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Kate James, Lloyds Banking Group

news published date 13 October 2021
  • Awards
Recognition of Achievement 2021 – In addition to her day job, Kate leads communications for Lloyds’ gender diversity network, which boasts over 12,500 members. She is also helping deliver the group’s new menopause proposition, due to launch in a few days to all of her 65,000 colleagues.

Seen as self-motivated, decisive and driven, Kate was already known to use initiative and pragmatism to meet and resolve challenges. However, her support for two key programmes aimed at female employees led Lloyds Banking Group to single her out as their role model for Women in Banking & Finance to celebrate.

When told that she was being put forward as Lloyds Banking Group’s role model for the Recognition of Achievement event, Kate expressed both surprise and delight.

Kate was reassured by her colleagues that it wasn’t a mistake and that she really should not see herself as an imposter given her work as the communications lead for the company’s women’s network – which is one of the largest in the UK with over 12,500 women – and because of the addition work undertaken passionately, worked side of desk, to raise awareness of the menopause, initially through creation of a support community group for colleagues back in 2016.

While the ongoing work with Breakthrough, the company’s women’s network, Kate decided to drive a step change in the profile and engagement of the network with its female colleagues in 2021.

In addition to a refresh of the branding and positioning of the network, ensuring consistency across all communication channels and better alignment with regional activity, Kate has also designed successful and engaging personal development and career confidence campaigns, using video content and an online Yammer community to complement the existing communications channels.

Kate also led by example with the network’s response acknowledging how colleagues might be feeling following the murder of Sarah Everard. This included powerful and sensitively written pieces which prompted thousands of colleague comments and Let’s Talk sessions designed to allow colleagues a safe space to talk about how they were feeling. The feedback unsurprisingly was incredible with over 1,000 colleagues attending, and has since led to a recent follow up Let’s Talk event on women’s safety and the importance of male allyship.

However, this wasn’t enough for Kate to undertake on top of her day job, which sees her heading up the busy Consumer Servicing Colleague Communications and Engagement team, recently winning the Wellbeing Award in the Group’s Transformer Awards, 2020.

In addition, Kate has championed the company’s support for menopause since 2016. And, given Kate is in communications, we felt the best way to highlight her achievements was to use her own words:

“The menopause work started when I went through an early menopause myself at the age of 42. I was struggling at work with symptoms and had been for a few years, not realising I had been peri-menopausal. It made me wonder what support we had within the organisation – it transpired to be nothing. I then approached Kate Cheetham, now our Group General Counsel and Group General Secretary. She was supportive of my ideas so I started doing some initial research and, with another colleague, we ran the first company face-to-face event in 2016.

“We had expected a handful of people to join, but over 100 women came and the feedback we had was incredible. Hearing some of the heartbreaking stories of how women were struggling reinforced my passion to raise awareness, start talking openly about the menopause and better support women in the workplace.

“I’d spent a long time researching menopausal symptoms and sources of medical support and found Dr. Louise Newson (the menopause expert and founder of the new charity My Menopause Doctor). She helped me to understand the scale of the problem – how women’s health was (and still is) being woefully neglected not just in the workplace but more broadly – gender imbalance in women’s health is a big societal as well as medical issue. Dr. Newson also supported our first podcast in 2016 and, from there, a small group of us set up an online peer support community – Menopause, Talking Matters.

“I’ve been championing the cause ever since. I have helped co-ordinate and deliver numerous events, with expert speakers such as Diane Danzebrink, founder of the #makemenopausematter campaign. I’ve ran the community group since and, recently refreshed with new branding, run Menopause, Let’s Talk sessions and a new Yammer community platform. This currently has over 1,000 colleagues in the group, which offers a private and safe space to have conversations, share tips and advice.

“More recently, I’ve ran a series of Coffee Chat drop-in sessions for colleagues to come and chat, not necessarily to get answers, but to not feel that they’re alone. The most recent sessions we ran were on Alopecia and hair loss, and we held an event with over 300 women on early/surgical menopause with Diane Danzebrink earlier this year.

“My involvement with the new Group Menopause Proposition came about after I’d been sharing a paper I’d written on why we need to take action and this coincided with a meeting with Michelle Blayney, Culture and Colleague Propositions Director, shortly after the ground-breaking Davina McCall documentary shone another spotlight on the subject in mainstream media. Michelle was already keen to champion the topic and as such involved the Group Health & Wellbeing team.

“Having received overwhelming approval from the board to proceed, Michelle asked me to join a small working group to help shape and deliver a new proposition and campaign which will launch on World Menopause Day on 18 October.

“I’m absolutely thrilled that this project is happening. It feels like a long time in the making, but finally we will be supporting women in the areas they tell us they need it most – through specialist medical provision via BUPA and through an education and awareness campaign for all colleagues. Our new Menopause Promise is a commitment to support every colleague in the business and our aim through new e-learning for line managers, is that we open up the conversation and break down the stigma for so many women.”

Up to one third of colleagues working at Lloyds Banking Group could be experiencing menopause while working. By taking action over the past five years, Kate has directly helped many co-workers, but is now helping to deliver an important step in the journey toward breaking taboos and recognising the importance of women’s health across the organisation.