Not so long ago the menopause was one of those words only spoken in hushed tones. Now there is a veritable tsunami of women working hard to not only dispel the myths surrounding the menopause and educate women on the help available, but also to ensure women in the workplace get the help they often so desperately need.
A recent poll by CIPD the professional body for the HR industry found that a mere 1 in 10 companies offer women specific menopause support, quite shocking really when you consider that menopausal women are the fastest growing demographic in work places across the UK.
The days of put up and shut up, however, are well and truly over.
Menopause has risen up the midlife public health agenda rapidly over the last couple of years thanks to the efforts of these fabulous “menopreneurs” and as a result has become a bit of a 21st century buzzword. So unless your head is firmly stuck down a rabbit hole you will no doubt have heard of my next Fabulous Females interviewee, Karen Kenning. She is one of three women behind Pausitivity, the campaign which aims to tackle the stigma around menopause by empowering women to spread the word themselves through social media.
A key component of the Pausitivity campaign is a poster created by Scottish graphic designer Allyson Shields listing the major symptoms, with the idea being for women to download and display it wherever they can as well as share photos of their pinned poster on social media, under the hashtag #KnowYourMenopause. It’s a creative approach which has certainly stirred up a lot of social interest with endorsements from women and men alike.
Social media fame aside, Karen is the perfect Fabulous Females interviewee, a normal woman endeavouring to use her own experience to make a difference to the lives of others. Here is a glimpse at the woman behind the poster.
- Who is or was your role model?
I hope it goes without saying that the women in my family are my original role models. My grandmothers – were feisty and hard working. My mother – remains a force of nature. My sister – independent and quirky. My recent role models are my two Pausitivity team mates, Clare and Elizabeth. We haven’t met yet, but we’re in touch every day, and I can see, (and have my own) struggles everyday. Yet despite that, we all remain passionate about helping others, and they constantly amaze me with their ability to dust themselves off, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
- What motivates you?
Making things easier for other women and my family. I have an amazing husband who works hard every day for us – he has no idea how much he is loved and appreciated, and two brilliant teenage sons, who are growing into kind and generous men. It’s a great feeling to be able to look at your children and know they are decent human beings.
- What are the values you hold dearest in life?
Honesty and kindness. I struggle with dishonesty. I don’t understand the need for deceit, and I think there is a lot to be said for simple human kindness. A kind word, a small gesture, a smile in the right place can make such a huge difference to everyone, and it costs nothing. We should all be far kinder.
- What has been your biggest challenge so far & how did you overcome it?
Depression. A hideous condition that wiped me out for a long time. It never goes away, but I am now better equipped to recognise and deal with it when I can feel it becoming an issue again. I am better able to cope with it these days – I know it passes.
- What is your proudest moment?
Without doubt, the births of both of my boys. I had difficult pregnancies, bleeding constantly through the first, and requiring blood and iron transfusions after each delivery. I spent 4 months in hospital with my second pregnancy, and there were times I didn’t think we would make it, so yes, very proud and grateful to now have two strapping and healthy teenage sons. Also, the Pausitivity Campaign – every single poster we see going on a wall, helping women to recognise symptoms and inspiring people to have conversations about menopause. We get such a thrill every time someone sends us a picture or a story about how the poster has had an impact in their lives. That’s powerful.
- What motto do you live by?
Be kind. Always.
- What advice would you give to your teenage self?
Don’t judge yourself too harshly. There will always be others more than happy to do that for you! Be your own best cheering squad!
- Who gave you the best advice and what was it?
People are always giving advice! I’m far better at giving advice than accepting it. If pushed, I would say to trust yourself. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time” Maya Angelou
- Is there anything you regret or would change about your life so far?
I try not to regret anything. Even unpleasant experiences teach you lessons.
- If you could be successful at something else in life what would it be?
Maybe a bit of daftness, but I’d LOVE to be a singer. Specifically, a backing singer for Barry Manilow! Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to hold a tune!
- How would your friends describe you?
Loyal, helpful & kind. And a dreadful worrier!
- What makes you laugh out loud?
My husband, my daft puppies and Sarah Millican
- What would your autobiography be called?
There’s Still Time…
- What does being a modern woman mean to you?
A modern woman? Or simply a woman? We are free to be who we want to be, with more opportunities open to us than ever before. The only thing that limits us is ourselves….
- What would be your desert island essential?
My husband. With him by my side, I can cope with anything. And books – my escape!
- In your own words – ” A fabulous female is…..
….every one of us. We all have something to give, something to be proud of. And women who stand up for and try to make things better for one another – that’s pretty fabulous!
Editor’s Note: Karen and her fellow Pausitivity campaigners have never met and have no funding but together they are on a mission to change the menopausal landscape for the better. To lend your support their request is simply – download a poster from tinyurl.com/KYMeno Share a selfie using #KnowYourMenopause Pin the poster up for all to see