• Julia Reynolds

Stress and illness

In my research for difficultwomen.org I have come across some very frightening qualitative data. Speaking to the many senior career women who are feeling the frustrations of not being able to break through the dreaded glass ceiling, despite overwhelming evidence to say that they are more than capable with their talents and skills. These challenges aside, every woman I have spoken to mentioned one or more senior female executives that have had or are currently battling a serious illness in the form of a cancer or auto immune disease. When my Mother was alive and as an ex family bread winner, she always claimed that women could "not have it all" and perhaps women's constitution was not strong enough to cope with what were traditionally male jobs. CEO's MD's Directors etc. as well as blue collar manual heavy lifting jobs. There is no scientific evidence to say that the female brain is any different to the male brain, so apart from the physical strength of lifting heavier weights in a manual job, I can see no other reason for women to no be equal on every level. However, this got me thinking that the result of all this illness is quite possibly connected to

the fact that the effort that women have to put into a role to be seen as equal, credible and capable is much more than that of her male peers. Throughout my time at Tesco this was very evident and as someone that did push through as a pioneer in the sector that I worked in in the organisation, I look back on my time there and realise how the organisation made me jump through hoops more than my male counterparts and when I "got there" I realised I was far more talented than many of the people around me. When I reflect, the effort, energy and passion was inordinate to the reward and recognition. When I decided to leave to do bigger and better things, I did feel like I had had everything sucked out of me....looking back that is exactly what had happened. I found out a while later that my immune system was depleted.

There is increasing scientific evidence to connect stress with serious illnesses and this is another reason for the western working life for both genders to be re-considered. Later generations are already doing this and I for one hope this changes.

So are we doing this to ourselves, are we allowing this to happen or is it the system that is doing it to us? probably all three.

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