afford HRT in our current cost of living crisis. Finally, last week the law was changed to charge a one-off annual fee of £18.70 for those needing HRT as an intervention thus removing the £230 a year barrier for women who often have to decide between their health and other vital living costs.

So, there is light at the end of the tunnel, businesses are beginning to put in place frameworks through policy, programmes and people such as Channel 4’s initiatives but this needs more attention, more dialogue, more action and more consistency to make wholesale lasting change so that future generations of women and frankly all genders will benefit from.  I look back to recognise my mother’s experience and forward to my daughters to see what can be possible.

This is not the full story. Far from it. The journey through all menopause types, is complex and so deserving of our attention to ensure we keep talent in businesses to flourish, support women holistically in career choices that arguably will fuel UK economic recovery and growth.

I believe that the experience of all menopause is wholly underrepresented in the areas of recruitment, career mentoring and leadership coaching that I work in and I would love to hear from individuals about how the menopause matters to      their work experiences.  So that we can build dialogue, awareness and understanding through us as individuals making informed career choices that employers, businesses and government support and respond to shifting hormones as a time for “pause” to what in eastern cultures for thousands of years have called women’s “second spring”.