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 Women and work: international women’s day

Went along to a women’s event in my office to celebrate international women’s day. We discussed our experience of being a women in the work place and future challenges. Thought I would share my experience here.

Have I experienced sexism?

Yes, but not always overt. When I was seventeen I wanted to study psychology and went along to university open days. Now in the UK you ideally want your course to be recognised by the British psychological society. The university I was looking at was starting a new course and not yet recognised. I asked the course leader whether the course would be recognised in time, he told me not to worry my pretty head. I,of course, went to another university for that reason alone. I was gleeful when I found out later that the course hadn’t been recognised.

Yep; I have had the classic of having my bum pinched. I worked in a hotel bar and when I leaned down to place drinks ona table my bum was pinched by a customer. The son couldn’t decide whether to congratulate his dad or be offended on my behalf. I couldn’t decide either. I was in shock and he a customer, so what I could was limited. I think I just glared and commented that   Wasn’t appropriate.

How has the work place changed?

When I started in the civil service I was regaled with stories of what it was to be like included that if a women got married she had to resign.  Now of course that doesn’t happen.

My work is very supportive has good maternity benefits and both genders make use of the flexible working policy. We still don’t have enough women in senior management, but that the same as most workplaces.

Though more often than not I am still the only women in the room when I work on projects of a technical nature, specially when I’m at a clients. Be great when that less likely to be the case.

Challenges

I don’t perceive my gender to be an issue in the workplace. In general I’ve found discrimination around my disability more of an issue. As I’m still single I also don’t need to overly worry about maternity offers, and balancing home and work. But those are issues that my friends are grappling with, both male and female.

But as i reported in an earlier post I was secretly glad I wasn’t accepted by Duke for their MBA programme as I couldn’t see how I could have kids and pay off the massive student loan I would have accursed. Some of that is just an age thing, and an inbuilt assumption that student loans don’t have repayment holidays if your on maternity leave. To widen the appeal of MBA for women can repayment holidays on student loans be built-in?

What has been your experience at work based on your gender? What do you think the future challenges are?

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Dsylexia one year on

I’ve wanted to write a post on my blog about how I’m managing my dyslexia and stress 12 months on. But I needed to wait until I had a couple of incidents to report.

I would say my dyslexia has changed. For instance I now mix up my b and d’s. I haven’t done that since I was I’m primary three. Let me tell you it’s a pain in the neck. Unfortunately it means I also need to figure out how it works.

Brain overload
I’m now also really sensitive how I take in information, it’s very easy for for me to get information overload.
This means I now need to take smaller chunks of information at a time. This means at the height of the work project I need to take brain rest more seriously; so that’s regular breaks in work and in the evening that means lots of trashy tv and books. No studying!

And this has also impacted my pace. I’m now slower at work when I’m undertaking reading heavy documents. That not always to my benefit nor my projects.

learning
I also need more than one teaching style to take in the information. So good teaching is an vitial. Unfortunately this has had an impact on me attending church. The straight forward verbal heavy talk, hurts my Brian. So I’m needing to explore other teaching styles.

I also find it more difficult to shut out multiple voices. My brain overloaded on a training course when I was getting help from one trainer and then other started to speak at the front. Before I could have tuned out the other trainer.

project work
When leading a project I need to dip in and out of tasks. I’m not as good at that any more. So I now assign whole days or whole chunks of time dedicated to admin. Admin days are helpful as it allows me to get through a number of small tasks and then allows me to concentrate on larger chunks of work during the rest of the week.

Challenge like always is balancing my strengths which is making leaps and quickly analysing written information. While being able to clearly show how I reached the conclusion and from what pieces of evidence. Always more of a challenge when I need to show evidence rather than the logic leap.

But I’m surviving. Next step thriving.

How not to have a mental break down on a project

Here’s my handy guide how to stay sane on a work project.

I just had a meeting today with an old boss and he recommended that I learn lessons about my last work project to make sure I don’t fall ill due to stress a second time. So, I’ve outlined below my main learning points in three areas, social life, work life and mental health.  If I can stop one person going through what I went through by being open about what happened to me I will consider it all to be worthwhile.

Social Life

  1. Have one: Make time for it.  See your friends and family. If you either don’t make plans or keep cancelling, it might indicate your life is a bit out of balance. (P.S applying for business school is not an excuse.)
  2. Book holiday in advance and take it. I can tell you now your project won’t go to plan.
  3. Exercise; you need an outlet for the stress. Whether that a walk in the park, or a 1o mile jog, or run round a hockey pitch.
  4. Build in relax time:  whether that is watching the world go round, walking in the countryside, hanging out with friends, or watching latest trashy tv programme, it doesn’t matter. Just make time for it.
  5. In summary: Self-care!!!

Work

The boss

  1. Try to get a good manager. Remember a good one, might be different from a nice one. If in doubt, go for the good one.

You and the bosses

  1. Delegate upwards. Be clear who is responsible for what. If it’s not your responsibility, why are you worrying about it or even trying to do it? Just highlight to your managers and move on.
  2. Highlight at an early stage if the project is going AWOL.
  3. Develop the skill of saying no to bosses. Old boss recommends going to meeting saying, we can’t deliver all this, but we can deliver that. Or to deliver we need more staff etc to deliver.
  4. Have regular one-ones with your manager outside of team meeting scenarios.

You

  1. Don’t work yourself into the ground for an undeliverable deadline. It’s not worth it.
  2. Focus on the process rather than outcome. You can control the work you do; not the impact. Do the best job you can with the time you have.  There no guarantee about the impact of the work, don’t worry about.
  3. Take time away from your desk every day. Get some breathing space. Best ways to do this include; buying a coffee at the coffee shop, or having lunch away from your desk.
  4. When it starts going wrong, or the project gets really busy. Stop!!!
  5. Take a moment to think and see what you can change and discuss your concerns with your managers as quickly as quickly as possible. (See section above on you and the bosses.)
  6. If someone to trying to rescue you/the project. Don’t question. Just do. When you’re in the hole, you can’t necessarily see how to get out of it.
  7. Now say this after me.  You’re silly if you allow work to make you SICK!!!!! Don’t do it.

 

Mental health

Switching Off

  1. Learn to switch off. Worrying about a project at 11pm at night, or when your trying to sleep is a bad idea. I use the worry list technique. Before I go to bed, write down my worries. I then identify what need to be done about them. (kinda like a to-do list.) My current boss suggests; take 10-15 out your morning and identify the day’s three priorities.
  2. Don’t use your work blackberry as an alarm clock; you’ll be tempted to look at work emails at 11pm at night. Who wants to know if their boss is silly enough to still be writing emails at this time of night? You’re even sillier if you respond.

Need Sleep

  1. Sleep: Get 8 hours kip a night. By all means have a late night, but balance it out. Your less likely to over-react if you have enough sleep.

Stress

  1. If you think your stressed. You are! And you might be worse than you think.
  2. Ask for some honest feedback from your boss about your performance and then use that information when you go to your Doctor.  If I had a better understanding earlier of how stress was affecting me I could have given my doctor more complete information and got the help I needed sooner.
  3. If you’re getting stressed, figure out why…really why? It’s all about how you process the situation.  My faulty thinking processes were due to fear of failure. Now you know your thinking processes; think about how to correct it and develop some better thought patterns.

Concluding point

Reassurance: Everyone will go through a bad patch; it’s quite normal when your taking on more responsibility, trying please people and potentially trying to go for promotion. It’s most likely to occur when you have limited control on what happens to you. Again. YOUR NORMAL!!!!

Dyslexia and those reasonable adjustment forms

I’m dyslexic and I when I got stressed my dyslexia was exacerbated big style. My ability to put a sentence together was reduced. While putting an evidence based logical argument which had always been a weakness vanished with the wind. Even though I’m back on track and no longer medically stressed I’m still dealing with some of the fall out. The obvious one is dealing with the impact of dyslexia on my work.

What is dyslexia?

For those that don’t know dyslexia is a learning disability that affect around 10% of the population. So in the scheme of things it is relatively common. On average, one member of a hockey or a football team will be dyslexic.

The British Dsylexic Association describes dyslexia as: Dyslexia is not only about literacy, although weaknesses in literacy are often the most visible sign. Dyslexia affects the way information is processed, stored and retrieved, with problems of memory, speed of processing, time perception, organisation and sequencing.

How does it affect me?

Technically, I’m disabled but it’s not how I see myself, I can get through normal life quite easily. I only struggle when I need to produce an error free piece of writing. However, that one of the key things I need to do for my job. So when it comes to work, I need to acknowledge that I’m different and I need a little bit of assistance to produce the required high quality output. (I also need help when performing under time pressure, like exams like the GMAT.)

When I was more junior I managed my dyslexia by being the Quant expert. I didn’t need to write beautiful prose, I needed to analyse big beautiful spreadsheets. However, that no longer an option for me, I just don’t have the time when I lead a project to have fun with spreadsheets. I needed to give up excel and get with the writing programme. So dealing with my dyslexia is now an everyday reality.

I hate being reminded that I’m different, that I can’t do something that is so easy for everyone else. So sometimes I struggle a little emotionally with my dyslexia, but in my new stress free world this is something I need to deal with. So one of the steps is to develop a document, a reasonable adjustment form, which outlines why I’m a little different and what assistance my managers can offer to help me with my dyslexia. Previously I relied on verbally telling my managers, but now I need to grasp the nettle and put down on paper I’m different.

However there also seems to be an assumption that form will magically solve all my problems and suddenly no-one is going to comment on my drafting. I would love that to happen, but I work in a place where people can long discussions about spilt-infinitives, it’s not going to happen, and I’m realistic about that.

Rather than filling in forms and keep tying to explain what I’m not good at, and how to minimise the impact on the work place. wouldn’t it be soo cool if I could fill in a form saying, I’m different, I’m dyslexic, I can do this, this and this really well. And then a discussion is had around How can we structure the job to make the best use of those skills? Wouldn’t that reasonable adjustments form be brilliant?

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