Meet the women changing how society treats the menopause

Sculptures of ‘invisible women’ have popped up all over the UK today. Catherine Scott meets the Yorkshire businesswoman behind them

Heather Jackson

Friends Heather Jackson and Sam Simister thought their 50s would be their time.

Having both worked their way to the top of their professions, it would be a time when they could work through their extensive bucket list. Heather had already gone to Everest Base Camp and climbed Kilimanjaro but had more she wanted to do.

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But she and Sam were totally unprepared for what actually happened. The perimenopause hit Heather and the menopause hit Sam like a brick wall.

L-R Heather Jackson and Sam Simister co founders of Gen M

“I had no idea what was happening to me,” explains mother-of-two Heather, from Holmfirth.

“I was constantly going to 
the doctors. I thought I had dementia due to memory loss, cancer as my shoulder ached constantly and I was seized with anxieties I had never experienced before.”

It was while on a break with Sam in Portugal that she told her friends what she was going through and that doctors thought she might actually be depressed and had suggested she try antidepressants.

“Sam explained that I wasn’t depressed and said she thought I was going through the perimenopause, I had never even heard of it. But when I Googled it I found I had 28 of the 48 symptoms.”

heather Jackson

Having spent her working life in the corporate field, including founding and chairing An Inspiration Journey, a multi-platformed organisation that focuses on gender imbalances in the workplace, Heather was sure that she would find what she needed on the internet to help her.

“I spent two days on the internet and became disappointed and then frustrated and angry at the lack of information and the information that was there was conflicting.”

Used to being in control and finding solutions to problems, the two businesswomen 
decided to do something to 
help the 13 million women like them.

“It is unbelievable that in the 21st century something that is happening to 20 per cent of the population at any one time is still so woeful. Women deserve better,” says Heather. And so they set about designing a one stop website for anyone affected by the menopause.

During Menopause Awareness Month they have launched GEN M, a website which ensures that everyone navigating the perimenopause and menopause, as well as their support systems, can find the answers they need – quickly.

“Women deserve better and we all have a duty in making this life-changing transition that little bit easier,” explains Heather. They have also carried out research which has culminated in a white paper which is being launched today.

“This research has substantiated what we already thought – that society is letting down women when they need support the most.

“What we’ve found is that irrefutably, women in their mid-life feel overlooked by society and unable to find the support they need from loved ones, employers or brands, whilst struggling with debilitating but often invisible symptoms from panic attacks and insomnia to depression.”

Generation Menopause: The Invisibility Report is described as a white paper evidencing the neglect and disregard for the 13 million menopausal women in the UK today. And to mark its publication, statues of ‘‘invisible women’’ can be seen in cities across the UK,

“We want to deliver a wake-up call to brands, employers and individuals and represent the 87 per cent of menopausal women who believe that mid-life women are overlooked by society,” says Heather.

Research involving 2,010 women aged from 35 to 60 has brought a new depth of insight on the distinct lack of support, education or knowledge on the menopause, as well as the extent to which the women in our society are suffering in silence – 10 per cent of whom have an agonising transition that lasts up to 12 years.

The eight out of 10 
menopausal women in work – the fastest growing demographic in the workforce today – appear to be the most significantly impacted.

The research found that society’s stigma around the topic is having a grave mental and emotional impact on women going through the menopause with 41 per cent feeling ‘‘lonely, invisible, irrelevant and dispensable’’.

“Menopause is not something we want brands or employers to fear,” says Sam, who is group director of Innocent. “It is a natural transition that half of the world will one day experience. It is our ambition to engage with purpose-led brands on collaborative solutions and tried and test products that cater to our needs and help make the experience better for women.

“The menopause is not just about hot sweats and HRT. 
From shampoos for thinning 
hair to extra intensity creams for your skin and temperature regulating clothing and bedding – our shopping needs go 
through ‘the change’ as well. We need the brands and retailers we’ve been loyal to, to transition with us.

“The invisible women sculptures intend to deliver a statement to wider society that we can’t leave women to suffer in silence – we are not invisible; we are Generation Menopause and through collaborative partnerships, together, we can navigate this.”

Today sees phase one of GEN M but the women have big plans for the site which they see more as a portal where people can start to access the information they need.

Three quarters of menopausal women think they are overlooked by society and brands

72 per cent self-diagnosed their menopause, mainly 
from searching online and learning from their own experiences

43 per cent of women were unprepared for the menopause

40 per cent of women knew almost nothing about it until they started going through it

Over a third felt blindsided by the menopause, struggled to find the support they needed

Less than half of women had heard of the term perimenopause

92 per cent would like to see workplaces better set up to support menopausal women at work

To access the Generation Menopause white paper and find out more about GEN M, please visit: https://gen-m.com