Week commencing 8th March.
There’s an exercise we used to take early stage entrepreneurs through as part of a Bath University scheme a few years ago-it asks people to consider the Political, Environmental, Social and Technological factors which might impact on their idea or initiative. This can break down as a rather bleak acronym- PEST.
Kicking off the week with International Women’s Day seemed to bring into focus for me the need to consider a PEST analysis on the work that I do and the reasons I get out of bed in the morning to sit in front of a computer for arguably too much time. Many times during this pandemic I’ve been reminded of two very clear memories I have from my time working within the United Nations HQ in New York many years ago. These two memories are:
- A briefing about Haiti where the speaker talked about a recent flood which they estimated had taken the country back 50 years in terms of economic and societal development. This was a year or so before the earthquake of 2010. I remember sitting and trying to imagine what life would look like in the UK if an event took us back 50 years in terms of development. I couldn’t. The concept of deteriorating 50 years in terms of development haunted me.
- Being in a different briefing about the situation of women’s rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and hearing the speaker say that the situation at that time was truly dire. Her opening statement spoke to something along the lines of…if we are to hope that one day we achieve gender parity then we can consider the situation in DRC to be truly dire. This is paraphrased because it was sometime ago and in French so my memory and my comprehension is slightly hazy. But the vivid part of the memory is that when the speaker mentioned gender parity was met by laughter by the majority of the room, an army of white men in grey suits. Actual laughter. That memory is one of the moments which crystallised for me that a career long term in the UN was not for me.
This past year women have gone through labour alone, carried the heaviest childcare and workplace burdens, ramped up care responsibilities for isolated family members and friends and faced increased insecurity due to lockdown restrictions (amongst many other things). Also during this time grouse shooting was an acceptable pastime in a pandemic and we saw time and time again ‘gentleman’s club’ behaviour within the highest ranks of the UK government.
I felt quite deflated during International Women’s Day — despite feeling quite connected to how Spain celebrates ‘Ocho M’ and finding that Spanish culture, despite its traditions, has much strong matriarchal structures than British culture. This tweet from Sophia Parker summed it up for me:
Also this week my husband and I (always feel like the Queen when I write/say that) talked at length about whether to watch the Meghan and Harry interview. In the end we did. I’m still processing it, specifically I’m still processing how someone with so much access to money and people could voice their mental health situation and not receive support. Many of the things which emerged during this interview felt like a mirror on what is wrong in broader society.
Once again I diverge from my usual weeknotes style because I have been so preoccupied with the broken systems we operate in. This became evident for me during a session led by Ellie Hale about personal values. She asked us what we were leaving outside the room, and I said I couldn’t stop thinking about the state of the world for women. That just feels so heavy to say out loud and write down. As an aside that session was extremely useful, we reflected on our own personal values. My top three at present being:
One of the aims of the exercise was to understand where we are each individually coming from. It was also a useful reminder to me what I care about, and why sometimes it’s impossible not to be distracted from the external factors which can feel crushing and impossible.
How I’m feeling: overwhelmed