Katherine Alyea

Katherine: Protecting Menopausal Women in the Workplace

For Katherine, perimenopause came with a bang. On her honeymoon, she passed out at Edinburgh Castle and fell on her face, fainting from the effects of heavy period bleeding during perimenopause. Katherine was also wrestling with other severe symptoms: hot flashes, migraines, fatigue and, of special concern, memory problems.

At the top of her career game, Katherine had been recruited to a leadership role with a national charitable organization. Following probation, she was offered full-time employment. All was going well, and she had a comfortable relationship with the CEO, a woman. However, she was having difficulty remembering names. When she spoke to friends and family, they reassured her that was common in a new role.

She confided in the CEO about her perimenopause symptoms, to be transparent and to reassure her that she was seeking medical help to resolve the issues.

Katherine’s interactions with the CEO changed immediately. Discussions about the week’s priorities began to resemble a memory test. Weeks later, she was let go on the premise that she didn’t value relationships because she couldn’t remember names. It was tragically unfair and ironic. Katherine had always been commended for building strong relationships.  “I was blindsided,” she said. “Mortified. Embarrassed. Humiliated. Shocked.”

The dismissal seriously undermined her self-confidence. “I felt like the stupidest person,” she said. “Why did I disclose this? What was I going to say to my husband, family, and friends?”

Katherine sought help from her doctor who prescribed anti-depressants. “They didn’t do anything for me,” she said. She has been reluctant to consider menopause hormone therapy due to her family history of breast cancer but is now investigating further treatment.

Looking ahead, Katherine would like to see legal protections for menopausal women like those for pregnant women, something she believes requires legislation to protect women at all stages of their working lives.