Lauren Chiren, founder of Women of a Certain Stage, was a high-flying executive, with impressive salary, nanny and house-keeper. So why did she give it all up? Here, she tells Eloquently Her in her own words what led to her change of heart, and the creating of her female-focused coaching business.
Menopause, Money, and Mental Wellbeing: Why I quit the corporate world to help fellow women
“In my early 40s, I went through a short, sharp and nasty peri-menopause. I transformed from being a top performer in a senior role — looking after regulatory and business critical change programmes for a financial services firm — to thinking I had early-onset dementia.
I had no idea what was going on and although I had a great team, I started to lose confidence in myself and my performance, and began to perceive myself as being excluded from meetings, as well as getting emotional in front of my boss, something I’d never have done in the past.
After 18 months, I decided to leave a lucrative role that I’d held for four years, and an industry I’d worked in for a decade, and abandon the corporate world entirely. It was a big step but ultimately, when I reflected at what I’d experienced, I realised I hadn’t known how to ask for help, but also that the business was unaware of what I was going through.
And, I thought, if this had happened to me, it must be happening to other women. That’s how the idea for Women of a Certain Stage started; my one-woman mission to offer coaching, support and education to women on menopause, in order to make sure that no woman goes through what I did.
My business is also about providing training for businesses, so that they can recognise when their employees need support and are able to deal with these situations in a positive way.
It wasn’t an easy change to make, especially as someone who has been working from the age of 14, but I don’t regret it. Financially, I was making a lot of money, but I realised that half of my salary went to maintaining my lifestyle – the nanny, housekeeper, gardener, the mortgage and my son’s school fees.
I’m a single mum, and although I made as much time for my son as I could, I often only saw him properly on the weekends. Even then, I’d keep an eye on my phone.
Now, I watch his cricket, rugby and hockey games, pick him up from school every day and I’m also looking after my own health. The dark circles under my eyes are gone, I don’t feel the pressure to have the latest, sharpest suit with my make-up spot on, or constantly being available.
On a professional and personal level, my job is incredibly rewarding. There’s a similarity in what I do now with what I did in the past, in that I still get to work with people and bring out the best in them.
I love that I get to coach and guide women, see them flourish and get that sparkle back, when they’ve given up hope that they ever would.
I feel privileged in that they choose to share their stories with me and most of the women I work with are fairly strong-minded, used to juggling lots of things at once. There’s a real mix: some are senior business women, others are entrepreneurs, some have children, others don’t.
The common factor is that they’re all driven, independent and confident women who are flabbergasted by the random symptoms they’re experiencing.
Our initial conversation is always about understanding what’s going on for her right now, what challenges she’s struggling to cope with. Then, we’ll visualise where she wants to be and explore what her new life is going to look like, and what obstacles are in the path to getting there.
I’ll put together a system – a step-by-step plan – as well as accountability, where I check in and give her a gentle kick up the backside if she needs it, and, finally, I’ll offer my full support along the way. My clients call me part cheerleader and part tough love coach.
In the past month, I’ve also set up a series of menopause social meetings where women can get together to have a cuppa and a chat, and I’m working with UK MPs to open a wider conversation on menopause, and see how the government can help support women, too.
The very fact that I can share my knowledge and wisdom to prevent others from going through the tough time that I had myself, goes to the very core of who I am. Doing what I do now, I’m my most authentic self and it fantastic to see the progress that these women make.”