Against Sexism Protest Signs

Sexism in the City, Part 9,279 (approx.)

work Mar 09, 2024

I said: ‘Why does it take a white, middle-aged man to deliver the exact same message that I’ve been delivering over the last few weeks?’”

Last Monday morning, my regular quick check through the Guardian Most Viewed/Deeply Read stories, and there’s the headline: “Sexism in the City: ‘No matter how hard I work, they will never ever recognise me’.”  A sigh escapes my lips, reflecting the weariness that countless professional women grapple with every day. It's a sentiment I've heard echoed time and time again, a shared experience that transcends industries and hierarchies.

 As a therapist and coach for midlife professional women, I witness the relentless struggle against an invisible barrier – a force that diminishes accomplishments, undermines authority, and fuels a sense of perpetual unease. Despite the well-intentioned initiatives and conferences championing gender diversity, the harsh reality remains: sexism persists, lurking in both overt and covert forms.

The years pass, and the burden grows heavier. Amid the complexities of aging parents, shifting relationships, and financial uncertainties, midlife women grapple with a persistent undercurrent of self-doubt, which is weaponised by oppressors. The cycle is vicious: self-reflection devolves into toxic doubt, a serpent devouring its own tail. "Was it just my insecurity?" "Was I too outspoken?" "Did *that* really happen again?" The questions linger, unanswered, necessitating a state of hypervigilance that drains energy and fuels burnout.

Sexism manifests in myriad ways – the crass jokes at the end of meetings, the unspoken bias that favours the "agreeable" male colleague. It's insidious, incessant, and pernicious, forcing women to navigate a minefield of microaggressions and implicit biases. And when they dare to speak out, the cycle of doubt and questioning intensifies, amplifying the exhaustion.

Resignation sets in, enthusiasm wanes, and drive fades into mere survival mode. "I just don't want to play the game anymore," I hear from senior women, a testament to the stacked deck and loaded dice they face. The worst impact, however, is the exodus – the melting away of talented women from their professions, not by choice but by the relentless pressure of a system that seems designed to push them out.

It seems more often the case that professional women are forced into their midlife explorations – by health, by work, by the combination of all the factors that mean working women are still crushed by the demands of unpaid care and chores (ONS, 2023). The lament echoes: "I just can't/won't do this anymore. It's sucking me dry. I will never get where I want and deserve to be." A call not born of passion but of exhaustion, a surrender to the invisible barrier that has stood in their way for most of their careers. 

The roots of this malaise are intertwined with the very cultural values and incentive structures that govern our workplaces. Yet, to surrender is to perpetuate the cycle, to acquiesce to the slow erosion of our collective potential. 

With over two decades in global tech leadership, I have navigated the triumphs and tribulations that define the journey of a professional woman in midlife. As a seasoned coach and therapist, I am dedicated to empowering midlife women to flourish in their present circumstances. Through The Midlife Now, I strive to create conversations where we can explore the challenges and opportunities that arise during this transformative period, in this time in history, helping women reclaim their sense of purpose, passion, and power. It doesn’t work to burn ourselves out; it doesn’t work to scream into the void.  What does work is this – sharp-eyed analysis of what’s really happening in today’s world, combined with modern methods and solid wisdom in a community being built to support our thriving and rising. Join me.

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