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Luan Isaac from Aggregrate Industries talks about how she and colleagues have been able to set up support and policies to help older women in the workplace negotiate the menopause and perimenopause.
Luan Isaac was 41 and her youngest son was just a year old when she first felt perimenopausal symptoms such as dramatic mood swings, which she tried to hide at work. She describes feeling angry, irritable and depressed all the time and says it was exhausting concealing how she was feeling.
Then at 43, Luan, who is PA to the Chief Information Officer and Admin Supervisor at construction materials company Aggregate Industries, spoke to her GP to get checked out as the symptoms got worse and included brain fog, hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety and sleep problems. She would wake up at 3am and not be able to get back to sleep for hours. Her GP did a blood test and found that she was perimenopausal. “I wasn’t expecting that in my early 40s,” she says. She now sees a specialist menopause nurse at her GP, who is very supportive.
Luan has been with Aggregate Industries, which won WM People’s Best for Mental Health Award this year, since 2005 and working in the IT department since 2014. She says her manager is very good when it comes to his team’s work life balance. When she started in the department, Luan did a reduced day to give her greater flexibility when her sons were younger. She now works full time and her eldest son, now 18, and her partner, both help out with her younger son, aged eight.
When she spoke to her manager about her symptoms he was also very supportive and encouraged her to tell her story to make it easier for other women at Aggregate Industries to talk more openly about the effects. The response was very good. Luan got a position on Aggregate Industries’ Women Empowered Affinity Network, a colleague-lead group focused on improving equality for women in the workplace. Luan specifically leads as the person in the group focused on doing more on the menopause and female wellness.
Since then, she has not only been involved with network group webinars on the menopause and directed women to useful sources through the network’s community page, but she has also been tackling wider company opportunities.
Luan, along with the Network Lead and HR have produced a company-wide policy on menopause, which covers office and on-site employees, and outlines the reasonable adjustments that can be made to help women going through the menopause. These include things such as flexible working, PPE for women, and better ventilation, including the provision of handheld fans on building sites. In addition, she has recorded a podcast with her manager and is keen to do more with other women and their line managers to help women feel more comfortable talking about it.
“Talking about it is good for people’s mental health. Knowing I have support at home and at work makes it easier and I can deal with it better,” she says.
Aggregate Industries also has a menopause support group which offers a safe, confidential space where women can go for a chat and a coffee. This is online currently. “Just knowing that it is there helps women to feel more at ease and supported at work,” says Luan.
This year, Luan, who is also a mental health first aider, has been working on getting further training for line managers so that they understand better what women might be going through.
Another focus is on hearing from men about their experience of supporting women going through the menopause either at home or as managers at work.
“I’m a little bit gobsmacked by how well it has gone,” she says. “I am proud that I have pushed this agenda forward and that Aggregate Industries has taken it on board.”
Hazel Mooney, Senior HR Business Partner and EDI Lead, adds: “Menopause has historically been a topic everyone has been aware of, but few really considered the impact to colleagues or organisations. Reported data tells us that menopausal women are the fastest growing workforce demographic and from an AI perspective that equates to around 8% of our colleagues. Having Luan and the network raise this topic has enabled us to put a spotlight on an important matter and work together to create a policy that not only supports both menopausal colleagues but also enables managers to positively support, signpost and have conversations which they may have avoided.”