Inspirational Woman: Helen Normoyle | Co-Founder, My Menopause Centre

Helen NormoyleHelen has held Chief Marketing Officer roles with Boots, the BBC, DFS and Countrywide.

She has also worked in broadcast and telecoms regulation at Ofcom and in the mobile technology sector with Motorola. Helen is co-founder of My Menopause Centre, a femtech start up and online clinic and community empowering women to take control of their menopause and thrive with evidence-based knowledge and advice from menopause experts

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m originally from Ireland and grew up there in the 70s and 80s with a passion and determination to travel the world! After graduating from the University of Limerick in the early 90s, I went to Germany to work for GfK, a market research agency. There I combined a love of travel with my curiosity about people and what makes them tick. Since that time I’ve worked in the UK, USA and then back in the UK again, in a variety of sectors. Over the course of my career, I’ve had the honour to hold Chief Marketing Officer roles with Boots, the BBC, DFS and Countrywide.

I now describe myself as women’s wellbeing warrior, having left the corporate world at the end of last year to co-found with my good friend Dr Clare Spencer. Clare is a registered menopause specialist and GP. We’ve been friends for almost a decade, having met at the school gates, and are on a mission to raise awareness of the menopause and help empower women with the knowledge they need to embrace this new chapter in their life, and thrive.

Too many women are falling out of life because they are unaware and unprepared for the menopause – in some research we did recently with Britain Thinks, only 1 in 4 women going through the menopause interviewed said they feel/felt prepared for the menopause, and over half said they underestimated the physical and emotional effects of the symptoms. This certainly reflected my personal experience – the menopause came out of the blue for me, and I was completely unprepared. For too many women, this can have a negative impact on all aspects of their life – home, relationships, work.

That’s why it’s so important to raise awareness and provide the right support for women – so that they can thrive at this stage in their life too. I am particularly passionate about supporting women in the workplace and helping employers understand the benefits of having a positive menopause policy and an age-inclusive culture.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I tend to think about my career and life plans in a 3-5 year horizon, and like to have a rough outline of what I would like to do. I learned early on the value of keeping an open mind to new opportunities and exploring a conversation before making up my mind. When planning my career, I think about what is important to me, such as purpose, making a difference, shared values with the people I work with and having fun but also the opportunity to keep

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

For sure – there are always challenges in life, particularly when you take yourself out of your comfort zone as I do. I have learned that what matters is how you see them, how you frame and approach them, deal with them and learn from them. I’ve learned that the bigger the challenge, the more character forming it is!  I have consistently challenged myself in my career: by taking on roles in different countries, different sectors, different companies… each time I had to prove myself, both to myself and to my new organisation… with each one I grew in confidence and experience.  In essence, challenge can be a really positive experience and something to lean into, but it’s not necessarily going to be easy.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I have lots of things that I can look back on over my career and be proud of, especially as I have had the privilege of working for some really great brands. A few things that I am particularly proud of are ….

  • The BBC being named Marketing Week Brand of the Year in 2012 – it was fantastic recognition of a great team that delivered some wonderful work at a brilliant organisation.
  • At DFS it was great to be a part of the executive IPO team – a reflection of all the fantastic work that had been done on repositioning the brand, extending the range, and really enhancing and joining up the customer journey. And I’m really proud to have introduced BBC Children in Need to DFS – thanks to the efforts of the people working there, a huge amount of money has been raised for CiN over the years.
  • At Boots I’m really proud of several things that the team and I there landed with our agency partners at WPP and True Story – from rolling out our strategy of mass personalisation to digitalising the Advantage Card and launching the Boots X beauty community, to the rebranding work that we rolled out across the stores and online – changing the logo and taking it out of the lozenge was a huge decision! – and the fantastic #prescribekindness campaign which took our brand scores to the highest levels seen in years. And I’m particularly proud of the work we did to introduce The Hygiene Bank to Boots – it’s a brilliant partnership and together both brands are making such a big difference in combating hygiene poverty up and down the country.
  • But in particular, I am very proud of creating – it’s been a labour of love, and very personal to both me and my brilliant co-founder, Dr Clare Spencer.  Our website aims to empower women with scientifically proven information and advice on the menopause, and the range of holistic treatment options – everything from diet, fitness and therapy/CBT to HRT.  We cover 38 symptoms in detail and have also developed a menopause questionnaire and free personalised assessment that helps women to understand if and where they are in the menopause transition. We created this as it’s one of the most frequently asked questions. Our online menopause clinic has highly experienced menopause specialists who support women with personalised treatment plans. Everything we have done, has been done with providing women going through the menopause with the best possible support, and to make as much as possible available for free.

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

I would say determination to make a difference, drive, hard work, and a willingness to go outside of my comfort zone.

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

I really enjoy mentoring, it is very fulfilling and I’ve a strong personal belief in women helping other women. Over the years I have mentored personally and informally (and still do), more formally through the fantastic WACL mentoring programme and am currently mentoring with a great organisation called Thrive with Mentoring. I have also personally benefited from great advice from male and female mentors over the years.

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

It’ll take more than one thing to accelerate the pace of change but if I had to focus on just one thing, then it would have to be a focus on closing the gender pay gap because this will require greater representation of women across different sectors (STEM in particular) and in more senior roles (a menopause policy will help!) and on Boards.

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

Such an interesting question! With the benefit of hindsight and life experience, I think that I would tell myself to trust my instincts and just be myself. In the words of Oscar Wilde “Be yourself, everybody else is already taken”.  I would also remind myself to take some time out to relax and have fun.

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

I’ve my hands full with my current challenge! We’ve just launched and we’re getting lots of great feedback and learning about what our customers and patients really like and where we can make things better for them.

We are also working to produce content and thought leadership pieces to try and help shape debate and change in attitudes towards the menopause for not just women, but men.

In the future I’d love for us to be one of the first places people look to for menopause information and advice because we’re empowering women with evidence-based information and advice that enables them to take control of their menopause symptoms and choose the range of solutions and treatments that are right for them.

I just want anyone reading this to know that your journey is what you make it.  Sometimes, things will go off track,  sometimes you will get a rough ride and sometimes you will need to backtrack and refocus.  What is important in all of this, is that it is YOUR journey and YOUR life.  As a child (well, teenager!) of the 80s, when the chips are down I sing the Bananarama song ‘It Ain’t What You Do It’s the Way That You Do It’ to myself. It reminds me that I am free to choose my response to the situation I am in, it’s mine to own. That’s a very freeing thought.

I like to take inspiration from a Michelangelo quote that I use for motivation:

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.

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