Menopause & the Workplace: Interview with Kate Usher

Kate Usher is a Menopause Coach & Gender Equity Consultant. She work’s with women and organisations to create modern menopause conversations. As part of our focus on wellbeing we though it was imported to speak with Kate about supporting women to choose to stay in their chosen careers, do great work and take their place in influential and senior roles.

What was the catalyst for you to look into menopause in business? And, why is this work so important?

I had a terrible menopause. It started in my early 40s and it quite literally knocked me off my feet. I thought I might have a few hot flushes and it would last a year. The reality was I experienced over 30 symptoms and now in my mid 50s, it still lurks in the background, tempered for now by HRT. I know how devastating it can be for women, their relationships and their careers.

With an increase in focus on gender equity in senior leadership teams, businesses are facing a rapidly approaching talent cliff edge. One in ten women leave work completely due to menopause and two in ten consider it, often choosing to step back from their potential while they manage their symptoms. This is completely avoidable. If organisations want to benefit from employing brilliant women, menopause is the strategic issue that is yet to be fully addressed.

What are the key outcomes from your work which employees, and businesses, could benefit from?

The work that I do always starts with awareness, for everyone from the post room to the board room, men and women. Recognising this as an ‘everyone’ issue is key to breaking the stereotypes that surround this phase in life. I also deliver focused training to small groups to increase knowledge and develop female-friendly cultures. Lastly, I coach those experiencing menopause and their managers, to take control of the experience and develop new ways of thinking.  

Behind all of that, I am increasingly being asked to develop policies and manager guidelines, analyse data and processes to identify how an organisation can become an employer of choice for women of all ages. An organisation’s data is a treasure trove of opportunity for change.

Did you find outcomes which Commercial Interior Designers could use to inform the design of workspaces?

With hybrid working we need to ensure that those who are experiencing menopause are considered, otherwise many will choose to stay away. Numerous symptoms benefit for a wellbeing room, a place to withdraw and calm ourselves. It must be private, temperature controlled and have access to very cold drinking water as a minimum. It is important to note that this is not only applicable for menopause but many others conditions and life phases too.

Temperature is a big issue at this time. Recognising and physically signing where the cool and warm spots are in a workplace, helps people choose where’s best for them to work. It can also assist managers choose locations which are most applicable to their teams. Very cold drinking water should be made available as standard, this differs from the cool water usually provided.

There is a need for lockers to be available close to toilets, and for those lockers to be big enough to hold a full change of clothes, without the need to fold them into a small cube. It can be incredibly embarrassing dashing across the office from one to the other. Which is then compounded by looking like we slept in our new outfit.

Providing facilities for those who experience menopause, requires us all to be more aware of what menopause is and its impact. So that we can create an environment that considers and includes us.

How, and when, can we read more about your work?

My book ‘Your Second Phase – Reclaiming work and relationships during and after menopause’ is available now. In addition to this, I have written a book together with my husband, the fabulous Neil Usher – who some of your readers may know – about managing menopause as a couple. We are hoping to see it published in early summer, which is very exciting. Watch this space!

If you can’t wait, I also have a YouTube channel ‘Kate Usher Menopause’, where I discuss a range of issue around menopause and gender equality.  Or you could find me on my website or on LinkedIn.

We will be speaking with Kate and Neil about their book in the very near future!


About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
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