Women in the professions are under-represented at the top levels

I listened with interest to this BBC broadcast, ambulance (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01ppq3k  )  in which the current president of the Law Society, stomach Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, is quoted discussing the loss of women from high levels in Law and in the boardroom, and praises those companies who take trouble to create flexible working. The inequalities are by no means resolved , but the inequalities in the professions are improved compared with my time as a student in the 1980s – we have now had several women at the top of the Royal College of General Practitioners, such as Claire Gerada, current Chair.  However, listening in to a designer who had her progress completely blocked in the 1960s shows us the true level of institutional sexism that occurred at that time. How shocking that working was completely out of the question once a woman had had a child! And what a drain of talent and creativity!

So how can we address the issues facing women in the professions going forward? One of the problems I see is the fear that people have of admitting that they are stressed. Within my own profession I have seen and felt the effects of stress and burnout, yet when faced with the obvious (if you are crying between clients, or shouting at them, you have evidently reached an extreme level of stress) professionals feel that they cannot, should not admit to stress, much less burnout.

Yet admitting it is the first step to recovery – with workaholicism as with any other ism – and has to be reached before we will seek help. I was lucky to have support , but it took some work to piece together my recovery plan back in 2004.

That is why I have put together the Vitality System for women – empowering stressed business and professional women to get their health and energy back on track so they can live life on their terms.

Why is it that women are under-represented at board level in business?

Why is it that women are under-represented at board level in business? This is not restricted to the United Kingdom – across the world women make up a lower proportion of posts as the corporate ladder goes up. Is it due to a glass ceiling? I am not alone in wanting to enable and empower women to make the right decision for them, pharmacy and to blast through that ceiling if further progression is what they want.

Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs

While rising rewards of running a multinational are well publicised, here executive recruiters say pressures of job have also ratcheted up. Take a close look at this article in the Guardian about CEOs taking early retirement – 9 top level CEOs are mentioned as they hand in the towel early, and one who has stayed to age 87 – but all men…. I found this alone shocking! And no mention of the fact is made by the Guardian as the focus is on early retirement, not women in business…

So – big business is stressful – and the number of men and women taking early retirement are clues to the fact that it leads to burnout and premature ageing. The other casualties – those who have heart attacks or strokes while still on the job – are not covered in this article – but many of us are sadly too well aware of friends and colleagues who either have passed away or been disabled by health issues just before or within a few months of retirement.

Let me recommend that you keep art of your focus on keeping balance in your life so that you minimise the effects of stress on your health as well as on your career.

Balancing stress 3 simple tips for keeping ahead of the game – Part 3


You can read Tip #1 and Tip #2 to help you manage your stress.  Here’s the final tip in this series.


However intimidating your plan might appear, reduce it to manageable steps. If you need to take the time out – from work or family – do so, explaining that you need time. Commit to taking one step per week, or per day if that is appropriate. The step may be as small as looking in the local paper for a cleaner, or as large as handing in your notice. Structure it, commit to it, have an accountability partner or mentor (this is where I have found that a coach is invaluable), and take the action. Push your fear boundaries regularly and you will keep growing.

Wishing you success as you create your new reality – whatever that means for you!

Balancing stress – 3 simple tips for keeping ahead of the game…Part 2

I wrote about the first tip to for balancing stress, you can read it here.  This is tip #2


Where you go with this stage will depend very much on your starting point. You can now look at where you are starting from, your current situation and the stresses attached to that, and where you want to be – a result of the reflective process covered in the previous section. Now is your chance to plan your route. For some there will be very little in the journey, for you are already virtually where you want to be. A few tweaks and adjustments, maybe more effective delegation at home and at work, and your stress levels will become more manageable. You may even find your stress improving from simply discovering and acknowledging that you have chosen to be where you are and in fact are happy with the challenges that you face.

Many women in business and the professions have highly exciting, stimulating and challenging roles with a vocational sphere. It can be exhilarating to know that you are using your skills to the utmost, and achieving at work what few manage to do.

For others the time may have arrived for you to consider a change. Maybe you have worked full time all your life, and you feel that now is the time to revisit other priorities. On the other hand, many of you will find that, now that your children have left home, you wish to transition from a part time role to a more challenging, full time one. Maybe you are in your 30s and realise that you need to plan for a family now, or it will be too late. Perhaps you have young kids and you are fed up with leaving them with a succession of nannies and child-minders – is it time you considered throwing caution to the wind and set up in business on your own, from home, either in the sphere that you already work in or in something completely different?

Just for a moment, imagine how life would be if money and time were no object. What would you do with your life going forward? Isn’t it time to nurture your creativity and step out?

Plan your journey going forward, with a time frame of the next 5 years. It doesn’t matter if you do not achieve what you write down. You are going to be learning to forgive yourself anyway.

What tools will you need to achieve this? Who will you need to call upon for help? Think of family, best friends, cleaners, gardeners, work colleagues, mentors, pr, all of your networks.

Check back for the final tip in this series, or be sure to subscribe to the blog to get your updates automatically!

Balancing stress – 3 simple tips for keeping ahead of the game…Part 1

In today’s world chronic stress is almost universal. This has detrimental effects on the way our hormones interact, and can accelerate the ageing process. In real terms, you feel exhausted, you can’t think straight, and to cap it all you are ageing and getting sicker faster.

Of course there are many hundreds of ways that we can manage this situation, from downsizing and living the “Good Life” (that ages me!) to remaining increasingly busy and feeling that we can never slow down and relax, always on the go, never admitting that we feel at the end of our tether, and finally burning out prematurely – possibly with friendships and family laid waste around us and our health in tatters.


Alison Grimston - take time to reflect to manage stressWhen deciding how to manage your stress you need first of all connect to the true “you”. What do you really want out of life? Where are your priorities now? They may not still be where they were 20 years ago – we change as we go through life. Forgive yourself for that.

Try to give yourself an hour long space this weekend, to just be calm and quiet, and reflect on how your life has changed. Be certain where your values are supported by your current working role and those around you. Accept if you find that in fact you wish to spend more time with family, whether elderly parents or young kids. But it is also ok to recognise that you are just as competitive and ambitious as you were, that you never were cut out to be a full time parent, and that your current business or profession is exactly where you want to be.

It can be helpful when taking this time to have quiet music playing (depending on the tempo, this can seriously help you to focus!), or be sitting outside in the countryside with the birds singing. It can also be very supportive to write your thoughts down in a journal – your choice whether bullet points, freehand creative writing, or mind map – experiment, as you might be surprised at what brings out your best. I was amazed to find that the bullet point note taking that I had been used to using throughout medical school no longer served me as well as a combination of freehand journaling and mind maps; you may find the same.

Stay tuned for the next tip in the series.