Sunday sit-down with… Sharon MacArthur, Miss Menopause
Next up in our Billboard Interviews series is Sharon a.k.a Miss Menopause, who is on a mission to change workplaces’ attitudes toward women going through menopause.
10% of women leave the workforce and 25% consider leaving due to menopause – shocking, right?
Menopause is still considered by many to be a taboo subject, with many of us not talking about what we’re going through. But all women will go through it, so why should we suffer in silence? This is where Sharon MacArthur comes to our rescue.
After going through menopause herself and suffering from symptoms that she says ‘could have killed her’ after falling asleep at the wheel of her car alongside hearing some horror stories from other women – Sharon realised there was a lack of information out there to support women with their symptoms.
So, she channeled her anger into setting up Miss Menopause to finally help put the record straight. Now Sharon’s on a mission to educate organisations on how to support colleagues who are going through menopause.
This is why we had to have Sharon as one of the faces of our first-ever billboard campaign. After all, we’re all about giving women a voice and want nothing more than equal rights for women, especially when it involves the success of their careers.
We caught up with Sharon to chat about all things menopause, find out more about what more needs to be done to stop the taboo and the inspirational reason why she wanted to be part of our High Life North billboard.
Tell us everything about Miss Menopause?
Miss Menopause was set up over four and a half years ago when nobody wanted to talk about menopause at all in the workplace or anywhere, some people thought I was completely off track, however I’m on a mission to educate everybody not just ‘women of a certain age’. My least favourite phrase by the way.
I’m not medically trained but because of my own lived experience and the continued professional development I do I feel pretty qualified.
I go into workplaces up and down the country, online, face to face, whatever the client wants and educate people, from managers and non-managers everyone is invited.
What inspired you to set Miss Menopause up?
I was an angry menopausal woman! I started to go through menopause myself seven years ago and began having all these weird and wacky things happen to me, mentally and physically and not once did I think it was menopause. I asked around a few people and knew something had to be done as no one seemed to have any information about the subject. I just knew I needed to talk about this stuff because it was hidden. At that time nobody was doing what I was doing and certainly not around here. It was really hard in the first couple of years as not many people wanted to listen, nevertheless I persevered.
What was your experience like going through menopause?
I had a week of agoraphobia where I was frightened to leave the house, I was really exhausted and had to lie down in the afternoon, I had brain fog and felt anxious. I was having things night sweats and night terrors, but the worst thing was I couldn’t sleep anymore.
This is when I say that menopause could have killed me because I fell asleep at the wheel in the car when I was driving at speed, thankfully I didn’t swerve or crash.
So that was the point where I thought I need to do something about this.
How does it make you feel that women are leaving their careers due to menopause symptoms?
I’m just not having it. The reason why it’s happening is because of ignorance which can no longer be an excuse. Most women have no idea that what’s happening to their mind and bodies might be menopause related because no one has told us. Education is the key to this and that’s why I do what I do.
Does more still need to be done on educating women about menopause?
Many GPs in the 21st century don’t seem to have the right level of expertise that you would expect on this subject matter. My first tip would be to ask who in the practice has a specialism in menopause when you make an appointment with your GP. And if nobody does, you might even consider changing your practice. Or ask your GP for a referral to a menopause clinic – there aren’t enough on the NHS but they do exist.
It’s estimated there is less than 10% of companies are doing anything about menopause. So, there’s a long way to go, but it’s really great that more people are talking about menopause now compared to when I first started.
In my opinion, education should start in schools and should be part of the curriculum, because it’s a life event that’s going to happen to everybody, either directly or indirectly.
What advice would you give to women who are currently suffering from menopausal symptoms?
The key question is – is menopause impacting the quality of your life? And if anybody answers yes to that question, then doing nothing shouldn’t be an option. So many women are rubbish at self-care because quite often they’re looking after younger kids or family while trying to run a household and holding down a full-time job, so they come last on the list.
The difficulty with menopause is that it’s a trial and error process, women are like living experiments. So, the problem is what might work for me might never work for you and vice versa. Although it may not seem easy I haven’t met a women yet who hasn’t found a solution but it may not happen overnight. You have to believe you’re worth it and keep going to you find what’s right for you that’s the key.
How did you feel about being on our billboard?
It was an adventure and an honour to be asked. I got to make connections with an amazing diverse group of women. I was so keen to be involved with the campaign as hopefully, it shows people that, if Sharon from Whitley Bay can end up on a billboard then – absolutely anything is possible.
When I set up Miss Menopause, I didn’t know it was going to be a success the way it has been. I was just somebody who lacked information and didn’t know where to find it. I could see the impact it was having on working women, so I wanted to make sure no one else was at risk of walking away from their jobs because of ignorance and now I’ve ended up on a billboard. So, to me, the message would be if you believe in something, just go and do it, which is exactly what High Life North represents.
What do you love about High Life North?
I just love the fact that women in the North East are getting access to loads of interesting, relevant and important information, as well as all the fun stuff. High Life North is important as I feel that people in the North get left behind. There’s such a variety of interviewees and types of features and every article is so current, too.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got a lot of exciting things in the pipeline. I’ve just done a podcast with a well-known journalist which is going to be published soon. I’ve also been part of a television program with a Kate Thornton coming out towards the middle of this year. So, everything’s an adventure and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. All I know is my mission isn’t over yet.
If you would like some support, join Miss Menopause’s Facebook group.
Or if you’re an organisation that would benefit from some training on menopause, visit Miss Menopause’s website.