Welcome to the third instalment of our celebration of Women’s History Month, where, throughout March, we will be shining a weekly spotlight onto inspirational women who are helping change the world.
In this interview, we chatted to Jayne Woodman, founder of The Menopause Team. The Menopause Team helps employers and employees establish significantly better menopause outcomes for women and organisations. Outcomes which clarify how to support menopausal colleagues, offer more menopause understanding and maintain a diverse and inclusive workforce.
We were really excited to hear from Jayne about the work she does!
Can you give me a bit of background on what The Menopause Team does?So, at the menopause team, we’re really focussed on raising menopause awareness regardless of age or gender, and I think that’s really important because although this is directly about women, it affects others indirectly as well.
In terms of age it isn’t just about women in mid life; this is something that everybody needs to know about. So it’s our intention, then, to make sure that everybody knows about the menopause; the hormones and the symptoms of the menopause as well as knowing the options for ways to successfully manage the menopause, because people don’t understand their symptoms and therefore they don’t understand the related solutions, either. So we’re really focussed on trying to improve that situation.
I think when I started in 2019 there weren’t so many people, and other organisations have developed over time as they realise that there is such little knowledge out there about this.
Did you find there was a big gap in the ‘market’, for lack of a better phrase, due to stigma and everything, did you find there aren’t many organisations discussing the menopause?
Yes, there’s been a change. I think that’s because there’s been some key players as well. I’m not sure if you know about Carolyn Harris, the MP for Swansea East? She brought the Menopause (Support and Services) Bill in October 2021, but there was a big build up to that going through parliament, so she was raising awareness at a really interesting and strategic level.
So you’ve seen that in even that short amount of time?
And then you’ve got people like the Countess of Wessex, who, as part of her charity, has the Workplace Pledge, so pledging that you are a menopause friendly organisation.
Those women have high profiles, lots of social media, lots of media generally, so I think the conversation started to open up and people started to talk about it, but also organisations realised that this was something they needed to engage with.
I had a bit of a tricky time, myself, with menopause, all down to my lack of knowledge. Like most people I thought it was down to hot flashes, but it’s much more than that. I realised that there was also a lack of knowledge amongst women and society generally. I also then realised that there was a lack of knowledge in medical professions and workplaces. My professional background is being a human resources manager, and I realised that i’d seen this play out in the workplace, as well. So I thought, right, I'm going to do something about it and go educate myself, and that developed into something that allowed me to educate other people, too.
What pushed you to found The Menopause Team?
Menopause is not or has not been on the agenda in schools. So lots of young people are leaving school without knowing about it, although Carolyn Harris has changed that, so it’s now on the curriculum in Wales and england. And the other thing is that 41% of universities allow GPs to qualify with no mandatory menopause training. Even those that have done mandatory training; it might be 30 minutes, it might be 2 hours, but that’s absolutely not enough to cover the complexities of this issue. So women are being hideously served by the medical profession, as well. And that’s another part of Carolyn Harris’ menopause revolution campaign, is to change what’s happening in universties. So all of these things, really, then, meant I had a platform with which to do my own work. I wasn’t just a voice in the dark.
That’s a really interesting perspective, not just educating those who are going through it. As with most facets of reproductive health, they really don’t tell you enough at all.
What’s been your greatest achievement since you founded The Menopause Team?
I think setting up the organisation, generally, because I’d come from the position of menopause taking away my confidence and increasing my stress and anxiety. I had been at a bit of a low ebb, so actually setting it up was a big thing for me. But I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve been able to engage with many, many women and raise menopause awareness in so many different areas, hopefully meaning that other people will have a far less tricky experience than my own.
What are some of your goals or aspirations for The Menopause Team?I want to continue to educate more and more people about the menopause, so people can achieve their potential in their professional lives and also their personal lives will be improved. The Guardian reported this year that 1 million women might leave employment because they can’t cope with their menopause symptoms, and they’re not getting support. That figure needs to be brought right down, if it should be a figure at all. So my goals are around this sort of thing. Some of the figures that you see are that 1 in 10 women leave, 50% of women don’t go for the promotions they deserve etc. So these drive me forward, these are my goals in terms of reaching people and getting them to realise there’s a different route.
I’m an empty nest person and a single mum. Children, in that context, can really dominate your life, and it’s really hard to think of a purpose beyond them. My favourite thing, really, is that this has given me purpose, knowing what makes a positive difference in the life of others. I think I’ve been searching for something that would make me want to get out of bed in the morning, and it does that for me every day. I think right, okay, what am I focussing on every day in the context of menopause that will make a difference?
What’s your favourite thing about what you do?
Well, I’m totally inspired by the authentic and determined leadership of Greta Thunberg, the climate activist, and I think she’s amazing on many levels. And the fact she sat outside the swedish parliament alone and now so many people are engaged with what she has to say and trying to follow the science. In this world of lack of authenticity, she is totally authentic.
Who are three women who inspire you?
I think Malala Yousafzai is amazing. I think these women are amazing and outstanding role models for their generation, but also for other generations as well. I don’t think we’ve seen authentic leaders like these two women for a long time, and so young.
And then, in the menopause field, the foremost menopause specialist is Dr Louise Newson. She’s tirelessly fought to put menopause on the agenda to support women, raise awareness, educate the menopause profession. I think it’s been really tough, because at the time when she started, people didn’t want to listen. They didn’t want to change. So she’s also very inspiring.
I think it’s about more focus on men than it should be, and so it’s about having conversations and trying to broaden the understanding on how we can all engage with whatever we wish to.
What does gender bias mean to you?
With my own daughter, I was absolutely infuriated when toys would come with gender bias. With veterinary surgery toys, for example, the vet would be a man and the veterinary nurse was a woman. So that sort of thing, we don’t see equality enough.
I don’t know if you saw that BBC documentary called ‘No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?’—that’s brilliant, it’s evidence-based research. They go into a school on the Isle of Wight and they try to remove gender bias. What they found was, by the time the kids were 7, they already had very fixed ideas that footballers were men, nurses were women etc., and I realised from there that even at nursery school you’ve got to make an effort to break that gender bias. And they show an experiment where they get a nursery nurse to play with some kids and she pushes pink furry toys to the girls and robots and trucks to the boys. It’s down to all of us. Families, schools, infant schools—we’ve all got a part to play.
I think it’s about perfection, really. None of us are perfect, and striving to be perfect, no matter what you do or say or how hard you try… you’re human and therefore we will all make mistakes and we can’t change the fact that we make mistakes. So stop trying to be perfect because you waste a lot of energy. I think I’d also tell myself to believe in you, and be you. You’re so much more interesting than you know.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give your younger self?
What do you want to see more of in the coffee industry?
I’m interested in the supply chain, the root of the supply chain, and the coffee growers themselves. I think they don’t get the respect they deserve, and the wage or the recompense they deserve, generally speaking. I think we need to champion the whole of the supply chain.
I think that’s especially relevant in what I’ve been seeing during my research for these articles. Women especially can be really exploited and still are expected to look after the children while farming and then are not paid fairly; they get their crops taken away and are not compensated at all. It's up to all of us to ensure we're investing in good, fair coffee trade.
And I think people drink whatever coffee and are prepared to pay £3, £4 for a cup, and such a small percentage of that goes back.