Inspirational Woman: Heather Jackson | Co-founder, GEN M

 Sam Simister and Heather JacksonMy current role is as a co-founder to a new digital business, and finds me perimenopausal, about to head into COVID Lockdown no 2, having gone live just three weeks ago.

GEN M is a website that delivers the best of the menopause to one place, making the menopause experience better today than yesterday. I’m the former CEO and founder of a company called An Inspirational Journey, based on supporting women and organisations to take control of their careers and reach their potential. AIJ through its programmes, networks and annual conference supported over 150 global companies and 15,000 women in its time, something I’m immensely proud of.

Fundamentally believing in equal opportunity especially in terms of gender, the menopause and how society supports it is something that needs addressing, and with the skills, experience, connections and team that Sam my co-founder and I have built, we are in a good position to change the rhetoric and deliver collaborative effective solutions. As simply put, women and those transitioning through it  deserve better

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, and if I had done, I would have neither second-guessed this nor believed at the time I could have achieved what I have in my professional life.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Absolutely, personal challenges included unemployment, self-employment, divorce, and single parenting, and the death  of the man who was the co-parent of my teenage children at the time, then the perimenopause (the latter had the most significant impact on me in terms of functioning)

professional challenges included, requiring and seeking out a mentor and a sponsor, building a network and growing a start-up business that grew faster than anticipated and all the problems you experience on the way of this.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My two kids Meg and Sam. They were my biggest supporters and advocates as I grew my first business, and I couldn’t have achieved what we did, without them. We saw each other as team Musketeers, and they have grown into two fabulous young adults who I’m proud to be acknowledged as their mum.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

Seeking out opportunities. I never wait for opportunities to come to me, I always go after something I am passionate about.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Seeking out a mentor was the best move I ever made… I stalked the person literally until she had no option to have a meeting with me! My mentor is a woman called Linda Pollard, who was made a Dame this year. She became my mentor, then sponsor, then chair of my previous company… and is now one of the most important people both professionally and personally in my life. I trust her implicitly, as I know she does me.

I totally believe in giving back, and lifting as we climb, and feel everyone should mentor someone at any one time of their life, whether it be a work colleague, friend or friend of a friend, having that confident/sounding board is essential to anyone’s success.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

Make parenting a 50% defacto law, that anyone having children realise from the start that they are both equally responsible for bringing up the child in terms of childcare, finance, and life in general. If a couple then choose to change the ratio of dependency that is their choice, but men need to know the law allows them 50% of care duties regardless, until we can guarantee this, I’m not sure how we can gain true gender equality, respectably.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Don’t sweat the small stuff – spend more time looking forward than back… and if in doubt sleep on it, tomorrows a new day.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Our next challenge is to globally own the menopause making GEN M the home of the menopause, the curator of the best solutions, expert advice, products and services out there.

How did your new venture of creating GEN M come about?

Sam, my amazing co-founder,  invited me away for a few days as she was concerned about my health, I’d just been subscribed antidepressants. I had not seen her for a year, and a chance lunch and her realising the woman she had last seen as a confident, enthusiastic, energetic passionate woman was a shadow of her former self. A few days away changed my life in more ways than one, she diagnosed me perimenopausal, a word I had never heard of. I investigated it, she was right, out of 42 symptoms I had 28, the relief was overwhelming, I could now focus on solutions.

Sam then told me her menopause experience and from that moment onwards as two purposeful driven skilled and successful women, we decided that women deserved better, and we could make the menopause experience better today than yesterday for the 13 million menopausal women in the UK ( by 2025  globally there will be 1 billion).

Our focus is on changing the rhetoric, and bringing brands, retailers, manufacturers and employers into the conversation and helping them take some responsibility with effective solutions to make change happen. Our first white paper, Invisibility Report, Generation Menopause, clearly shows some stark wake-up call statistics that these organisations need to know about how women feel towards them right now.

Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind GEN M?

Our own personal experiences, the fact that we are solution-driven women, it wasn’t inspiration that drove us, more disappointment and dare I say a bit of anger about how hard searching the internet and the high street was to find solutions that worked for us. It is important to remember, everyone’s menopause is different and the brands who we had used and had our trust for most of our lives appeared to be letting us down just when we needed them the most. GEN M aims to change this.

How was the step from your past roles to becoming an entrepreneur business owner?

My life has always been entrepreneurial, having the year off helped re-energise me but I’m back and mean business – and it feels good.

Can you tell us more about how GEN M can support those experiencing menopause at the pinnacle of their carer?

If we can make more women in their thirties more perimenopause aware, and allow them to start to look into the symptoms and prepare themselves for this next stage in their life, it will allow more women to control their menopause experience rather than the menopause control them.

As both Sam and I were blindsided by the perimenopause, and let’s be honest as women, we’ve worked too damned hard to take our careers to where they are today, then let the menopause sabotage our hard work when it doesn’t need to. GEN M will guide them to the best information solutions  advice and products for their journey


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