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Interview: Fiona Sweny, Wellness Futures Science Lead at Holland & Barrett

All retailers can play a role in better supporting women experiencing the menopause says health boss at Holland & Barratt. We talk to Fiona Sweny who… View Article


Interview: Fiona Sweny, Wellness Futures Science Lead at Holland & Barrett

All retailers can play a role in better supporting women experiencing the menopause says health boss at Holland & Barratt.

We talk to Fiona Sweny who joined the retailer in a newly created role just 5 months ago. Since then, Fiona has already launched the Pause & Listen rooms together with a substantial training programme.

You have an interesting and varied background. What is your specific interest in women’s health?

I worked as physiotherapist for over a decade at the top level of women’s sport and performance in the British Army, England Rugby and the Royal Ballet School. I frequently found myself asking questions about women’s health that we as a medical community did not have answers to. All too often the research and training guidelines that were conducted on male athletes were simply lifted and applied to our female athletes. All of these experiences have driven me to improve access to services, information and research therefore enabling women to make informed choices. Being part of the team at Holland and Barrett, with the reach and resources to support our customers on their wellness journeys, is an incredibly effective way to achieve that.

How has the launch of Pause & Listen gone and what feedback have you had so far?

We’re really pleased with how our menopause Pause & Listen campaign has been received including the introduction of our Pause & Listen Rooms within our city stores. We’ve had a positive response from our in store customers and great feedback and comments across our social media channels.

Holland & Barrett has long supported menopausal women – for over 50 years. We recently conducted research which revealed that almost two thirds of women still do not talk about the menopause, with 61 per cent citing for fear of being ‘judged’ and treated differently as the reason. This showed us that much more was needed to be done to help women feel listened to and it’s this that sits at the heart our Pause & Listen campaign. Our Pause & Listen Pledge, the opening of consultation rooms and the training of our colleagues all aim to better support and most importantly, listen to people with the menopause.

And, we’re excited to be announcing that today Holland & Barrett, in partnership with Menopause Mandate, is piloting a free and national menopause helpline. Hosted on our website, people will be able to book a free 15-minute one-to-one video chat with a women’s health nurse, who is able to provide unbiased information, general advice and signposting to those with questions about menopause and perimenopause.

How does the training programme for employees’ work?

Holland & Barrett’s menopause training programme is conducted across two levels.

We’re proud to have all colleagues trained to our Level 1 standard – that’s over 4,000 colleagues! This level of training covers a broad understanding of the different phases of the menopause cycle, awareness of the 33 symptoms and signs of menopause. Level 1 also includes lifestyle and diet advice for menopause signs and an education on food options to support menopause related symptoms.

Level 2 training has been rolled out to all store managers and all colleagues who work in stores which host a Pause & Listen consultation room/s.  This is a more in-depth level of training which covers the understanding of the systems involved in menopause – endocrine and reproductive, the role of hormones within menopause including oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and androgens and the effect of declining hormones.

Two thirds of woman still don’t talk about menopause. What role can retailers play to better support woman?

There has been real progress made in recent years to bring the menopause to the forefront of the conversation, largely thanks to the many high-profile women who have been openly speaking about their experiences in the media. However, while awareness has improved, there is still a big job to be done in helping women feel heard as our own research has shown.

All retailers can play a role in better supporting women experiencing the menopause, simply by starting with their employees. From understanding that everyone’s journey is unique to treating people as individuals, as well as ensuring there is a workplace menopause policy in place to support and protect employees experiencing menopause symptoms.

We are and have always been fully committed to supporting all colleagues who are experiencing the menopause. We have a solid menopause policy at work to help all female, trans and non-binary colleagues feel fully supported by both management and co-workers, and that these individuals are treated fairly in the workplace. We’re also in the process of becoming a menopause accredited employer.

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