Menopause in the Workplace Q&A with Anna Allerton

With our Empowering Leadership: Menopause in the Workplace webinar taking place soon, we sat down with one of our guest hosts, Anna Allerton, to find out what led her to become an Executive Coach and start Allerton Coaching and what businesses need to do to help support those who are going through menopause.

To get things started, can you share a bit about yourself and your career? 

“So my background is in journalism. I was at Sky Sports for almost 20 years, and a lot of the work that I was doing was primarily around the growth of women’s sports and really pioneering that shift in broadcasting that occurred around 2012 when we began to see it break into the mainstream.

In 2012 I launched the first ever sports news magazine-style programme for women called Sportswomen, which went on until 2019. Then I moved away from the newsroom and began working as the Group Head of Internal Communications working closely with the exec team for a while.

But I eventually left journalism because of my experience with perimenopause, and that’s what I’m really looking forward to talking about in the upcoming webinar.”

How did perimenopause affect you?

“I suffered from some really debilitating symptoms when I began going through the perimenopause at 38, especially brain fog, which does not really go well with live TV.

It affected me so much that I said to my husband that I wanted to see a neurologist because I felt like I was suffering from some form of early-onset dementia. I felt like my brain just wasn’t working like it used to. I had no idea what was happening to me and just didn’t feel like myself; I felt like I was going mad.

It was really quite frightening, and it made me feel like I couldn’t do my job anymore. Thankfully, I had a colleague who was also going through perimenopause as well who came to me and said that she thought that I was experiencing similar symptoms to her and that I should get help regarding it.

Even after this, it took me a year to finally be taken seriously by my GP and to start treatment for my symptoms. The treatment was very successful. During this process, I researched menopause in the workplace like I would tackle covering a story and found I wasn’t the only one to go through this experience. So, I decided to take a different path in my career and support those who were going through similar situations.

Looking back, one of the things that I really needed was a safe space to process this change effectively, and I needed someone to challenge me and hold me accountable professionally, as well as listen to me and my concerns, which is exactly what I do now as a triple-accredited trained and certified Executive Coach.”


What’s the best first step that people can take to ensure that these sorts of experiences become less common?

“Just having conversations and learning about menopause is crucial for both men and women.

We’re taught so little about it growing up, and not having that baseline understanding and empathy can make all the difference to those who are suffering from symptoms, especially when they’re looking for support.

Events like these webinars are great for getting the ball rolling in this regard, as they provide a platform for people to ask questions and to learn without the fear of being judged or feeling stupid.

Really, it’s all about starting these conversations.”

Do you think awareness and support regarding the topic have grown in recent years?

“I think there’s a lot more noise around the topic, but the data suggests that in terms of support, there really hasn’t been enough significant change.

For example, a report from Newson Health found that 60% of workplaces don’t offer any support for those going through perimenopause, while the Fawcett Society revealed that 41% of respondents still find that menopause is treated as a joke in their organisation.

So, it’s not moving at the pace that I would like to see. This is partly because there’s a lot of hesitation regarding the topic, and we need to invite men in managerial positions into the conversation, as they make up the majority of managers in the UK and across the world.

Naturally, they’re reluctant to dive into a topic like this because they don’t want to intrude or make people feel uncomfortable and may not know the effect it can have on people. Essentially, we need some vulnerable leadership from those who don’t know what they’re doing, we need them to ask for help in knowing what to do.

And with 1 in 10 women quitting due to the menopause, serious change needs to start soon.”

Why do you think there is so much more “noise” around the topic now than before?

Women over 50 are the fastest growing part of the workforce in the UK, so business interests are beginning to align with calls for social progress. Organisations can no longer miss out on employing these fantastic women as it’ll start affecting their bottom line, and for a lot of businesses, that’s the trigger to take action.

There’s also a huge aspect of retention that companies need to consider, as organisations which have women in their leadership teams perform better, and realistically this is only possible when you retain women who are in their late forties and fifties.

I think menopause support could be the key piece in breaking through the glass ceiling in the UK.

While it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, leaders need to stop coming at it as a “Am I going to get sued?” angle and instead look at it as an opportunity to improve their team’s culture and create a greater sense of cohesion and unity for their employees.”

What key aspects are there that leaders and organisations need to take into consideration to support those going through menopause?

“They need to begin to open the conversation, offer training for managers and create a strategy of support for employees experiencing menopause. Raising awareness through storytelling and lived experience can help normalise this subject, break down some of the stigma, and build awareness about what may be going on during this time in their lives.

Creating spaces where managers and direct reports can have really safe and trusted conversations about this can boost retention. Businesses don’t necessarily need to create entirely new roles and structures for this, but by supporting these women, the return on investment is always massive, as you have improved productivity and loyalty from those you help.

A great example of an approach that works in this way is the progress we’ve seen made when it comes to mental health at work. In the space of just over a decade, we’ve seen the benefits that both businesses and employees gain when their health is taken into consideration and when it’s taken seriously.

Companies should reflect on the processes they went through regarding mental health support and could mirror those when it comes to menopause. Start those conversations, listen and see what it is that your teams need from you; it can be that easy to get things started.”

What are the biggest concerns that are stopping women from speaking out?

“It all comes back to fear. A lot of women are still worried that they’ll be judged or let go if they express their need for support, and that only exacerbates the symptoms that they’re facing.

And because it’s such a personal topic, you need it to trickle from individuals to businesses; it has to be organic. You also need to make it clear where they can find support. If you do have it, you can’t have it buried away somewhere.

On the other hand, menopause can be a massive confidence blow, especially when you’re facing terrible symptoms such as brain fog, hot flashes or intense bleeding. It makes you feel like you’re an imposter and that you don’t deserve to be in the position that you’re in currently. This can throw boundaries completely off balance and mean that those suffering don’t put themselves first as they should.

It’s also just exhausting; it takes such a toll on your body and your mind. You can come back after a long day at work and unravel. It can be so overwhelming, especially when you’re concerned with how your colleagues may see you and masking your symptoms at work. This is even worse with the current culture of always being on, even outside of work.

I think these effects are linked to why 21% of women not going for promotions; women are sacrificing their careers because they don’t feel like themselves and lack the extra support to help them back their skills and experience.

But these conversations are the first step in ensuring that we start tackling this issue, and after that, it really comes down to giving managers the knowledge and the resources they need to support their teams, as they’re the ones who can really make a difference day-to-day, not leadership teams.

It can come from the top down, but the most effective support comes from those we can see every day from Monday to Friday.”

If you’re interested in finding out what we covered in our first Menopause in the Workplace webinar, you can read the round-up of the event by clicking here.

Also, if you want to find out more about Anna’s work and how she can support you as an Executive Coach, you can find out more about her work by visiting

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Elle Slater

17th June