“Could you write a thought leadership piece on the menopause?” he said….
Thought leadership? In times gone by, I would have said “Some days I can’t think, let alone lead…. Where am I going to start with that?”
So then he said, “Write what you know”…. Write what I know? What kind of a direction is that?
Then he tells me that was a Hemingway quote…. (Well I didn’t know that).
Then he tells me he understands the irony of quoting Hemingway to try to help with an article about the menopause….
So ok… I’ll write what I know and then I might turn to Mr Hemingway again for help if I need it…
I know that I once tried to put my toaster in the fridge.
I know that on separate occasions I have found my car keys in the box I keep the dog food in, the laundry basket, in a welly and worst of all… in the car!
I know that for a while if I slept for about 90 minutes in total at night, I was doing well.
And I also know that I have single-handedly financed Mr Cadbury’s (other chocolate makers are available) holidays over the past few years.
I know that it took me to be on a Teams call with a client, not being able to add 7 and 9 together while he was patiently looking at me probably wondering if the screen had frozen… (no strike that, hopefully he was wondering if the screen had frozen) to realise that what was going on wasn’t just stress from the pandemic, or a bit of tiredness, or feeling a bit low because it was winter again.
I know it took professional embarrassment for me to think that then was the time to consider if this was IT… The big M… well technically speaking the big PM, peri-menopause… because that comes first, but the big PM will do for this.
So I have taken a humorous approach to this so far, and I don’t mind that. I could write a book of daft things that I have done over the last four (ish) years and it would be funny. But it only scrapes the surface of the issue and actually some of it just isn’t funny.
No reader, don’t roll your eyes, don’t switch off, and don’t be afraid… I am not going to lecture you about peri-menopause. I’m just saying… some of it isn’t funny.
Where’s that Mr Hemingway when you need him to lighten the mood? He actually said “In order to write about life, first you must live it”…
If I knew much about Mr Hemingway, I probably wouldn’t rate him (given his rep and all that) but actually this quote is right.
Unless you go through the joy of PM, you probably aren’t going to be able to write about it, and you certainly won’t be able to understand it, or at least how it feels, and so this is why I’m going to tell you a bit more about what I know.
I know the years when I was doing those daft things, losing thoughts in meetings, struggling to get out of bed in the morning and wanting to cry all the time, were really tough. On me and on my family.
But they were especially tough at work.
I certainly didn’t want people knowing what was going on. I didn’t want them to think of me as weak, or failing at my job. I didn’t want them to know that I was JUST SO HOT ALL THE TIME. I didn’t want any special treatment, because as a woman in engineering I have spent my whole life striving to be treated equally, so I didn’t want special treatment to start now.
And as a result of people not knowing, or understanding, I came close to throwing the towel in; it would just have been easier to do a different job where I didn’t need to add 7 to 9 on a Teams call.
This is why I am writing this. To stop the risk of any more towels being thrown.
Let me tell you what else I know.
I know that I have never been as sure of myself as I am now, I have never been as confident in my own opinions and my ability to speak truth to power, my ability to lead.
I have never cared less of what people think of my hair, my clothes, my attitude or my lifestyle, and in turn, I have never been happier.
This, admittedly, has taken some work. It took a trip (ok many trips, you must be persistent) to my GP, it took some serious dealing with the chocolate misuse, it took the purchase of a puppy to get me out of the house and exercising (not necessarily an option for everyone), it took the reinvigoration of my yoga interest and a lot of research and homework.
It also took a great deal of support from my friends and family. But I have rebuilt my peri-menopause self into something that is better, stronger, more thoughtful, and considerate, interested and invigorated than I have been in years.
I know I am now going to be able to lead in a better, more holistic way than I ever have, because of my knowledge, experience and outlook, but also now because I am going to be allowed to be all of those things by the forward thinking, engaged and interested organisation that I work in.
It doesn’t take much to alter the way your organisation thinks about those of us encountering the peri-menopause. It starts with a conversation and a bit of openness; it starts with someone who has lived the life, writing about it and slowly your organisation might begin to see what we peri-menopausal women continue to offer. Big tankers change direction slowly… but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
I know it just takes one person to start the conversation.
Creating an inclusive environment is a vital part of raising the diversity and inclusion maturity of an organisation, and an industry. An inclusive environment is one where everyone feels accepted, valued, able to contribute and have their voice heard, able to challenge ideas without fear, able to make mistakes in learning how to be more inclusive. A key feature of an inclusive workplace is for (sometimes uncomfortable) conversations to be able happen, and to happen in a constructive way. This helps everyone to recognise the lived reality for different ‘groups’ within an organisation and to appreciate the challenges or barriers they may face as a result. Better understanding of diverse perspectives leads to better action and decision making.
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