Let’s get Hormonal
Hello dear readers,
This month of May celebrates both mental health and menstruation and so we thought, in this edition of you matter period – we would address the age old derogatory adage of dishonour to women – ‘she’s being hormonal’, which relates to both mental health and menstruation.
As a woman first qualifying as an engineer in mechanical sciences and then working in Financial Services, I have perennially worked in a male dominated world. I have worked across many geographies and countries- where I learned one thing, which is that emotion of any description in the work place, especially when it is demonstrated by women, was considered repugnant and viewed as thoroughly redundant.
A second lesson I have learned is that the success of feminism is a hard won victory, which women should cherish and men and women alike should continue to foster.
But I have jumped forward to the conclusion.
It wasn’t uncommon in my experience for men and women for that matter to refer to a woman as being hormonal when she displayed emotions of disagreement/ dismay or made a point that wasn’t widely accepted.
So in this blog, we will address the import of empathy and emotions in a work place.
How it impacts the well- being of person and how by allowing for the flexibility we foster an environment that is geared towards success.
Sharing your emotions at work:
Couple of years ago – a senior male manager I was working for thought he was paying me a compliment when he said “You are a bit like a man you see, you don’t show any emotions, so it makes it easier for you to get the job done and succeed where other women don’t.”
In a quip that I wound up being proud of I said ‘that’s great, because secretly I am one half man’.
While that commentary was probably forgotten by him in jest, it never did leave the recesses of my mind.
What did he mean when he said I was less emotional, what was he seeing from a purportedly more emotional woman that proved a hindrance to achieving an objective?
Importantly, why were emotions feared?
Is it a case of life imitating art or art imitating life, with films like Micheal Douglas’ Wall Street or Leo DiCaprio’s Wolf of Wall Street implying a certain ruthlessness as a cornerstone of achieving success in the world of finance or that it is mostly men that achieve status/stature and success in the world of finance on account of being unemotionally ruthless in achieving that objective?
Does that paradigm still apply to our current day world with its focus on wellbeing and mental health and sharing.
Here’s our view- women are the more maternal of our species. And this DOES NOT mean a woman has to be a mother to be maternal. Women are creatures that innately foster tribes and support their fellow human beings.
It is this maternal instinct that makes mums at work, the most efficient leader and workers. They are tireless in achieving objectives at work, so they can leave on time to take on their second shifts as ‘home managers’ or guardians of their families and in some instances mummies.
Women make fantastic leaders, in our humble opinion. They have one trait in spades that allows people to relax and put their best foot forward – empathy.
The ability to understand another’s emotional state and accordingly modulate their work load, is a remarkable trait, it protects the mental health of a worker in an office environment and eliminates stresses associated with having no outlet to share.
A concept of ‘checking in’ was introduced in the organisation I work in ( I still have a day job) , where the first few minutes were spent by participants in a meeting, discussing any overwhelming personal considerations that may impact their work that day. This we thought was a fantastic idea, it would allow employees an opportunity to share their concerns up front. But it wasn’t just concerns, it was also sharing of the emotions associated with those concerns.
So if this is ‘sharing’, which clearly involves being open about your emotions and what someone is going through, is actually good for our mental health, then why is it only bad when women exhibit it?
Obama shed tears every time he spoke to the American public about the loss of lives due to their gun laws (or the lack thereof) and that made him a sympathetic president.
But a woman expressing her emotions, which perhaps may have led to the occassional tear, in the workplace is considered ‘hormonal’. Call me silly but I think there is a double standard at play here.
How can it be that the same emotion expressed by two genders of the same species have dramatically different interpretations when the context remains the same?
Does inculcation play a role in this? Are boys taught not to express emotions freely ‘don’t be a girl’ ‘don’t get your panties/knickers in a knot’ ‘boys don’t cry’. Are we creating emotionally constipated boys this way? Then by extending these inconsistencies to the workplace are we expecting women to be something they are not?
Are these supposed emotion free robots meant to be better employees and are they intended to engender a more congenial workplace somehow?
If so, where does mental health feature in the workplace and why is it suddenly being given primacy?
Our own view is that the traditional workplace as we know it, is wavering at the precipice. People are unable to function in the erstwhile format based on hierarchy and non-emotion.
As much as it has been advocated in the past to keep work and family disparate- as humans and as women sometimes it is simply not possible.
Does that automatically have an implication on a woman’s ability?
What format should ‘well-being’ and ‘mental health’ support take in a work context?
Does feminism mean that women should emulate the dismal practices followed by a largely masculine workplace, or should it mean that both genders carefully evaluate and eliminate elements that were misogynistic and empirically advance the creation of a workplace that fairly supports both genders in a way that is productive and constructive.
If a company’s bottom-line is the only concern then here’s some good news. By fostering an environment where women are ably supported to deliver their best, every company can add billions more to their bottom-line and by extension to the economy.
Women, humbly, are the stronger of our species, not the fairer or the weaker sex as they have been traditionally depicted to be.
For years on end mothers around the world (its still true in America) get back to work to support their family within a few short months, sometimes weeks after giving birth. All because their contribution of bringing another human into this world isn’t enough to accord them maternity to treat them any differently in the workplace.
Day after day women with painful conditions like endometriosis, chronic illness, chronic pain and fatigue – pick themselves up and come into work without ever letting you know that they are suffering. Only to have a male colleague throw a Smart Alek comment about ‘being hormonal’ at them.
In a small experiment, through electrical shocks, men were given a taste of what period pain felt like and the outcome was slightly hilarious to watch. The men themselves concluded they would unlikely be able to perform the simple task of having a conversation much less getting on with life, were they to be under such duress for a week every month.
Extend that to real life scenarios where women go about their day to day activities while experiencing cramps and pain. Extend that then to endo-warriors who have debilitating pain and still go through life with the support of feeble pain medication having to deal with a colleague telling them to ‘stop being hormonal’.
Again in my humble opinion, feminism should drive equality, but that equality in the context of workplace is equal pay for equal work. But how is ‘equal’ defined? I don’t see many men gestating another human and still delivering to deadlines in an office. Do you? Can we conclude therefore that our workload as men and women is equal in fact?
When the other half (male half) of our species develop the wherewithal to gestate and birth another human, all while patiently dealing with the vagaries and stresses of a work day and home life and in some cases being denied maternity leave (prominently in economies like the USA) – we as women will learn how to be less hormonal.
In the meantime – let us own it, let us make people aware of our pain and our chronic illness, let us make people aware that we are not asking for anyone to cut us slack, but to be flexible and accommodate us on days we feel less than our best, and let us get our emotions out.
Let’s be hormonal damn it- because you matter period.
Until our next blog, we wish you the best of health! We hope you will celebrate your small victories and go forth fearlessly, because you matter. PERIOD.
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