Friday, 10 February 2012

Yes we CAN!

Right now I am propped up by four pillows and tapping on my iPad. Enforced bed rest to enable me to get my breath back literally means I am getting a bit bored. Admittedly this has given me time to reflect on my current state. And to make plans for my forthcoming surgery. Top decision is to ensure I have sufficient recovery time and perhaps this is my way to also give this whole experience the proper due care and attention. OK, OK I acknowledge that to date I have not done this, caught up with the message that it could be so much worse, I have denied the reality of 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. What a rich combination that is and I have been struck by the issue around women's influence ( or lack of) in business or government 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 board room we may be at a pivotal time. One I would urge us not to duck with platitudes of not wanting to patronise women.

  An opinion piece I read in the Scotsman from Joseph Nye of Harvard stated that more women in political leadership would mean better government. The evidence is already there for business when research has shown women in the board room lead to greater business success. But that evidence has changed little so far in terms of the numbers of women at that level.  Clearly , Houston , there is a problem that needs to be tackled in fresh ways. The status quo will deliver just that.

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 more than  twenty years since her first diagnosis. She has been through a roller coaster of symptoms and emotions is clear that the sensitive care she has experienced alongside good information and shared decision making ,is so much better than before.

 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. So many of us have generations of women to thank for better services now. And the men too want to learn from us and how women's collective voice has influenced change. At Breakthrough Breast Cancer our 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 ..never want another one!) and we celebrated achievement however slow a time. You can smell what I am cooking here... .?That doesn't sound like an ordinary marathon does it...and I am not talking fluffy pink bras either. I am talking about achieving something greater together for the common good. 

It struck me at a recent TV debate on Independence that the political landscape in Scotland has changed in so many ways but one of them was the prominence of women at a senior level now in Scottish politics. But the challenge for them is can they therefore use that 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 it's 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. We currently share a love of Zumba and some very very brave people in Angus did a whole 12 hours of Zumba to raise money for Breakthrough. Some of my colleagues went along to support the event and were in painful place on Monday.  Well done all for the courage to go the extra mile in every way you. It makes all the difference.

1 comment:

  1. You always make me think.
    Of course we can... but...
    I have no doubt that more women in government and business would help matters. And setting up quotas would presumably change attitude, eventually.
    But I wonder if some of the problem isn't within ourselves.
    That Mandela quote resonates. We are powerful and potentially successful, but if we manage that - and it becomes expected of us - how can we balance motherhood and our other nurturing jobs? Sometimes inadequacy is much more comfortable.
    PS Hope you're feeling better soon.

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