The menopause, like death, is a great leveller. Here I am, a working-class woman from Leicester, standing in solidarity with Kristin Scott Thomas, the epitome of poshness. The 59-year-old actress, whose star turn in the second series of Fleabag saw her deliver a blistering monologue about the menopause, has also been venting her frustration off screen about the way women get treated as they age.
It’s hard to imagine anyone would be dumb enough to attempt to patronise Scott Thomas, but it seems even the most sophisticated and stylish women get talked down to once they hit middle age. Scott Thomas has declared that she is "fed up" at having to thank people when they tell her she has "still got it".
"Ageing is a quality for women. We don’t just fade away. I don’t put up with any bullshit any more," she said. Hear, hear. Menopausal women are mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more.
Lately, we’ve seen attempts to start a new discussion around the menopause, with high-profile women such as Kirsty Wark and Mariella Frostrup speaking out about their experience and the likes of Meg Matthews campaigning to break the stigma. But the menopause is still shrouded with shame and secrecy, and the very word is whispered, Les Dawson-style. There’s a long way to go to bring it into the open and to enable older women to get support they need at work.
Some employers get it. Channel 4 gets it. Its open letter around menopause and the workplace was a smart move. Those of us who have hit the big M and slapped on a patch are harnessing the renewed sense of urgency and energy. Society would have me looking at getting my meals delivered and wearing elasticated pants, but I’ve just taken another C-suite job and I’m not fucking around.
Women in business have had to fight sexism, discrimination and unequal pay, and they face yet another battle when they get older and nature kicks in. A survey a few years ago by medical research charity Wellbeing of Women revealed that half of women feel that menopausal symptoms make their work life worse, while a quarter have considered leaving their jobs because of their symptoms. Is it any wonder older women want to jack in their careers when it’s more acceptable in the workplace to announce you’re on ketamine comedown than admit to a hot flush coming on?
To improve our lot, we need to go straight to the top and, thankfully, there is a growing legion of 40- and 50-something women business leaders. I would like to call on fellow menopausal women in senior positions across industries to speak openly about the menopause… and proudly get their fans out when they get a hot flush in their next C-suite meeting. The menopausal Mikado moment, if you will.
Like Scott Thomas, I feel I can speak out because, in all honesty, along with the hot flush came the news flash: I no longer give a shit.
To challenge workplace norms and liberate ourselves, we need to start an open discussion about a stage in life that happens to half of the world’s population. So women of "a certain age" – it’s time to fight for your right to a decent desk fan.
Vicki Maguire is chief creative officer at Havas London