Female hormones and leadership.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about what it takes to be a good leader as a woman working in a fast-paced commercial environment; and also how differently I feel as a leader during different points in my cycle. I want to explore how we can start to have a more open and honest dialogue about the physiological changes that happen each month — to men and women — and the impact these changes have on how we show up at work and what we need to thrive. This short essay is focused on women, but I do want to explore the male cycle in a subsequent post.

I have been tracking my cycle for around a year, but recently with more precision, and I am truly amazed that this isn’t something we are taught to do from day 1 of having a period. I am not taking any contraception which means I can be sure that my hormonal changes are driven by my body’s natural rhythm.

For example, I now know that on day 14 of my cycle, I want to hide from the world. I usually feel anxious, low and sad with very little energy. On this day, I do not want to be a vibrant and enthusiastic leader making critical presentations or delivering difficult and sensitive feedback; I want to hide under my duvet with crisps, a diet coke and some Greys Anatomy. But…obviously that is not the way of the world, and so usually I find myself pushing through with three double espressos to conquer, maintain a stable disposition, and deliver.

But, I keep thinking to myself, what if there is another way? What if, when planning my meetings I could actively think about my cycle and adjust accordingly. This would not always be practical, but possible? I think so. And at the very least it should be a valid and considered data point for our professional lives.

This is of course easier if you are the boss. But if not the boss, how can be make it safe to explore this with your boss? To have an open and honest dialogue about our feelings. Especially when ‘feelings’ have historically not been welcome in the workplace. The thoughts I battle around this are: does it highlight a weakness when my whole career I’ve tried to prove that I can do everything my male counterparts can, and more? How can I now openly admit to not actually being able to do everything they do, but only on days 2, 14 and 27 of my cycle? Will being open about this limit me in my career?

I am lucky that I have a boss that I think I could trust with this, and I am going to try. And I am going to add my higher risk cycle days to my diary and try to avoid putting additional pressure or expectations on myself on those days. And most importantly, I am going to honour, respect, and listen to my body’s natural rhythm and try when I can to accommodate it so that it can do its magic!

I would love to know your thoughts and experiences with this and thank you for taking the time to read. X

Obsessed with learning about why we do what we do and feel what we feel. Day job - financial services leader & trainee counsellor and reflexologist.