Since October last year, we’d been planning the third She Is Still Sustainable event in London in April to bring together 40 mid-career women working in or around sustainability. Obviously, we had to postpone the face-to-face meeting.
But given the circumstances- many people were more isolated than before, more people were re-evaluating their career options, some were facing more challenges (home-schooling for one!) and there was a raised level of anxiety and uncertainty- we also knew that April was probably the best time to bring together a supportive group of women for some inspiration, chat and time to reflect.
So we went online. Our first She Is Still Virtually Sustainable sessions.
For our first session, we wanted to invite everyone to check-in with themselves, to acknowledge the exceptional times we’re in and the impact this has on us. And to be kind to ourselves – to manage our expectations and stop expecting to single-handedly complete all our DIY tasks, home-school our children, complete endless self-development courses and upgrade our careers all whilst looking radiant, getting fit and healthy and living in a perfectly clean house.
Liz Rivers, our speaker, took us through why this time is so challenging (simply acknowledging that took some pressure off), and how we can care for ourselves – including permission not to strive for lockdown perfectionism. You can read more about why you need to include fun on your to-do list in her blog.
For our second session, we wanted to look beyond ourselves – how can we, as change agents for the future, make the most of the situation. This does of course start with looking after ourselves, looking at how we can effectively work now during the emergency phase, but also how the disruption is creating an opportunity to reshape for the better.
We had a panel of four speakers, Farhana Yamin, Solitaire Townsend, Susan Buckingham and Zoe Le Grand, who talked through some of the challenges (like the fact that the number of papers submitted to journals by men has increased during the pandemic, but the number from women has decreased, likely as a result of the extra burden on women) and some of the positives (people are good, despite some of the media stories, as a whole we are all going through huge changes to protect the most vulnerable). And that we have the biggest opportunity to influence change, and everything we do matters, so let’s be aware and conscious of all our actions and the possible impacts.
And amongst this, we collectively joined the 2-minute silence to remember fallen key workers (goosebumps all round). A poignant reminder that doing things together, even taking 2 minutes to reflect, has a real impact.
We’ll be sharing more takeaways and insights from the sessions – but one key highlight was that you need to look after yourself. Acknowledge the challenges you are facing, how you are processing the uncertainty and anxiety, and how you feel – we can all make a difference, but will need our energy, power and brains to really shift the dial. And we can support each other.
Be kind to yourselves so we can be kind to the future.