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My name is Vanessa Giannos and I will be doing a PhD. My research project title is: Heating up the Boardroom: Exploring the experience of symptomatic menopausal leaders in Australia.
Background to the research (Jack et al. 2014, 2016, Brewis et al. 2016)
I will be doing a cross-discipline study, exploring menopause, stress, coping and support strategies for menopausal leaders in the Workplace (within the HR/Leadership Field).
• ‘Menopause at work’ is a relatively new phenomena affecting millions of Gen X women globally Menopausal leaders are a key talent pool for senior and executive roles. Menopause creates numerous physical and emotional issues and can be debilitating for many women. There is evidence that some women experience low workability and/or withdraw from the workforce.
• Fourteen studies globally: ten cross-sectional; seven quantitative; five qualitative; and two mixed-methods.
• One study reported in HR/Leadership literature. No studies track the menopause experience in real-time or based solely on menopausal leaders to date.
• Lack of understanding of how Bio-Psycho-Social-Cultural-Work (BPSCW) beliefs/stressors influence menopause symptoms and how these affect menopausal women at work.
The aim of the research is to empower menopausal leaders to better cope with menopause at work. The purpose of the present exploratory study is to develop a theoretical framework and practical support program to improve the awareness, resources and practical support for menopausal leaders in Australia. Primary research question: What is the experience of symptomatic menopausal leaders at work?
Data Gathering & Sample Strategy (Creswell ; Saunders, Tracy 2016)
• Recruitment: Deploy a purposive, stratified, criterion-based sample with maximum variation. Inclusion/exclusion criteria have been developed based on the literature. Recruitment Strategy: Posts to Facebook and LinkedIn groups; contacting management and menopause institutions; direct emails to 3500 network; leaflets, snowballing, and advertising if necessary.
• Population – Menopausal working women in Australia; Sample Frame – Menopausal leaders in Australia, 40-52 years old; Unit of analysis – individuals; Sample: n =12 (Data point: 12 weeks x diary, 3 x in-depth interviews). Most women experience ‘natural’ menopause transition between 40-52 years old. Leaders are defined as having at least 3 direct reports.
Methods (xxxxxx Braun &Clarke 2016)
A predominately qualitative study is considered most suitable to address the research question, aim and purpose as the research methods and methodology need to create real-time, thick, deep, rich and holistic understanding of the different facets and nuances of the menopausal leaders’ experience. A multi-case, multi and mixed-method case study methodology will be used to ensure richness and quality, informed by Maxwell’s interactive approach (2009) and Tracy’s “8 Big Tent” (2016).
The design seeks to ensure a valid, credible and longitudinal (more than one data collection time-point) (xxx), exploratory study. Methods include:
a. Online weekly solicited diaries to gain real-time data of various facets of the menopausal experience (XX), including Bio-Psycho-Social-Cultural-Work stressors and beliefs.
b. Three semi-structured, ‘problem-centred’ interviews (XX) will be used to explore the experience in depth. The interviews are divided into two stages: 1) preliminary understanding of current/previous menopause experience; and 2) two sense-making, exploratory interviewers to understand the participants viewpoint of the experience elicited from diary submissions (XXXX). These interviews will also enable deviant cases, contradiction and unclear elements to be explored. Interviews will be conducted online via Zoom, recorded and transcribed verbatim.
c. Ethics: Informed Consent; De-identification; Risk Assessment and Management ; and Support
d. Credibility, Authenticity, Transferability ; Trustworthiness: Prolonged engagement; Pilot of tools; Relevant ; contemporary topic; Strong sampling criteria, Validated scales; Triangulation; Self-reflexivity/Researcher diary; Research buddy; Audit trail; Rigorous analysis; Member Checks; Thick description; Deviant case identification; Significant contribution; Ethical; Coherency
e. Within and Cross-Case analysis will take an inductive, abductive and recursive analytic approach using Thematic Analysis. Due to the large amount of data and limited time and resources, NVivo will be used for qualitative data and SPSS for quantitative data analysis (Braun ; Clarke, 2016)
Limitations ; Delimitations
• Small sample means results are not generalizable, but the study aims for strong transferability.
• The immersion of the researcher may create researcher bias, however, the research design and quality measures will be used to increase validity (Levitt et al. 2017, Tracy 2016).
• Keeping participants interested and participating in a weekly diary commitment for the four-month project is likely to be challenging and therefore 30% attrition has been built in.
• Specifically focused on ‘symptomatic’ peri-menopausal leaders (40-55 years old) in Australia
• Design and longitudinal period of four months may not capture full nuance of a twelve-month study, but time, feasibility, resources and cost is a major consideration.
• The literature for menopause will be limited to stress as it pertains to leaders and menopause; menopause transition (perimenopause) and menopause symptoms.
Implications ; Expected Outcomes
• Develop a bio-psycho-social-cultural-work menopause model that will inform a support program.
• The present study will contribute unique, deep, context-rich insights of menopausal leaders’ experience, including a greater understanding of a longitudinal perspective of menopause symptoms, how stress affects menopause symptoms and work outcomes
• Identify effective coping strategies and personal resources for menopausal leaders.
• Identify significant HR strategic, Leadership and Cultural implications in Workplaces.
• Contribute to various bodies of knowledge: HR/Leadership; ‘menopause and work’; and ‘menopause and stress’ literature.

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