Living with the 'C'-word

by Feb 27, 2012 1 Comment

In recent weeks I’ve been unwell with a resistant chest infection and therefore, I’ve had time to acknowledge the challenge of the last year. OK, OK, I acknowledge that to date I have not done this; I was more caught up with the message that it could be so much worse, and I have denied the reality of the impact on me and others too, maybe. Mea culpa. The comfort of denial is wearing off now. Mmmm.

So my restless mind while in bed has meant I have been reading the newspapers and Twitter and blogger news too with relish and I have been struck by the issue around women’s influence (or lack of) in business or government (in the UK) at a senior level.

Nothing new, I hear you say. Indeed, but perhaps when the Prime Minister is acknowledging that quotas or indicative levels at least may be necessary to influence change in the boardroom, we may be at a pivotal time; one that I would urge us not to duck with platitudes of not wanting to patronise women.

But there is a paradox in my world in a way.

Women, through successful campaigning and lobbying, have managed to influence the care and treatment of breast cancer. I discussed this with a supporter recently who has sadly been diagnosed with secondary cancer.

Her previous bad experience led her to campaign to make it better for those who followed. It is poignant that she has now experienced the benefits of her work with others and on behalf of others.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s Campaigns and Advocacy Network (CAN) and Service Pledge volunteers give of their time to influence and campaign for change. Having been part of times when they come together, it is a moving and empowering experience. It’s a heady combination of preparedness, keenness, care and solidarity. Also, there is a strange quality of being a member of the club we are all part of …but didn’t want to join.

I witnessed similar strength when on the Moonwalk in Edinburgh. If someone had a stone in their shoe, well, we stopped together to fix it, we queued at loos together, we shared plasters, we shared jelly babies (ugh, I never want another one!) and we celebrated achievement, however slow a time. You can smell what I am cooking here?

When women come together they create a different dynamic. There are many influential women in public life in Scotland; can they use their influence to create a different discussion? Can we evoke a collaborative spirit that spurns polarised debate but creates an environment for reasoned argument and exploration of a better future, whatever its hue?

That’s a big ask, I know and it takes brave people to do things differently. Nelson Mandela famously said (quoting Marianne Williamson from Return to Love, please note): “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. It is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us.”

My experience shows me women do influence change and have been able now not only to achieve that for people affected by breast cancer but in other cancers and in the wider arena of healthcare too… changing the accepted norm for all. We just need to apply that learning and ability to other parts of our society but are we brave enough? I do hope so…

Reasons to be cheerful I had a lovely birthday in spite of being poorly. Lovely gifts and a good time with people I love. Also I am planning a girly weekend with my daughter soon…good times to look forward to.

1 Comment

  1. Jackie Cameron

    Audrey – I have been thinking about this topic for such a long time and your post has brought some focus to those thoughts. Women are powerful and have power. Together they are a force to be reckoned with! What you describe above is what I have come to call the "quiet influencing" that women are so good at. This does not diminish the impact but I guess might be easier to miss. Some women will be perfect for senior, high profile, decision maker roles and some will find those fulfilling. Others will be doing what they do very well indeed with less visibility. Neither is right – both are needed.

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