“I’ve been a group sales director for a long time and I’m as comfortable in this role as I am being a mum and a wife but last year I found my tipping point, which seemed to creep up on me from almost nowhere.
“I was driving home from a regional meeting up in the north, the meeting had been long, and mostly positive, but I had this really strange sensation of feeling overwhelmed and my heart began racing. It was an isolated incident, but that same feeling came back several days later. And then it became an almost every day event. Across several weeks, those small things that I would take in my stride, started to feel huge and insurmountable. I was due a holiday and I put those feelings down to tiredness and assumed after a break from work, I’d bounce back to being me. That didn’t happen. Very quickly brain-fog and anxiety became a feature of my day and I started to question my capability to do my job. It took such a hold that I began to dread certain aspects of my role such as taking center-stage at large events and chairing meetings, a concept that once just part of my job, just felt completely overwhelming and terrifying.
“The turning point for me was a simple thing by comparison – it was forgetting my PC password! A password I’d had forever (yes, I know you’re meant to change them), it simply left my brain, not for a few minutes or long enough to make a coffee, but forever. It was an entire IT reset. That small little action we take for granted, hardwired into our daily work life, just escaped me. Soon to follow was colleague’s names or everyday words just take so much longer to recall. I was already chatting to my GP about HRT and the magic little patch to help with other symptoms, and after sorting out the right dose and regime, some of the symptoms of my menopause started to improve. I’m not going to lie, I’m not the Justine Elliott I was back in 2020, but I’m incredibly grateful to be able to speak openly about how I feel at work and my daily struggle with the big M.
“Whilst every women’s experience of the menopause is different, mine is by no means unusual and as I speak to more and more women common themes are that of being unable to cope, passing up promotion opportunities or even leaving work as they struggle with symptoms of the menopause. In fact, research I’ve seen from BUPA estimates nearly 1 million women leave the labour market due to issues such as brain fog, lack of concentration or low mood, affecting their confidence and ability to work.
“It goes without saying that women should not be giving up the careers they’ve worked so hard to forge due to the menopause. In an industry that already has a huge gender imbalance, construction cannot afford to lose any more female talent and skills. Across the board, we see businesses putting a great deal of effort into recruiting women and we need to ensure that these skills are not lost further down the path. A complete cultural change in the industry is required to ensure both women and men are better supported and I am proud to be championing this within Lovell.
“It’s just the beginning, but recently we have implemented a varied framework of tools to support our colleague with menopause, encouraging conversation around this once unmentioned subject and educating individuals on the impact it can have. Through regular webinar programmes and workshops we are normalising the subject, reassuring individuals that we understand the emotions they face and are here to support them.
“And it isn’t just female colleagues that we are supporting. One in four of the staff who attended our recent webinar on the menopause were men, keen to understand how they can better support female colleagues, their wives, partners and other family members. Men play an important role in the culture change we need to instil in the UK and mustn’t be forgotten in this journey. As a senior leader in this business it is obvious to me that society needs to ensure that men and women know how to chat about menopause, with empathy, understanding and an open mind if real change is to take place. Menopause conversations should be as normal as a walk in the park and we owe it to ourselves, our colleagues and our families to make this happen.”