An Inclusivity Unlocked! webinar
about menopause inclusivity
Wednesday 22 March 2023
4.30 – 5.30 pm
“My mum called it ‘The Change’. She never told me anything else about it. When the brain fog arrived I was terrified I’d got early onset dementia. I didn’t have the words to explain it to myself, never mind my colleagues. I just kept beating myself up about being rubbish at everything. The despair was almost debilitating.”
Andrea Brewster, IP Inclusive Lead Executive Officer
Thankfully, our perceptions of the menopause and perimenopause are changing. We’re more aware of the symptoms and generally have better access to help. It’s gradually becoming a less taboo subject and people of all genders and ages are opening up to one another about their experiences. Employers are beginning to introduce more support in the workplace and are working harder to avoid talented women disengaging when they reach (peri)menopause. Even the government has to grapple – although not always successfully – with policy and legislative change.
In this webinar we explored these changes in more depth, as we asked not only “What more can be done?” but also “How can we build on this in our own sector?”
We heard first from menopause expert Lauren Chiren, founder and CEO of Women of a Certain Stage. Lauren talked us through the changes she’s witnessed – and in many cases helped to drive – in recent years, and provided tips for both individual professionals and their employers to create more menopause-savvy workplaces. She also told her own personal menopause story, that continues to inspire her to improve support and open conversations around menstruation, fertility and menopause.
Maria Hall, Chief Marketing & Business Development Officer at Mewburn Ellis, then shared her hands-on experiences of implementing menopause policies in an IP firm, from making the commercial case through to resources, training and longer-term communications.
We were then joined by other IP professionals from our menopause working group, including Marianne Privett (AA Thornton), Vikki Townsend and the webinar chair Jane Wainwright (Potter Clarkson). They shared their own thoughts, both personal and professional, about menopause inclusivity in the workplace. There was time for a few questions from our audience, who left with plenty of ideas for making positive changes in their own life and work.
Who was it for?
This webinar was open to anyone who works in or with the UK’s IP sector, whatever their role. It was also for people of all genders and all ages.
You may be going through, or have been through, (peri)menopause yourself. Maybe you want to be better informed for when you do? Or maybe you want to help others – colleagues, friends and family members – through this potentially difficult time. Our discussion (which you can access through the recording link below) will be just as useful for managers, team leaders and policy makers as it is for their individual team members.
Meet the panel
Lauren Chiren is a trail-blazing entrepreneur and globally renowned keynote speaker, trainer and coach on executive women’s wellbeing, with a particular focus on navigating menopause. After leaving her senior role in the financial sector due to what she believed to be early-onset dementia, she was shocked to learn that she was actually experiencing menopause.
Drawing on her extensive qualifications in psychology, mental health, nutrition, coaching, menopause and personal training, Lauren is a trusted expert who has helped thousands of executives, celebrities and athletes around the world. She educates employers on the business benefits of being supportive of menopause and equips women with the tools to navigate hormonal changes and challenges with confidence.
Lauren’s mission is to transform global attitudes towards menopause and help organisations to successfully support their teams through this transformative period. With her insightful directness, commercial pragmatism and passion for optimal wellbeing and resilience, Lauren stimulates important conversations about what it means to be truly well at all stages of life.
As a leading voice in the menopause movement, Lauren speaks regularly in the press, has provided evidence to Parliament and sits on the British Standards Institute committee for the first-ever standard for menstruation and menopause in the workplace.
Maria Hall is a marketing and business development expert and a member of the management board at Mewburn Ellis. She has over 25 years’ experience in the legal sector having run departments for international law firms and legal services providers. She is passionate about how Mewburn Ellis can make a difference for its people, its community and the world at large.
ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) is high on her agenda and Maria has personally signed up to the IP Inclusive Senior Leaders’ Pledge and is committed to making sure that equality and diversity are celebrated at Mewburn Ellis and that it is a firm that has diversity of thought, ideas and viewpoints.
Following her own experience of perimenopause and frustration at the symptoms and lack of help from her GP, she wanted to help other women through this challenging period in their lives. She has been a key driver in the development of the firm’s approach to menopause, championing the topic and helping implement a policy, training, collaboration group, promotions and resources across the firm. She is also active in their Women of Mewburn Ellis Network (woMEn), working to help women at the firm be the best they can be.
Maria is also the firm’s Community Champion and manages their charitable giving through the Forward Community Programme Fund which will reach £800,000 in donations this year. Many charities benefit, including donations to The Menopause Charity and other charities supporting women.
Jane Wainwright (chair)
Jane Wainwright is a Partner and Board Member at Potter Clarkson, as well as being Head of Department for the Biotechnology team. She has completed the Mental Health First Aider training and is a qualified coach, currently working towards both accreditation with the ICF and a postgraduate qualification in Business and Personal Coaching.
Jane is a passionate advocate and champion for normalising the open discussion of and seeking of help in relation to poor mental health. She uses her willingness to publicly discuss her own experiences, coupled with her senior position within the patent profession, to advocate for and support a wider openness about mental health in the IP, legal and scientific communities.
Jane added advocacy around (peri)menopause to her longer-standing openness about mental health through her own diagnosis of early menopause, which had been characterised by the rapid onset of significant mental health challenges.
The personal realisation of how difficult peri(menopause) can be for those experiencing it and those around them, as well as the difficulties of accessing help, led Jane to join the public conversation about peri(menopause).
Marianne Privett is a Partner in the Chemistry, Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical patents department at AA Thornton. Marianne is passionate about diversity and inclusion, leading the internal D&I committee at AA Thornton and co-leading IP Ability (the IP Inclusive community for disabled people, carers and their allies working within the IP professions).
Through discussing symptoms and sharing experiences with others who are perimenopausal Marianne found that the menopause is not what many people had expected. As a consequence, she decided to try to normalise the menopause by discussing it openly in her personal and professional life, since she believes that the challenges faced by almost half the population should not come as a surprise, nor should they attract shame or embarrassment. Greater openness around such a common experience, coupled with greater awareness and support in the workplace, should ensure more women can flourish during this stage of their lives, to the benefit of the women themselves and their employers.
Vikki Townsend is a senior patent attorney with 30 years’ experience in IP. She is a strong advocate for EDI, serving on her employer’s Central Functions Inclusion Counsel organising a number of company-wide EDI events and representing her employer on the IP Federation working Group for EDI. She is also an active STEM ambassador, attending schools and family events seeking to inspire children from all backgrounds in the STEM professions, and has spoken at STEM Women and In2scienceUK events with a view to inspiring older teens and graduates into the IP professions. Her current EDI passion is advocating that those beyond the menopause can still be of great value in the workplace in senior positions.
Having lost her mother, sister and cousin to cancer and learned that the family carries a corrupt BRCA2 gene significantly increasing their risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, Vikki opted to accept prophylactic surgery offered to her by her doctors. She had the surgery 10 years ago and subsequently endured surgical menopause, HRT being contra-indicated due to the family history. She had at that time recently stepped down from her partnership role, allowing herself twelve months to have and recover from the operation, and started in a new less senior role whilst still dealing with the symptoms. At that time, in the very male-dominated industry she worked in, it was not the done thing to be open about such things, so she suffered in silence discreetly trying to deal with her symptoms without drawing attention to them. She has been pleased to see that since then her employer has made great leaps in embracing EDI, including openly discussing the topic of menopause, recognising and seeking to better accommodate the needs of employees at that stage of life.
Vikki found the menopause to be quite debilitating for a few years but is now comfortably on the other side and enjoying having the energy to be more busy and more active.
Click on the image below to download the “top tips” distilled from this event.
A list of all Inclusivity Unlocked! events and resources is available here, and a compilation of the “top tips” here. If you’d like to have your say on themes or formats for future events in the series, please let us know via our short survey.
This event was free. So are all our resources. We think it’s important to keep IP Inclusive on the right side of the paywall.
That said, we do need money to keep the show on the road, so if you enjoyed the event, please consider contributing to our 2022-23 fundraising campaign. For more information – including about corporate donations – visit our fundraising page.
More about Inclusivity Unlocked!
Inclusivity Unlocked! is a banner under which we’re hosting a programme of events and resources on workplace inclusivity post-Covid. Our aim is to provide practical guidance around how workplaces and working arrangements can be made more inclusive for everyone as we build back after the pandemic. You can find out more about the project here. There’s also an up-to-date list of scheduled and past events, with links to associated follow-up resources, here.